Dec 07, 2023
Kadya Molodowsky (1894−1975) was one of the most well-known and prolific writers of Yiddish literature in the twentieth century. Born in what is now Belarus, she was highly regarded in Warsaw for the works she wrote for children. She came to the United States in 1935 where she edited the journal Svive, and wrote poetry, novels, short stories, plays, reviews, and essays. In 1949 she went to the newly-established State of Israel, but returned to the U.S. three years later.
This piece was published in Literarishe bleter, no. 22, 3 June 1927, p. 416. It was translated by Anita Norich with David Mazower and Faith Jones.
Since Melekh Ravitch so plaintively requests that Yiddish poetesses answer him, for God’s sake and for the sake of ethics, and even though there is really nothing to respond to in his article, still, what don’t we do for God’s sake and the sake of ethics.
Incidentally, one might paraphrase his article as saying that everyone has the right to write bad verse or great works. That right doesn’t only belong to poetesses, as M. Ravitch thinks, but to [male] poets too, as M. Ravitch does not think.
I can appreciate Mr. Melekh Ravitch’s magnanimity in not naming names. That is, in truth, a private thing. I would have done the same. But what’s the point of making private views public? It probably comes from wanting to befuddle the next generation by claiming that not only do Yiddish poetesses not exist now, but also that they never will!
And why not?
But a person—and especially a poet—should not predict the future. According to all the rules of poetics, he dare not engage in prophecy because if it turns out that he’s not a prophet, he becomes something else. . . .
It was not even nine times nine months ago that Mr. M. Ravitch told me that he wanted to put together an anthology of Yiddish poetesses, complete, of course, with names. No anonymity. And with pictures! I’m sure that somewhere there’s an editor who could make it into quite a piquant thing. 2 2 Ezra Korman’s anthology, Yidishe dikhterins, was already underway and would be published in 1928. I was not at all thrilled with the idea, but how thrilling it is to have Ravitch’s collective review of unnamed books by unnamed poetesses, including those who have not even been born yet.
Apparently, Melekh Ravitch has long had such a weakness for polygamy and for collecting poetesses. It didn’t much matter whether it resulted in an anthology or a collective review.
Perhaps, if that anthology of Ravitch’s had come to fruition, it might have clarified his review. First of all, we would have known about whom he is writing – and even more so, about what. As it is, we’re left only with fervor. Entirely anonymous fervor….
In the end, a review of dainty books printed on delicate white paper (Oh! “Delicate white paper”! is nothing other than a delicate expression by a delicately-dainty poetess) that lie on your desk and that you alone have seen, and read, and reviewed, is incomprehensible to everyone and not at all interesting. But how can a person be so cruel! I might console myself with knowing that my book is not yet on your desk, but you guarantee that even those books that have not yet been published, and those that will be published seven years from now, will also be worthless. God! How can anyone be so mean? But if it’s a prophecy, well, that’s different….
For Melekh Ravitch, consistency would be an ugly mistake—so he is, indeed, not consistent. Despite vowing not to disclose the names of the hapless poetesses he has slain—he can’t help himself, and discloses something about a woman from Galicia. There’s no telling what all can happen in Galicia.
Really, why does Ravitch care so much about a poetess before whom, as he says “all should kneel.” I don’t deny that kneeling is quite elegant, though it is trespassing on the domain of the Spanish knight, Don Quixote, from nine times nine hundred years ago. Still, it’s all very refined and elegant in a completely European manner.
On one point, however, I am in complete agreement with Ravitch: when something becomes boring—even if it’s considered modest among poetesses—then it’s very hard to take. I feel for him.