'Yidishe Dikhterins'

The Emergence of Modern Women's Poetry in Yiddish and Rokhl Korn's Poetic Debut

in European Judaism

The 1920s saw the debut of a considerable number of female poets writing in Yiddish in Europe and the United States of America. This article briefly considers the emergence of modern Yiddish women's poetry, and the importance of Ezra Korman's Yidishe dikhterins, an anthology of their work published in Chicago in 1928, before turning to one of the poets represented there, Rokhl H. Korn. The article considers her unusual family background and upbringing on a farm in rural Poland, which fostered the development of her poetic talent. Through analysis of several significant poems, the character of her early work is revealed: a combination of deep empathy with the natural world, free expression of female sexuality, and a sensitive evocation of the lives and emotions of the people of her childhood village, both Poles and Jews. Her later poetry incorporates the Holocaust and the pain of exile, but the more controlled work of her maturity is rooted in the rich and passionate poetry of her youth. One of the leading female Yiddish lyric poets of the 20th century, Korn exemplifies the freedom to express individual creativity and female sensibility which women writers in Yiddish discovered in the inter-war years.