The NYU Pride / "Hear O Israel" / January 6, 1977
VOLUME Π NUMBER ΧІ / NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
By Richard Rosenthal
Abraham Regelson has played a cat-and-mouse game with fame as a poet, and by the age of 80 has received international recognition for his poetry. Born in Hlusk, Russia in 1896, from his childhood on, it was evident his destiny was to become a poet. One of his family's favorite stories about young Abraham is that when only a small child, he wrote poetry but none of his brothers or sisters would listen to his poetry, so undaunted Abraham tied a cat to a door, and had the cat listen patiently to his poem.
With his family Regelson emigrated to America and grew up on New York's Lower East Side. Even then he was infused with this poetic spirit, scribbling verse on the side of his order book in the family's pharmacy. A childhood friend of his, Mrs. Leah Mazur recollected that he was a "great boy, a genius and the poet laureate of Morris high school."
At the age of 24, the journal Miklat published his first poem. During this time he contributed poems and literary articles to many of the English-Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers in America and Eretz Israel where he emigrated in 1933 with his family. He stayed in Israel for three years during which time he wrote for the Hebrew Daily Davar, where his classic children's story The Doll's Journey to Eretz Israel first appeared.
Returning to New York in 1936, he worked for the Yiddish daily Morning Freiheit until he settled permanently in Israel in 1949. Until his retirement in 1962, Regelson wrote for the Hebrew daily Al Hamishmar.
Regelson, however, is more famous for is books of Hebrew poetry, which include the philosophical Cain and Abel, which pits a man of thought against one of action; Two Poems, one of which is based upon an episode in William Butler Yeats' life; and Engraved Are Thy Letters, a poem dedicated to the Hebrew Language.
In the words of his niece Cynthia Ozick, Regelson has always been a "idealist". "He will never destroy anything with life in it." Besides being a poet and a vegetarian, he is also a pacifist and a Zionist.
Regelson said: "I'm only a poet—I did not choose Hebrew, it chose me. I do enjoy the world. The sights and sounds of anything on the earth, and everything in nature that lives and breathes… they are all marvelous."
His grand-daughter Ophrah Bar-Natan tells the story of how her grandfather dreams all the time about his work, and cannot sleep or forgets things because he is so immersed in his work.
A dreamy, gentle man to talk to, Regelson now makes his home in N'veh Ephraim Monosson, a settlement between Tel Aviv and Lod in Israel.
Besides winning this year's Neuman Literary Award, he has received the Brenner Prize in 1962 for his book Engraved Are Thy Letters; and the 1972 Bialik Prize from the city of Tel Aviv for Two Poems.
Perhaps the most revealing story about the poet Abraham Regelson is the one about how when he was single and living in the Bronx, he caught a mouse that was pestering him and set it free in a churchyard nearby to be the church mouse.