Alvin Feinman: The Poetry of Loss and Begetting


Harold Bloom once spoke of his friend Albert Feinman saying of his first book of poetry that its “central vision is of the mind, ceaselessly an activity, engaged in the suffering process of working apart all things that are joined by it”. 1 I was surprised that his poetry seems hard to find now. I remember years ago reading through his early works and thinking how powerful his vision is. The late Reginald Shepherd on his blog has some information and tribute to this fine poet we should remember. I noticed his complete poetry will come out July 2016. I look forward to it. Shepherd citing Bloom relates this poetry as “a tragedy of the mind, victim to its own intent, which is to make by separations”. Shepherd says Feinman like Yeats was a poet of the mask, but that his masks were “more alive than the great mass of mere faces”.

Below is one of my favorite of his poems, Pilgrim Heights with its self-deprecatory irony, its knowledge of poverty or lack that spurs us on and outward – “unable to bless”; and, the tonal quality of the Mind’s light caught between “blade and tremor“, “stillness and glare” where the fatal kenoma, the vastation of emptiness resides out beyond the “sea’s eternal licking monochrome“:

Pilgrim Heights

Something, something, the heart here
Misses, something it knows it needs
Unable to bless—the wind passes;
A swifter shadow sweeps the reeds,
The heart a colder contrast brushes.

So this fool, face-forward, belly
Pressed among the rushes, plays out
His pulse to the dune’s long slant
Down from blue to bluer element,
The bold encompassing drink of air

And namelessness, a length compound
Of want and oneness the shore’s mumbling
Distantly tells—something a wing’s
Dry pivot stresses, carved
Through barrens of stillness and glare:

The naked close of light in light,
Light’s spare embrace of blade and tremor
Stealing the generous eye’s plunder
Like a breathing banished from the lung’s
Fever, lost in parenthetic air.

Raiding these nude recesses, the hawk
Resumes his yielding balance, his shadow
Swims the field, the sands beyond,
The narrow edges fed out to light,
To the sea’s eternal licking monochrome.

The foolish hip, the elbow bruise
Upright from the dampening mat,
The twisted grasses turn, unthatch,
Light-headed blood renews its stammer—
Apart, below, the dazed eye catches

A darkened figure abruptly measured
Where folding breakers lay their whites;
The heart from its height starts downward,
Swum in that perfect pleasure
It knows it needs, unable to bless.


  1. Harold Blooom. The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition.  (University of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (1971))

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