This past week has felt very rich indeed. I continued exploring the poetry of Kadya Molodowsky and Anna Margolin. And discovered the voices of Chava Rosenfarb and Miriam Ulinover, which in turn led me to the powerful and moving poetry of The Warsaw Ghetto Ringelblum Archive (more on this below).
I also came across a fascinating book by Kathryn Hellerstein called A Question of Tradition, which takes an in depth look at Yiddish Women poets from the 16th to the late 20th century, many of whom I have included in this project. I look forward to continuing to explore and deepen my understanding of Yiddish poetry long after this particular project is finished (only 9 days to go!)
By the well they’re sitting, spinning
‘By the well they’re sitting, spinning,
Seven women, seven women,
Ten threads, white on white, they’re spinning,
Whispering the story, never-ending.’
זיצן זיי און שפּינען
זיבן ווײַבער בײַ דעם ברונעם
צען פֿעדעם ווײַסע ווײַסע,
שפּעטשען אָן אַ סוף אַ מעשׂה
Zitsen zey aun shpinen
Zibn vayber bay dem brunem.
Tsen fedem vayse vayse,
Shpetshen on a suf a mayseh.
– Excerpt from the poem, ‘At Blue Dawn’ by Kadya Molodowsky. Translated by Kathryn Hellerstein.
I love this image of the women, spinning together, whispering stories. It reminds me of The Weaver, one of the Netivot/priestess archetypes of The Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute. In this page, the women spinning in Kadya Molodowsky’s poem mingle with the ancestral women from my art journals as though they have come home to themselves, here by the well.
Who is that woman
‘Who is that woman,
alien and awesome
who peers at me from all the mirrors,
who follows me from all the windows
and taps at me with every step of my shoes,
casting her long shadow
under my feet?’
– Excerpt from ‘The Woman’, by Chava Rosenfarb. Translated by Goldie Morgentaler.
Every person is a slender fire
Every person is a slender fire,
a cloud, a tower, a dream that’s new.
Iz yeder mentsh a shlanker fayer,
a volk, a turem, a khulem a nayer.
איז יעדער מענטש אַ שלאַנקער פֿײַער,
אַ וואָלק, אַ טורעם, אַ חלום אַ נײַער.
From the poem, ‘Through Coloured Panes/דורך בונטע שויבן’ by Anna Margolin. Translated by Shirley Kumove.
The woman’s dress is meant to be a galaxy. I love how she looks like she’s heading off to a festival!
Mother earth, well worn, sun washed
Both slave and mistress am I beloved
Out of me, the humble and dejected
You grow, you push your roots through me
And like the blazing stars, like the flame of the sun
In long blind silences I run
Through your roots, in your branches
And half awake and half in a dream
I seek the sky through you.
– ‘Mother earth, well worn, sun washed
מוטער ערד, פֿיל געטראָטענע, זונ-געוואַשענע.’
by Anna Margolin. Translation by Adrienne Cooper. From ‘The Tribe of Dina’, edited by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz and Irena Klepfisz.
Usually I make changes to the page while it is still a pencil sketch. On this page, I began with one translation (by Shirley Kumove) and changed it to Adrienne Cooper’s translation once it had already been inked! I love the effect of the stuck on pieces of paper. Somehow it seems perfect for the layering of Yiddish and English over time and translation.
The dearest small antique
“The dearest small antique of all, is mine alone, right here– my great grandmother herself of more than a hundred years!”
“Dos tayerste antikele farmog ikh eyne nor,
di elter-bobeshi aleyn fun iber hundert yor!”
״דאָס טײַערסטע אַנטיקעלע פֿאַרמאָג איך איינע נאָר,
די עלטער-באָבעשי אַליין פֿון איבער הונדערט יאָר!״
by Miriam Ulinover
Once there were three girls as beautiful as gold,
who bragged about the rare antiques each of them possessed;
“I have a flowered head scarf”, the first said to the others–
“embroidered with cross stitches by my own grandmother.”
“I have a jewelled needle”- the second proudly stated –
“from my great grandmother with small diamonds decorated.”
Only the third girl laughed silently with pride,
And quietly opened the door to an alcove inside;
“The dearest small antique of all, is mine alone, right here –
my great grandmother herself of more than a hundred years!”
Translated by Sarah Traister Moskovitz on her website, Poetry in Hell, dedicated to translating the poetry in the The Warsaw Ghetto Ringelblum Archives.
“Poetry in Hell is a web site dedicated to the poets, both in the Warsaw Ghetto and elsewhere whose poetry, under the leadership of Emanuel Ringelblum, was secretly collected by the members of the “Oneg Shabbat Society“, preserved and buried in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
The efforts of the Oneg Shabbat Society were to document life in the ghetto for future generations. The poetry in this website was found postwar, buried in milk cans and photographed onto microfiche by the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland in conjunction with support from the United States Holocaust Museum. I am grateful to both of these institutions for making these documents and the microfiche available to me for translation to English.”
– Sarah Moskovitz, poetryinhell.org
From my heart
Girl All Alone
by Miriam Ulinover.
Whom should I call to come quick to help,
when I am not feeling well.
There is no wire
in the walls for telegraph.
But I know now whom I should call
when pain takes me where I am,
to great God above,
from my heart, I’ll send a telegram.
Translated by Sarah Traister Moskovitz.
From The Warsaw Ghetto Ringelblum Archives.