Robert Friend’s poetry


Gabriel Levin’s Essay on Robert Friend’s work


Edward Field’s Essay on Robert Friend


Anthony Rudolf’s Obituary and Tribute


List of Robert Friend’s translations at Contributor Notes


Photo Album of Robert Friend


Feature of Friend’s work in a previous issue


All photos of Robert Friend: Courtesy of Jean Shapiro Cantu

Robert Friend’s poetry and translations. Copyright © Jean Shapiro Cantu


Contributor Notes

About the Poetry/Translations of Robert Friend

Reviews of Dancing with a Tiger:

“Robert Friend’s poetics are superb, and in that respect Dancing With a Tiger deserves a place on every library’s shelves.  For one thing, there is a great deal to learn from it about how poets can manipulate the tools of their trade to glorious effect. For another, the reader can be deeply moved by the joy of reading words that find magically reverberating echoes within other words, in much the same way that innovatively harmonized notes of music can bring on powerful emotions...Technically one of the finest poets born in America, he deserves recognition as such.”

                        Leslie Schenk, World Literature Today, September-December 2004


“Master to the end of his "own inner weather," this collection of Robert Friend’s finest poems reveals a man who fearlessly explored the havoc and joy of his full life.  We marvel at the technical skill and range of experience concentrated in poems published for more than sixty years, together with the striking poems of his last two years, facing death from cancer - with sorrow, bravery, and wit - at the height of his career.”

                                                            Shirley Kaufman, Jerusalem, January 2004


“Friend’s common vocabulary, formal ease (with terza rima as well as free verse) and intimate tone make [the poems]...the distinctive utterances of a person one is delighted and honored, even, to know.”

                                                Ray Olson, Booklist, American Library Association, 2003


“The poems are straightforward, skillful renderings of daily existence, its pleasures, pains, uncertainties, and rewards, with echoes of Cavafy and even Housman—an excellent retrospective collection of the late gay American expatriate poet in Israel,Robert Friend, edited with a keen and loving eye by American poet Edward Field.”

                                    Clifton Snider, California State University, Long Beach, 2003


“Robert Friend’s poems are approachable, easy to get to terms with, yet have depths that can be explored endlessly.”

                                                            K.M. Dersley, Tears in the Fence, #36, Fall 2003


Other Comments

“His is an open and song-like gift.”

                                                            Richard Wilbur


“I was affected deeply by the lines to your mother, ‘The tide may sweep but cannot ‘whelm your breast, your continent of love must sweep it back.’“

                                                            Marianne Moore, 1942


"I do like your poems--they produce happiness, as real poetry does."

                                                            Iris Murdoch, 1978



Found in Translation may be read simply as a connoisseur’s rendition of gems of modern Hebrew poetry into English...As for Flowers of Perhaps, Friend’s translations of the short lyrics of Ra’hel shimmer...All readers of poetry in English should feel gratitude to the Toby Press for issuing these two handsome volumes of Robert Friend’s superior translations from the modern Hebrew canon.”

                                                Haim Chertok, from “Friendly Relations/Translations”

                                                Congress Monthly, May/June 2008


“[his] formalism and isolation had the efect of helping him to develop a unique and intimate style that could probably not have been constructed elsewhere, allowing

him to deal with sensitive, painful, and taboo subjects.”

                                                Karen Alkalay-Gut, from English Writing in Israel, 2003 


“Until Robert Friend translated his selection of Ra’hel's poems, they had defied every attempt to render them in English. Now, because of his own ability as a poet and because of a temperament congenial to hers, his translations make it possible for readers of English to understand why Ra’hel is so highly esteemed.”

                                                            Yehuda Amichai, 1995

                        Preface to Flowers of Perhaps: Selected Poems Of Ra’hel


“The translation [of Flowers of Perhaps] manages to preserve much of the emotional

nuance of the original. For Americans, this is a welcome introduction to a Hebrew giant.”

                                                            Simona Fuma, World Jewish Digest, June 2008


“Jewish poetry fans who have not the time to learn Hebrew rejoice, as Flowers of Perhaps has been masterfully translated into English by Robert Friend. Ra’Hel is a Russian Jew who was one of the earlier movers to Palestine. Her poems speak of her times, an important time for Jews around the world. A bilingual anthology, Flowers of Perhaps places both Hebrew and English texts side by side, and is certain to please readers who appreciate poetry with historical value.

                                                            MidwestBookReview.com, September 2008


“I consider Robert Friend one of the masters of modern American poetry. In his work, I respond to a teaching that is beyond the individual poem but is implicit in all of it as a devotion, not just to craft, but to self-examination. His refusal to trust easily--feelings, language, or ideas--is almost religious, and is the basis of the humor in many of these poems.  Since there is no question of denying the erotic, the poems celebrate it, all the while exploring the bitter, exacting price. But the pieces are so playful and musical that we are charmed from any possible dismay, to recognize that these poems are truly about ourselves.”

