Thursday, April 5, 2018

Yiddish Writer Jacob Glatstein on Poetry (1955)

Yiddish Poetry
Jacob Glatstein, in an excerpt from an interview by Abraham Tabachnik at New York City’s Central Park in 1955. This digitized recording is part of the Frances Brandt Online Yiddish Audio Library of the Yiddish Book Center. The original recordings are from the collection of the Jewish Public Library of Montreal.
Via: Youtube


Jacob Glatstein [also spelled Yankev Glatshteyn; born 1896 in Lublin, Poland–died 1971 in New York City] was an important figure in Yiddish literature, helping to establish an important literary movement: Di Inzikhist (“The Introspectivists”) in  the late 1910s, shortly after arriving, in 1914, in New York City. As the name suggests, the poetry is profoundly personal and egocentric. It was Modernist and employed free verse, thus breaking conventional standards at the time.

The interview takes place 35 years later, when Glatstein was almost 60, and much has changed in the world, which affects the life of the poet, no doubt influencing his person-hood, his sense of individuality. Individual freedom becomes less important than the fate of the Jewish People. “In this interview excerpt Jacob Glatstein discusses his definition of poetry and explains why it has changed over the years,” the Yiddish Book Center writes.  

A good part of the reason for the change is the Holocaust, the khurbn eyrope (חורבן אײראָפּע), which changed everything in the Jewish World, di Yidisher velt, even for those who don’t know or say it does not matter anymore. Such is instructive for anyone who cares, and more so for those who plead ignorance, indifference or apathy.

Such historical thought and insight, to a large degree, proves instructive to those of us who are interested in 20th century Yiddish poetry and language and the preservation of both under the large banner of Yiddishkayt.  There are very good historical and humane reasons to do so, to not forget what should not be forgotten. Don’t you think?

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