Celebrating Yiddish Poetry

In Honor of National Poetry Month, We're Featuring Yiddish Poetry From Our Collections

From Avrom Sutzkever to Dvoyre Fogel, Jacob Glatstein, Celia Dropkin, and many more, Yiddish poets used a wide range of different forms to communicate complex experiences and emotions. Writing about immigration, love, loss, the body, Jewish spirituality, nature, language, and a broad array of other topics, Yiddish poets strove to express the contradictions that marked their lives and the joys and struggles of the everyday. This selection of items from our collection—poems in Yiddish and English translation and audio recordings, oral history excerpts, podcasts, articles, and other items about Yiddish poets and poetry—speaks to the diversity, and the beauty and power, of Yiddish poetry. 

Yiddish poets Avrom Sutzkever (right) and Shmerke Kaczerginski on a balcony in the Vilna Ghetto in July 1943

Selected Poetry in English Translation

I remember, you brought me green sounds from the fields/
when with all my strength I could not reach them,/
zigzagging over well-trodden footpaths, to the bottom layer,/
to bring me a star, so it would become bright as home.

—Avrom Sutzkever, "You Have Not Betrayed Me Since the Day We Met," translated by Maia Evrona

"Am I Seeing, from a Speeding Train...," By Avrom Sutzkever, translated by Maia Evrona

"My Mailman" By Avrom Sutzkever, translated by Maia Evrona

"You Have Not Betrayed Me Since the Day We Met" and "You Olive Tree in the Night," By Avrom Sutzkever, translated by Maia Evrona

"No sun, no rays," an excerpt from Avrom Sutzkever’s collection Lider fun togbukh (Poems from My Diary, 1974–1981), translated by Zackery Sholem Berger

"Circular Landscapes," By Dvoyre Fogel, translated by Anna Torres

Sunday of Suburban Houses," By Dvoyre Fogel, translated by Anastasiya Lyubas 

Acacias Bloom, Excerpts from Dvoyre Fogel’s collection of poetic prose montage, translated by Anastasiya Lyubas 

"Be Hallowed" and "Mode," By Jacob Glatstein, translated by Andrew Sunshine

"To a Fellow Writer" and "Shloyme Mikhoels," By Rokhl Korn, translated by Seymour Levitan

"Los Angeles," By Israel Emiot, translated by Leah Zazulyer

"A Stretch of Time" and "News," By Ephraim Auerbach, translated by Ollie Elkus

Additional Selected English Translations of Yiddish Poetry

They’ve been gone a long time.
Now the letters arrive.
Bashful letters,
Asking for clothes, shoes,
A Yiddish book,
A dictionary
To translate the oy
And to recite Hallel
So quietly,
They’ve been long gone.

—Rivka Basman Ben-Haim, "Letters," translated by Kathryn Hellerstein

"Coney Island": A Dadaist Sound Poem by Victor Packer, translated by Henry Sapoznik

Excerpts from “Nine Months” and “Birth," By Esther Shumiatcher-Hirschbein, translated by Beata Kasiarz

"Our Town is Burning" and "A Beam of Sunlight," Two poems by Mordechai Gebirtig, translated by Murray Citron

Letters,” “To Miriam Ulinover,” and “Letters,” By Rivka Basman Ben-Haim and Miriam Ulinover, translated by Kathryn Hellerstein 

"Mortality," By Yehoash, translated by Marvin Zuckerman

Untitled [From My Days(1952)], By Bertha Kling, translated by Leah Zazulyer

"I Have Seen" By Rosa Nevadovska, translated by Merle Bachman

"Does It Mean I Long for You?" By Malka Locker, translated by Ri Turner

"Exodus 1947," By Rokhl Korn, translated by Miriam Isaacs

Bertha and Yekhiel Kling at home in the Bronx, around the time Melech Ravitch first met them. (From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Bertha Kling Collection)

Selected Articles About Yiddish Poets and Poetry 

Portrait of a “Jewish Poetess," A short piece by David Mazower

"The Destiny of a Poem," A personal-historical essay by Itzik Manger, translated by Murray Citron

"Last Star in the Night," A short piece about Avrom Sutzkever by Catherine Madsen

Vilner gedenken: Avrom Sutzkever in Focus

Melech Ravitch: My Friend Bertha Kling, Translated by Abigail Weaver

"Problematic, Fraught, Confusing, Paralyzing—and Fantastic," An article by Faith Jones about a 1927 anthology that gave female Yiddish poets their due

The Signs and Symbols of Ezra Korman, Detroit's Soulful Yiddish Poet, By Michael Yashinsky

Destined to Create," A speech about the poetic impulse by Rokhl Korn, translated by Michael Yashinsky

Celia Dropkin's Paintings: A Poet Replaces Pen With Paintbrush, By Michael Yashinsky and Eitan Kensky

Celia Dropkin

Selected Podcasts

The Outback Quest of Yiddish Poet Melekh Ravitsh: Author Anna Epstein visits with us from her home in Australia to talk about her recently published book about Yiddish poet Melekh Ravitsh.

Asymptote's Yiddish Poetry in Translation: Alexander Dickow visited with The Shmooze to talk about Asymptote's recently published Yiddish poetry in translation feature.

Translating Experimental Yiddish Poet Celia Dropkin: We visit with translator Faith Jones to learn about the recently published The Acrobat: the Selected Poems of Celia Dropkin.

Alix Wall on the Legacy of Shmerke Kaczerginski's Song, "Dos Elnte Kind": Alix Wall and Marc Smolowitz discuss their upcoming film, The Lonely Child, based on a song written by Yiddish poet Shmerke Kaczerginski.

Through a Unique Jewish Lens: Author Lesléa Newman joins us to speak about her prolific writing career and how her books and poetry are informed by her being Jewish and a lesbian. 

Chaim Grade's Elegy for the Soviet Yiddish Writers: Josh Price reads an excerpt from a Chaim Grade poem and discusses the context of this elegy for the Soviet Yiddish writers executed under Stalin's regime.

Maia Evrona speaks about her experience of translating Sutzkever's poetry
Painting by Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin from Bilder fun "In heysn vinṭ"

Selections from the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library (in Yiddish)

In heysn vint lider, By Celia Dropkin

Di gnod fun vort, By Rokhl Korn

Lider fun geto, By Avrom Sutzkever

Sibir poeme, By Avrom Sutzkever, with illustrations by Marc Chagall (illustrations in the header and teaser images for this page are from this book)

Yaakov Glatshteyn, by Jacob Glatstein

Lider, By Bertha Kling

Manekinen lider, By Dvoyre Fogel