Losing Yiddish bookstores and cluck-cluck-clucking

The general point of Joseph Berger's article in the Times is that CYCO, the bookstore, is going out of business. This is sad, of course! Hayim is a great guy, has struggled manfully under trying circumstances, and I (with all my organizational and financial talents, which are +/- nil) will try and help find a substitute. I've bought hundreds of dollars of books from CYCO and we have sold hundreds of dollars of books through them.

This is not stupid.

But whenever Berger writes about Yiddish as a language - well, see my "friend's" twitter feed @yiddishseuss. Yiddish isn't spoken by anyone anymore, except for the Holocaust survivors. Oh, and the Chasidim, among whom it is "booming" and a "lingua franca," whatever those are supposed to mean. And Yiddish has a "lilt" and a "kvetch." If anyone wrote about another language the way J. Berger does (say, about African American English or Spanish) he/she would be rightfully run out of town on a herring-draped rail.

And the whole *tone* of the piece, such cluck-cluck-cluck and automatic nostalgizing, got on my nerves. Yes it is sad, but the bookstore is failing because organizational and economic support is lacking, not because J. Berger's parents failed to speak Yiddish with him. English bookstores are failing all over this great land of ours too.

Cluck-cluck-clucking won't help much. Finding a warehouse, setting up a real Web site, and donating some dough will. Can I do these things? Prolly not.


The "was" and the "still"

from Diary Poems
Avrom Sutzkever

and the there are together-together
and to swim reaching depths the ray bends itself downward.

Scythe is connected to stalk. This is how,
like violin player is one with the sound.

That's how the was is enbrothered with still,
that's how a woman and man are enlimbed.

--from Yiddish: Z.Sh.B.


Sutzkever on the Square

Some translations of mine of his Diary Poems (Lider fun togbukh) are included in the Summer/Fall 2010 issue of Washington Square. (If you would like to look at the process of translation in the raw & blogged, look over here.)


What Would Glatshteyn Do?

That's the English title of this bilingual poetry reading I'm participating in tonight at the Bowery Poetry Club. (What would Glatshteyn do, indeed? Probably look down his nose at us.) If you can't make it, you can catch it online. Hope to see you there.
Dear Friends,
If you can't make it to our program WWGD? [What Would Glatshteyn Do?] An Evening of Yiddish Poetry you can watch it online at the exact time of the event, Sunday, August 1 6:00 PM - 7:45 PM (EST). Go to bowerypoetrylive.com.

Zackary Sholem Berger, Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath, Josh Waletzky
David Botwinik, Leyzer Burko, David Fallick, Samuel Marder, Charles Nydorf, Mindy Rinkewich, Elinor Robinson, Yefim Vinnitsky, Gershon Weiss, Jennifer Goodman Wolloch

Albert Rosenblatt, Yaira Singer, Wojtek Tworek, Sheva Zucker

Don't miss the Yiddish poetry event of the millenium!