Peretz Markish, one of the most enigmatic and overlooked Yiddish poets of the 20th century, is finally given a voice in this brand new edition of a classic translation of his work. Born in Volhynia, Ukraine, the birthplace of Haim Nachman Bialik and some of Hasidic Judaism’s most famous rabbis, Markish moved to Warsaw in 1921 and formed Di Khaliastre, or The Gang, which struggled against realism in Yiddish literature. He continued to publish in the interwar period and in 1926 began a period of deep poetic dedication to Soviet ideology, and produced works in Yiddish that critics regard as his most effective verse. In Yerushe, a bilingual text modeled on an edition published in Argentina in 1959, each page illuminates the emotional zing embedded in his cries of patriotism, vengeance, and mourning. In his famous To a Jewish Dancer, Markish writes: “Tell it / my homeless one, enchant it so it remembers / Right now you’re dancing for a flock of mountains / for in the world there’s no one left for you / and you have no one to turn to,” expressing the subdued, almost mystified sorrow that would characterize his work in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, this new volume of his work serves as a spectacular example of Yiddish resilience. Markish was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1939 and executed by Stalin in 1952, accused of Jewish nationalism.
Eliyahu Rosen currently lives in Boston, MA with his wife Jenni, and is an MBA-MS candidate at the Boston University School of Management.