Pro­let­pen: Amer­i­ca’s Rebel Yid­dish Poets

Amelia Glaser; David Wein­traub, eds.
  • Review
By – August 13, 2012

Oh, dark­ness leave my door­way for a while!” the Yid­dish poet Esther Shumy­at­sher pleads in a poem writ­ten in 1938, as the lives of Euro­pean Jews grew ever bleak­er. But this anthol­o­gy of poems by mem­bers of Pro­let­pen, the left­ist Yid­dish writ­ers’ group formed in New York between the two world wars, most­ly includes poems writ­ten on sub­jects that direct­ly impact­ed the young immi­grant Jews who lived, loved, and worked in a city far removed from the shtetls of Europe. The poems, writ­ten in Yid­dish with a mas­ter­ful trans­la­tion by Amelia Glaser, are a win­dow into the lives of a group of social­ist writ­ers who spoke out pas­sion­ate­ly about every­thing from racism to the plight of the work­er and the grind­ing pover­ty they con­front­ed on a dai­ly basis. Aschol­ar­ly intro­duc­tion by Dovid Katz of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vil­nius, Lithua­nia, places the poet­ry in the polit­i­cal and social con­text of the time. Bio­graph­i­cal sketch­es of the poets, bibliography.

Shi­ra R. Lon­don is the librar­i­an at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Com­mu­ni­ty High School in Bal­ti­more, MD. She holds an M.L.S. from Colum­bia University.

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