Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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ANGOFF ----JEWISH-AMERICAN POETRY
31
“Reb Zadoc’s brain is in a German town:
Hermits come from lonely grottos
Preaching the right for Jews to drown;. .
Read “Reb Levi Yitschok Talks to God,” and re-read this third
stanza:
Rebono shel Olam
— he begins —
Who helps you count our little sins?
Whosoever it be, saving Your grace,
I would declare before his face,
He knows no ethics,
No, nor arithmetics.”
Read all of
Hath Not a Jew
, which contain these poems. Read
also all of
Poems
, in which verse of equal eloquence appear.
But who else is there besides Mr. Klein? In all truth, nobody.
Mr. Klein himself has not been writing poems of this high order
for some time, more than a decade. And nobody has approached
him even remotely, so that the poetry judges for the Jewish Book
Council of American have had to omit making an award for the
past three years. Still, there is a number of good Jewish poems in
English, though admittedly not many, in addition to those by the
few worthy poets already mentioned. There are several volumes
of fine translations of Jewish poems originally written in Hebrew,
in Yiddish, in German and in other languages. A great deal of
Bialik is available in good English translation by such expert and
faithful translators as Dr. Mortimer J. Cohen, Maurice Samuel,
Harry H. Fein, Helena Frank, Abraham M. Klein, Grace Goldin,
Dr. Alexander Alan Steinbach, Ben Aronin, and Philip M. Raskin.
There is Harry H. Fein’s perceptive volume,
Gems of Hebrew
Verse: Poems fo r Young People
, translated by Mr. Fein himself.
There is also
The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
, compiled by
Joseph Friedlander and edited by George Alexander Kohut. There
are other volumes of translations, some, naturally, of greater
value than others, but all containing poetical riches.
The prospects for the future? As the perennial optimist in
matters pertaining to Jewish-American literature, I have faith
that there will be an upsurge in the writing of worthy Jewish
poetry in this country, as I have faith that we are on the thresh­
old of a flowering of the novel and short story. Literary history
indicates that whenever there is a mounting awareness of, and
pride in, a people’s heritage, as there is now among American
Jews, a literature springs into being not long after. But one cannot
sit back and wait; one must help history. In the field of poetry