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A culminating extraordinary book exploring the country of old age with candor beyond Yeats.
DEAR YIDDISH is a startlingly brave and candid rendering of life in the shadow of death. "Sex is over and death is soon to come." It is not chilling; it is uplifting. The beauty of the language and perceptions make 'maturity' one with 'excellence.' Or, as Yeats put it, "Bodily decrepitude is wisdom." It is a celebration of the poet's Jewish heritage, of the roots of his love of language, of the whole of his life in a nutshell, of the drop on a nostril that is the last moment of life, the last line of a poem. Like Donne in his shroud, in "Getting Ready," Fein lists the famous writers and the Yiddish poets and his dearest friends and loved ones and says if they can die, or know that they soon will die, "Why can't I, with my poems, get ready to die?" He will live forever in these poems. The book is an affirmation of the power of poems to keep us alive.
Poetry. Jewish Studies.
Richard Fein’s lyric genius is marked by one central searching endeavor: to bring English in earshot of its rhyme with Yiddish. It is the kind of necessary and forthright exploitation a serious poet delights in. And it starts when a curious boy on vacation in the Catskills looked way down into the stream Neversink and 'all he saw was Yiddish letters.' The poetry was writ in that childhood water, the cross-currency of pure recollection and intensely exacting concentration. And now this book of a lifetime, DEAR YIDDISH, which is also dear Yeats, and all of it Richard’s way of translating himself into the magisterial American poet he has become.
—George Kalogeris, author of Winthropos
In a poem appropriately called 'The Connection,' near the beginning of his eloquent and moving new book, Richard Fein writes: 'The tender violence of recall/becomes a tripwire setting off/bits of memory....' The Yiddish language itself and the Yiddish poetry Fein remembers and translates trigger that tripwire. The title poem of DEAR YIDDISH is a surprisingly erotic love poem to an entire language. But as Fein’s readers have already come to know, all of his poems are love poems.
—Lloyd Schwartz, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Who’s on First? New and Selected Poems
Richard Fein has published twelve books of poetry. His book Kafka's Ear (New Poets Series,1990) has won the Maurice English Award. He has also published three books of his translations of Yiddish poetry: Selected Poems of Yankev Glatshteyn (The Jewish Publication Society, 1987); WITH EVERYTHING WE'VE GOT (Host Publications, 2009); The Full Pomegranate: Poems of Avrom Sutzkever (SUNY Press, 2019). And he has also published three books of prose: Robert Lowell (Twayne Pub, 1979), a critical study; The Dance of Leah (Cornwall Books, 1986), a memoir of Yiddish; Yiddish Genesis (BrickHouse Books, 2012), personal essays. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. He taught at Hunter College and the University of Puerto Rico before teaching many years at SUNY, New Paltz. He also spent a year on a Fulbright in India, teaching American literature.