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Volume 76, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0010-0994
  • E-ISSN: 2161-8178


Recent translations of American Yiddish poetry into English have made an important chapter in American culture accessible both to the English scholar and to the literature student. Bringing together the work of two important literary groups of predominantly male poets with the work of one of the best-known female poets in Yiddish—whose aesthetic concerns overlapped with those of Euro-American modernism—I argue that the linguistic and aesthetic choices of Yiddish poetry in America not only bridge the distance between two geographies (the Old and New Worlds), but also forge a cultural scene for what I call immigrant geographies of being and belonging. Although the use of Yiddish limited the poems’ audience when they were published and, therefore, deferred aesthetic recognition of this under-studied body of poetry, I argue that the poets’ choice to write in Yiddish ultimately rendered a simultaneous desire to become American (in subject matter as well as in the adaptation of Yiddish verse to modern prosodic and aesthetic conventions) and to resist the pressure of the melting pot precisely by writing in a language inaccessible to the larger reading public. In this act of dissimilation, Yiddish poetry—like most writing in national languages published in the United States either by the immigrant or the mainstream press—poses challenges for the literary and cultural critic and teacher.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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