TARN, NATHANIEL


TARN, NATHANIEL (1928– ), English poet and anthropologist. Tarn was born in Paris and in 1960 became a lecturer in anthropology at London University, specializing in the culture and ethnology of Latin America and the Pacific islands. In his early poetry, primitive peoples and rituals play an important part, often being identified by means of biblical symbolism or by its evocation of Eden as a contrast to the savagery of modern life. His first volume of verse, Old Savage/Young City, appeared in 1964. In 1967 he became an editor at the London publishing house of Jonathan Cape.

Tarn's poetry which displays a certain metaphysical quality is deeply influenced by *Ḥasidism and the *Kabbalah. This is apparent in poems on R. Abraham *Abulafia, R. *Simeon Bar Yoḥai, and *Israel b. Eliezer the Ba'al Shem Tov. Tarn sees in Jewish mysticism a means of defining and, perhaps, assuaging the existential crisis of modern man. In "Where Babylon Ends" he visualizes the 20th-century situation in terms of a confrontation between Babylon and Jerusalem, and in "Noah on Ararat Again" he finds in the Bible story an image of survival after flood and holocaust which is pointedly relevant to mid-20th-century experience. His Selected Poems: 19502000 was published in 2002 and another book of poetry, Recollections of Being, in 2004. In later years Tarn lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

H. Fisch, in: Judaism, 14 (1965), 479–90.

[Harold Harel Fisch]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.