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A.M. Klein (1909-1972)

Abraham Moses Klein was born in Ratno, Ukraine. His family moved to Montreal in 1910, where Klein spent the rest of his life. An orthodox Jew by education he eventually turned to Zionism. After entering McGill University in 1926 he began to associate with students involved in the McGill Fortnightly Review (although he never published anything in it), including Leon Edel, Leo Kennedy, F.R. Scott and A.J.M. Smith. He did however publish early work in Poetry (Chicago) and The Canadian Forum. He graduated from the Université de Montréal law school in 1933 and began an unenthusiastic practice. His contact, in the early 1940s, with writers associated with First Statement and Preview coincided with the publication of Poems and The Hitleriad (1944) and The rocking chair and other poems (1948) which won him the coveted Governor General's Award. His novel, The second scroll (1951) was inspired by visits to Israel and to Jewish refugee camps in Europe and North Africa.

     In Ludwig Lewison's preface to Hath not a Jew ... he calls Klein "the first contributor of authentic Jewish poetry to the English language." Klein's translations of Y.Y. Segal and other Yiddish and Hebrew writers provided a distinct stimulus to other Jewish writers in Montreal such as Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Seymour Mayne and Mordecai Richler.       A useful companion to Miriam Waddington's unfortunate The collected poems of A.M. Klein (1974) is Z. Pollock's 'Errors in The collected poems of A.M. Klein', Canadian Poetry #10 (1982). Like one that dreamed: a portrait of A.M. Klein by Usher Caplan is an excellent biography with many photographs of Klein and his milieu and excerpts from his work. In search of Jerusalem: religion and ethics in the writings of A.M. Klein (1975) by G.K. Fischer explores Klein's roots in Jewish tradition.