This most recent work of Merle Bachman, poet and director of creative writing at Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky, is clearly the work of a poet expert in literary analysis. Her approach is clear: she states, “because of my interest in American ‘Yiddishland,’ I write only about poets who made the journey to New York” (primarily from Eastern Europe from the 1890s through the 1930’s).
Bachman begins her study of “Yiddishland” by identifying herself as a Yiddish student who came relatively late to the study of the language and literature. Throughout the text, speaking as that very Yiddish student, Bachman responds to the works she analyzes. Her insertion of herself into this book is unique and appealing.
Readers should not expect a study of nostalgia or borsht-belt humor. Of primary importance is the concept of “threshold”; that is, “the place that joins an inside and an outside, two worlds that meet, even overlap, yet intersect.” Bachman states that Yiddishland and “threshold” are metaphors but also notes that she sees “Yiddish cultural space as actual,” located on New York’s Lower East Side as various texts show.
Among those texts are Abraham Cahan’s Yekl, Anzia Yezierska’s short stories, the works of Yiddish writers who deal with the Black experience, and Mikhl Likht’s poetry, rarely read and never translated before Bachman’s work.
Recovering “Yiddishland” is a must-read for anyone interested in Yiddish literature, particularly those writings lost to us. Bachman makes it clear that they are part of American literature. Bibliography, illustrations, index.