JArts launched #JArtsLiberty this month, a public poetry project to mark the concurrence of National Poetry Month and Passover. We asked five noted poets to nominate and then vote on a work by a Jewish poet that conveyed the idea of “freedom” that is central to the Passover story. They selected famed Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai’s “Poem Without an End.” We posted the poem on the MBTA Green and Red Lines, asking people to look for it and respond on social media at #JArtsLiberty with photos, selfies and their own ideas on freedom.

One of our judges was the esteemed poet and former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky. In keeping with the Passover theme, we asked him four questions about the poem.

What led you to choose this poem from among others?


Amichai’s “Poem Without an End” is brief and wide: 16 lines of one or two or at most seven words that embrace all of time and human knowledge.

What does the poem suggest to you about freedom? How does its language and structure work to inform that notion?

Amichai conveys the artist’s freedom to include everything within himself—the brand-new and the old, the synagogue and the museum; all are in there. And while he is in a way bound to all that, he is also free to contain it, all there in his lines and his implicit smile.

How would you relate the poem to the ideas of Passover?

The poem suggests to me liberation from servitude: We remember the museum and the synagogue both, and we honor them, keep them in our heart, and by containing them we are also in some delivered from them. We serve them, but as we choose, not as slaves.

Do you think it’s important to have poetry in public like this? Why?

“Important”—of course, full of import. But in another way, no, not of primary importance; poetry like this does very well with its power in the imagined, or actual, voice one person at a time. That human scale—the museum “in me” is the great power of the art. Having the poem in public is nice, but not as important as having it on a personal, human scale.

As part of #JArtsLiberty, we’re presenting Robert Pinsky’s PoemJazz Brunch on Sunday, April 14, at noon at City Winery. Experience the musicality of poetry through Pinsky’s words to jazz accompaniment by an all-star group of musicians: Stan Strickland (saxophone/flute), Hankus Netsky (piano), Catherine Bent (cello) and Yedidyah Syd Smart (percussion). Find tickets here.

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