Page 87 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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T H E P O E T R Y OF L E O N F E I N B E R G
1 8 9 7 - 1 9 6 9
B
y
S
ol
L
ip t z in
A
lm os t
a l l
th e
Y
iddish
writers active on the American scene
are of Eastern European origin. Torn from their native roots
and transplanted across the Atlantic, they continued to reflect the
attitudes and ideologies of the Old World in their poems, dramas
and novels, even when they expanded their horizon to include
subject matter based on their experiences in the New World.
Attempts by “Die Yunge” before World War I and by the
“ Insichisten” after the war to promote indigenous American move­
ments were not sustained by their successors who arrived later.
Indeed, after the 1920’s there was not a single Yiddish group that
could properly be designated as a literary movement with an
original approach. There were only individual writers of greater
or lesser talent who enriched the stream of Yiddish literature with­
out modifying its direction. Among these writers Leon Feinberg,
or Leib Feinberg, as he prefers to call himself in his most recent
works, occupies an eminent position as a lyric and epic poet.
Feinberg roamed over lands and languages and ideologies before
he attained stability as a person and as a poet. Born on February 6,
1897, the youngest child of an impoverished cabalist in a Podolian
townlet, he was reared in traditional learning, but began his
literary career as a Russian lyricist under the name of Leonid
Grebniov. He dreamed of becoming another Pushkin, or at least
another Soloviev or Yessenin, poets he admired. When the 1917
Revolution broke out, he exchanged the pen for the gun and
fought for three years against the antisemitic Ukrainian bands.
Then followed restless wandering from Bombay to Jerusalem,
through North Africa and Europe, until in 1923 he landed in
New York, his more enduring home. Here he made Yiddish
his primary linguistic medium and Russian his secondary medium.
In the poems of
Groisshtut
(Metropolis, 1928), he groped to
original perceptions through a vast variety of literary influences
with which he had come in contact. He assimilated Russian mys­
tical and revolutionary strains, American Imagism and Yiddish
Insichism. He oscillated between warm reminiscenses of his pious
heritage and a desire to help the forward march of the new re­
deemers. The epic
Bolsheviks
in the volume
Likht un Broit
(Light and Bread, 1931), represented the climax of his proletarian
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