Alterman, Nathan (1910–1970) By Codish, Moria
Born in Warsaw, Poland, Nathan Alterman emigrated to Palestine in 1925 at the age of fifteen. One of the most prominent Hebrew poets of his time, he was among those who helped spawn modernist trends in Hebrew poetry. In addition to his work as a poet, he was an influential publicist held as a kind of cultural hero representing the Zionist ethos. His poetry is characterized by symbolism and rich figurative language. Like other modernist poets, he was interested in urbanity and its rhetoric. This led to frequent comparisons with Baudelaire. However, Alterman’s focus on the urban space is accompanied dialectically by his desire for “nature” and “the countryside road.” Scholars characterize his poetry as enigmatic, and as requiring decoding. The wide spectrum of Alterman’s poetics—from popular songs with sometimes publicist nature to lyrical poems—may have helped to establish his status as a leading figure in Israeli culture.