Yakov Azriel was born in New York in 1950 as Gerald Rosenkrantz, received his B.A. in English summa cum laude at Brooklyn College 1971, moved to Israel, changed his name to Yakov Azriel, studied at Yeshivas in Jerusalem and Alon-Shvut, received a doctorate in Judaica concentrating on the stories of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav, and was awarded a fellowship from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture 2004-5 for his poetry, his international prizes including the 2004 Miriam Lindberg Poetry for Peace Prize. This is his fifth book of poetry.
In Closet Sonnets, Yakov Azriel turns life as a closeted gay male into an aesthetic form as rigorous as that of the sonnets that make up this fictional autobiography: the speaker’s self-limitation becomes a means of imaginative and rhetorical intensification. Through a shifting weave of images and metaphors—mermen, ancient Greeks, Martians, dream-lovers and real men glimpsed through the bars of heterosexual marriage—Azriel’s character maps every inch of his psychic closet, and, like Dylan Thomas at the end of “Fern Hill,” “sighs in his chains like the sea.”–Joy Ladin
Azriel writes with the kind of authority rarely found among modern poets, with strong echoes of Hayim Nachman Bialik, whose biblical poems have themselves become
sacred texts. –Howard Schwartz