                                                            Edward Field


“Robert Friend was an essential presence in Israeli literary life. He translated many

important works from Hebrew and Yiddish into English, thereby preserving the works

and making possible their availability to a larger audience. But not only was Robert Friend

an important translator and friend to many Israeli writers, but he was a distinguished poet

in his own right. His work, often written in traditional forms, has sharpness and wit, an

emotional exactitude that aims for the heart of the matter.”

                                                            Rebecca Seiferle, 2001



“If there was any rank to which he aspired it was poet, and I use the word rank here consciously. For Robert this was the highest title anyone could achieve. He turned toward it when he was a child with a certain purity of heart which he never lost, and remained faithful to it until the moment he died.”

                                                            Lois Bar-Yaakov

                                                            “Robert Friend, 1913-1998”

                                                            Jerusalem Post, January 22, 1998


“In [his] poems a scene is vividly set and a drama takes place in the world of you and I.  Two people do or do not reveal themselves to each other, loneliness is temporarily overcome or, sadly, recognized as the way things have to be.  The drama in such poems is not sensational, but the crises are storms which give the acceptable social gesture a powerful resonance…Robert Fried is at his best when he reveals the comedy that links everyday experience to vital passages in one’s life.”

                                                            Zvi Jagendorf

                                                            “Itchers and Scratchers”

                                                            Jerusalem Post, March 15, 1996


 “Robert Friend is a virtuoso whose voice in all its wide variety---loving, ironic, disillusioned, and witty—is unique among his contemporaries...This is a powerful lyric voice...At the same time there is a continuing joy in love, a great erotic energy, expressed in poems of elegant technical mastery and variety.”

                                                            Ruth Whitman

                                                            Review of Dancing With a Tiger

                                                            The Jerusalem Post, July 26, 1991


“Auden...is his avowed mentor and Friend clearly belongs to that line of master technicians which includes Richard Wilbur and Anthony Hecht...his aphoristic gifts exceed, I think, even Auden’s. The vision is bleaker and the touch lighter...Friend is always immensely readable, a poet of wit and tact and that underrated poetic virtue, charm...Only when all the work is reissued, will we be able to take his full measure.”

Carol Rumens

Review of  The Next Room

Jewish Chronicle, June 21, 1996


“The voice that resonates through a wide variety of tones (lyrical, sardonic,

rumbustious, somber as night, wittily epigrammatic) and forms (from classical stanzas to free verse) is quite unmistakable and consistently its own...Robert Friend is indeed a voice to be reckoned with.”                        Poetry London



“The pieces that tell of the poet's awareness of the negative, sadder sides of man's nature are...memorable.  In these...man is still capable of 'the holy vision'.”

                                                            British Book News


“Wit is the machine Friend triumphantly rides; poise and precision, an accomplished sense of timing, and a verve which is controlled by the exercise of a critical tact are the evident signs of his technical mastery. His wit is not merely a matter of verbal felicity but a shaping force, molding a poem into being.”

                                                            H. M. Daleski


“Robert Friend is a poet of that indoors which is everywhere and which takes on a life, a near demonic vitality of its own...he writes...with power, a wry knowledge and compassion, and his familiar townscapes, his shutters and taps, his mirrors and clocks, and bird cages become the media for an intense and dramatic rendering of inner experience.”

                                                            Ruth Nevo


“Many of the poems...deal explicitly with sexual experience.  Friend is not bashful, and his poems have the courage of their convictions...But beneath the wry exterior lies a sensitivity that is often truly moving.  Some of the best poems...are those in which Friend allows his powerful sensuality to inform rather than to govern the poem...He has the confidence of expression of a Catallus and indeed it is the Roman poets with their bawdy, homo-erotic verse, grand passion and biting wit, whom Friend seems to resemble most closely.  ‘The Practical Poet’ is truly a classic...Witty, candid, painful and often…moving, [his] poems deserve close attention.  For all his cynicism, [the poems are] finally one man’s celebration of life.”

                                                            Jonathan Wilson, The Jerusalem Post


“The urbanity and kindly humour of his poems....Behind the wit, the aesthetic distancing, there is a compelling narrative.”

                                                            The Jerusalem Report


“Sharp-edged and perceptive, with a nice wry humour”

                                                            Neil Powell, Gay Times


“Friend shows himself capable of both the tender and the sardonic as he

deals with repeated themes:  old age and the approach of death, his Jewishness, the erotic.”

                                                             Glyn Pursglove, Acumen