Posts Tagged 'jewish culture'

The Miracle of Lazarus

 by edward moran
Emma Lazarus was America’s first great Jewish poet. Almost every American (and not only) has three lines of her poetry ingrained in their psyche, lines as well-known as the Constitution itself or the Ten Commandments. “Give me your tired, your poor…”, then fill in the blank. Just about anyone who has a high-school diploma knows that the next line welcomes Europe’s desperate “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But her verse does not stop there. John Hollander has recently edited a new volume of Lazarus’ poetry for the Library of America. Schocken Books has published Esther Schor’s biography of Lazarus in its Jewish Encounters series. Below is the original sonnet that is engraved in bronze at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.

The New Colossus 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

American Yiddish Poetry

yiddish workmen's circleBefore we proceed with publishing our original verse, we’d like like to take a minute to plug one of American poetry’s lesser known schools: its Yiddish poets. A major volume, American Yiddish Poetry, edited by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav, has been republished recently by Stanford University Press. This is one of two important anthologies representing what has been called “probably the most coherent segment of twentieth-century American literature not written in English.”  The other, regrettably out of print, is called The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse. Here is an article by Harold Bloom that evaluates the achievements of both. Below is a sample poem (alas, from the Penguin volume) to whet your appetite.

Epilogue

Because the papers meanly ignore me—
They think my luncheon menu’s not fit to print—
Small wonder girls don’t give me a tumble
And day by day my stock goes down.

And every day my debts get higher.
Vainly my ten fingers stretch out for patrons.
It’s lucky Martel’s isn’t beyond my reach
And coffee—black—is still a nickel.

If coffee goes up, I’ll go and hang myself,
And how many poets are as classy as me?
But while the coffee’s cheap, my marvelous songs
Will bring happiness to our people and our tongue.

Zishe Landau, translated by Irving Feldman


Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

a

June 2017
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