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Tag: Janet Hadda

Glatshteyn

Janet R. Hadda, Yankev Glatshteyn
Twayne Publishers, 1980

Having read translations of Yankev Glatshteyn from Howe and company’s Modern Yiddish Poetry,  Whitman’s Selected Poems, Zumoff’s I Keep Recalling, and  also Fein’s Selected Poems, I treated myself to this study by Janet Hadda, also biographer of I.B. Singer.  Part of the Yiddish modernist In Zikh movement in the 1920 and 30s,  Glatshteyn later had to face the enormity of responding to the catastrophes that were inflicted on Jews in the 1930s and 40s.   Over the decades I have read  religious thinkers, philosophers, and novelists trying to grapple with the Nazi and Soviet “totalitarian barbarism” (G. Steiner).  Regardless of Adorno’s pronouncement on the impossibility of poetry after Auschwitz, Glatshteyn has produced powerful works of mourning for his community and of assailing  the fraud of “western civilization.”   To name five: Good Night, World; Our Neat and Tidy Language; Lamentation for the  Souls of Jewish Cities; Reb Levi Yitzhok’s Voice; and I Keep Recalling.

At mid-century Glatshteyn was preeminent in the U.S. Yiddish community; his literary production included  three novels, eight volumes of essays, and ten volumes of poetry.   Yet, writing of him in 1943, Hadda acknowledges: “Everything was doomed: his people, his tradition, its language, his artistic freedom, his chances of contributing to a continuing literature. Even his awesome responsibility as the chronicler of the last days of Eastern European Jewry was infused with an ironic futility: [he would write about it] but who would read it?”  The Yiddish Book Center has made available a Youtube  of Glatshteyn addressing the mission of Yiddish poetry and responsibility a decade after the end of World War II (English subtitles available).

Near the end of her study, Hadda asserts that the poet’s “commitment to Yiddishkeyt as a national, historical, philosophical, geneaological, and even psychological entity—all of which have common borders with theological Jewishness—was total.”  May new generations of readers and seekers find sparks in Glatshteyn’s works,  both in the original Yiddish and their translations.

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine /2

40. The principal truth is this: latent in every act of complete reading is the compulsion to write a book in reply. The intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book. –George Steiner

80. We have no more say in the duration of our passions than in that of our lives. –La Rochefoucauld

120. Resist much, obey less. –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

160. One becomes moral as soon as one is unhappy. –Marcel Proust

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

240. All in all, though, I have never known anyone smarter, with a better memory, with a greater facility for creatively escaping the bounds of acceptable thought, or, more admirably, a person with more honesty, integrity, respect, and real universal concern. –Michael Albert, on Noam Chomsky

280. I’ve always ben addicted to his music the way some people are addicted to chocolate sundaes. I find it absolutely irresistible. — Glenn Gould, on Richard Strauss

320. Yet whoever forgets Yiddish courts amnesia of history. Mourn–the forgetting has already happened. A thousand years of our travail forgotten. Here and there a word left for vaudeville jokes. –Cynthia Ozick

360. These works, whose Jewish perspective ranges from the central to incidental, testify to Glatshteyn’s decision, whether conscious or not, to confront more completely [the Jewish] side of his existence. –Janet Hadda