This post was written last week:
I am very sad today. Part is due to the fact that we are in the nine days.
Jacob Glatstein (1896–1971) was a Polish-born American poet and literary critic who wrote in the Yiddish language. His name is also spelled Yankev Glatshteyn or Jacob Glatshteyn. Imagine his life one hundred years ago.
Early life (Wikipedia)
Glatstein was born August 20, 1896, in Lublin, Poland. Although his family identified with the Jewish Enlightenment movement, he received a traditional education until the age of 16 and an introduction to modern Yiddish literature. In 1914, due to increasing anti-semitism in Lublin, he immigrated to New York City, where his uncle lived. He worked in sweatshops while studying English.
All this he accomplished on his own. He started to study law at New York University in 1918. He worked briefly at teaching before switching to journalism. He married in 1919.
In 1920, together with Aaron Glanz-Leyles (1889–1966) and N. B. Minkoff (1898–1958), Glatstein established the Inzikhist (Introspectivist) literary movement and founded the literary organ In Sich. The Inzikhist credo rejected metered verse and declared that non-Jewish themes were a valid topic for Yiddish poetry. His books of poetry include Jacob Glatshteyn (1921) and A Jew from Lublin (1966). He was also a regular contributor to the New York Yiddish daily Morgen-Zhurnal and theYiddisher Kemfer in which he published a weekly column entitled “In Tokh Genumen” (The Heart of the Matter).
Glatstein was interested in exotic themes, and in poems that emphasized the sound of words.
He traveled to Lublin in 1934 and this trip gave him insight into the growing possibility of war in Europe. After this trip, his writings returned to Jewish themes and he wrote pre-Holocaust works that eerily foreshadowed coming events. After the Second World War, he became known for passionate poems written in response to the Holocaust, but many of his poems also evoke golden memories and thoughts about eternity. I find the poems humorous and bold. He has flipped the positions of Jews and Gentiles. And Jews only want to see beauty.
Glatstein died November 19, 1971, in New York City.
I dreamed that the gentiles crucified Mozart and buried him in a pauper’s grave.
But the Jews made him a man of God and blessed his memory.
I, his apostle, ran all over the world, converting everyone I met, and whenever I caught a Christian I made him a Mozartean.
How wonderful is the musical testament of this divine man!
How nailed through with song his shining hands!
In his greatest need all the fingers of this crucified singer were laughing.
And in his most crying grief he loved his neighbour’s ear more than himself. How poor and stingy – compared with Mozart’s legacy – is the Sermon on the Mount.
(Translation by Ruth Whitman.).
The Joy Of the Yiddish Word
O let me come close to the joy of the Yiddish word.
Give me whole days and nights of it. Bind me, weave me into it, strip me of all vanities.
Let ravens feed me, I’ll live on crumbs.
A broken roof, a hard bed.
But give me whole days and nights of it. Don’t let me forget the Yiddish word for a single moment.
I’m becoming harsh and commanding, like the hand of my livelihood.
Capons and champagne indigest my time.
The Yiddish word lies garnered, but the key rusts in my hand.
Logic steals away my understanding.
O sing, sing you self towards naked austerity.
The world becomes fat in your bed. There’ll soon be no place for either of us.
The Yiddish word, loyal, silent, is waiting for you. And you sigh in a burning dream:
I’m coming, I’m coming.
(Translation by Ruth Whitman.)
It strains my eyes.
In your mother’s great chair,
like a little girl,
a little tot.
Can you bear my cigar smoke,
with your little red tongue stuck out?
Laugh at me,
until the black house becomes smoke,
until we waltz in smoke,
soar with it—
A hundred red tongues stuck-out
at me, a great fool
with half-squinting eyes.
Your pink dress stripped away
from your little white neck.
A sea of whiteness.
in your great chair
you become a tiny dot
engulfed in smoke.
before a great fool
with squinting eyes.
From You to You
For hours on the silent bridge, they walked.
He crossed over to her—
such stillness only makes her face more clear.
How long has he looked into her eyes,
drawing out of the moment’s silence
a million hard words?
May the past years gather on your gray head and mine.
Ten years we set out to wander
this long road from you to you.
My youth’s restlessness lies stranded between
one lighthouse and the other,
on the long, winding path, from you to you.
What I bring to you is not just love—
the desire for your clever heart.
What I bring to you is a blank statue,
clumsy tribute for my longing.
Clever heart, engrave it with my words!
In the Dark
Fireflies light the corners of my house.
Lit lights on little faces in the corner of
They extinguish the corners of my home.
So there are no corners, no little faces.
Only open mouths and—
the flow of thin, silk-threaded speech.
There is no speech.
Gold in sun.
Words riding rich melodies on golden
Language nesting in my mind, entwining my thoughts.
So a word plays with a shadow on the wall,
becomes broken in—
voice of glowing sun and cold moon.
a word dancing in the dark
like a child’s red balloon popping
on the damp window pane,
where not long ago
the sun set.
— Poems by Jacob Glatstein, translated by Brian Diamond
Brian Diamond has an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University and an MA from California State University, Northridge. His poetry has appeared in such literary journals as Sycamore Review, DMQ Review, Los Angeles Review and The Drunken Boat. He currently teaches writing and literature at American Jewish University.
Delightful Green Lentil Salad/changes from Victoria Batayev
This wonderful colorful salad is easy to make. It refreshes and satisfies your palate on a hot summer day as well as cold winter one.
2 cups sprouted lentils, washed
Small piece of kombu diced
5 cups of water
1 tsp sea salt or omit
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 cups button mushrooms, washed and quartered
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bunch broccoli , washed and sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced in thin half moons
1 cup minced curly parsley
Place lentils, kombu, sea salt and water in a steamer. Covered, and cook over boiling water 1 minutes. Add water if needed while cooking. Lentils should get soft but not creamy and mushy. With a slotted spoon remove them from the pot into a designated water salad bowl. The lentils are crisp.
Warm up the oil in a stainless steel skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute. Add bell pepper and continue stirring for another 4 minutes. Add garlic and broccoli rabbe. Stir for 2 minutes. Sprinkle a few drops of tamari and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Vegetables should get crisp and crunchy but should not release too much juice. Quickly remove them onto a plate and let cool down.
Mix lentils with the vegetables and parsley. Serve warm or chilled. To my taste, i would serve the lentils raw.