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The Young Glatstein and the Structure of His First Book of Poems

Novershtern, Abraham

Even in its heyday, American Yiddish poetry had but a handful of dedicated readers. And were one such cognoscente to have picked up Jacob Glatstein’s first book of poems (1921), its title would have elicited no small measure of surprise, for only the name of the poet appeared on its cover. On second thought, however, the selfsame reader might well have taken this demonstrative act as further proof of Glatstein’s reputation as an enfant terrible. He had, after all, launched his career at the age of 23, first under a female pseudonym and then, with but a handful of poems to his (real) name, had cofounded the In zikh (Introspectivist) movement at the end of that annus mirabilis, 1919. And even before his own reputation as a poet was established, he had published a scathing overview of all of Yiddish poetry in which he specially delighted in challenging Di yunge, the pioneers of modern Yiddish poetry in America.

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Jewish Theological Seminary
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November 13, 2012