Yiddish Poets!

Among other events I wish I could go to in the coming weeks is this one on Sunday, April 10th, featuring a lineup of Yiddish women poets reading in both original and translation. Let me tell you about them, so that you'll go and hear them (and I can get the merit of adding a few to the crowd, even though, since I'm on call then, I can't be there myself). What follows are not wholly objective appraisals; Yiddish poets all know each other. (Dovid Katz says -- and he's right -- that today's Yiddish literature will be worth anything only if present and future critics from outside the Yiddish world recognize whatever quality it possesses. So if you go to this event on the 10th, and go you should, let me know honestly afterward what you thought of them.)

Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath manages to combine psychological sensitivity with homey (but deceptive) simplicity of speech in her careful though relatively unadorned and untricksterly work. She manages to be both acccessible and innovative, achieving literary quality without the obscurity which often accompanies it. I helped translate some of her poems for her first (and so far only) book, and I count myself a friend of hers, so I'm not exactly unbiased. In the spirit of beser hot ken shier nisht (you can always do better), I will say that sometimes I wish she pushed herself to risk new forms or venture some lengthier work.

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman is one of the most important poets writing today in Yiddish. Her latest collection, Perpl shlenglt zikh der veg [The Winding Purple Road], includes a wide range of work, ranging from dark memoir to cutting parodies of past Yiddish giants (one of my favorite poems of hers is a dead-on, if unfair, takedown of Moyshe-Leyb Halpern) to lyric meditations on the South Bronx [sic!]. She is verbally inventive, if traditional in style, and manages to infuse each poem with the song and picture she has also created in other parallel parts of her life. (She is an accomplished painter and a very well-known Yiddish songwriter; I assume that she will sing a song-poem or two at the event.)

Miriam-Khaye Seigel [scroll down for a picture] is (shocker) another friend of mine! She's mostly a songwriter, with a singing voice that should be poured into the porch of every musically deprived ear. I've only heard a few songs she's written (because she's a perfectionist when she comes to writing and performing), but my impression is that she is a traditionalist when it comes to genre but a iconoclast in content. She is someone to watch.

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