Friday, January 14, 2011

Hell and Healing

Poetry in Hell shares a collection of Yiddish poetry from the Warsaw Ghetto which was secretly collected, preserved, and buried for safe-keeping. The leader of this project to save the poems was Emanuel Ringelblum, and the collection is named in his honor.

The poems, which were found hidden in milk cans, are divided into five themed sections: nature, home/love/life, ghetto/hunger/struggle, death/anger/mourning, and tradition/faith/protest. Here's a beautiful one from the nature section:

by Ber Horvitz

Today quite early in the morning I bound up
the younger lilac tree near my house -
I took thin branches broken away
and patched each wound with clay.

My mother at the open window was watering
her flower bed
The morning sun so motherly
kissed us both upon our heads.

What a joy my child to heal,
finished doctoring? Come in,
the eggs have long been ready
the milk will boil in the pot.

The Poetry in Hell site includes images of the original poems. This is a bit of "Doctors."


From the home/love/life section:

Bedlam (Balagan)
by Moishe Broderson

What did they make of this world
all is ridiculed, turned upside down.
there is no forward, left or right -
good and bad are turned around.
It’s a balagan, balagan, balagan.

Everything once thought good -
like love and courage, brotherhood -
everything got turned, distorted -
from all directions good is thwarted -

It’s a balagan, balagan, balagan.

All’s chaos at a fevered pitch -
Life is an ugly joke -
Paradise is only found -
In bedlam, balagan.

It’s a balagan, balagan, balagan.

That’s how it is, you look and see -
only a fool would disagree -
Like the demons, the devils dance -
against them we stand no chance -

balagan balagan balagan.

Updated to add: I also wanted to point out The River by Nokhem Yud and For Poor Brides by Kadie Molodovsky. There's much to be found in this collection.

For the Poetry Friday round-up, visit Writing the World for Kids.


Mary Lee said...

Heartrending, that such beauty could be created in the midst of such evil...


Thanks for the introduction to this collection, Tabatha.

laurasalas said...

Thanks, Tabatha. I really love that second one. And in the first, I like

The morning sun so motherly
kissed us both upon our heads.

Poetry heals and validates, doesn't it?

Author Amok said...

I love "Doctors." Tabatha -- your posts are always fascinating. Seeing the image of the poem written in Hebrew (Yiddish?) really touched me.

M Pax said...

All the more powerful having the context of where they were written. They moved me to tears.

Tabatha said...

Thanks, all. I like to imagine the various people who saved these poems, buried them, found them, put them on microfiche, and uploaded them so that we could see them today. All those hands, passing along the words, so none would be forgotten.

Tara said...

The poems are beautiful, but it's the haunting memory of the poets' life experience that really enriches the reading - thank you for sharing this!

Carlie said...

What an amazing discovery those milk cans must have been. Can you imagine the reverence of opening them and reading all those lines for the first time, so carefully hidden away for years?

I love the first one. The motherly sun is indeed a beautiful image.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Late this week. I don't believe in GOD but this reminds me that I do believe in miracles.

Miracle in a milk can.

We're headed to A Wider Circle to do our Day of Service 11-1 today. Want to join us?