Prodigal Children in the House of G-d: Stories explores themes of family, community, and exile largely from ultra-Orthodox Jewish and/or queer perspectives. Eschewing references to specific locations, the stories vibrate in a mysterious present steeped in connections to a past that threatens to overwhelm. The protagonists navigate religious tradition as they take steps to reshape their lives in startling ways, often at great personal risk. An elderly woman living alone remembers a long-ago love. A holiday abroad changes the lives of a mother and daughter forever. In the concluding story, a married Torah scholar encounters romance in an unexpected quarter. A note on transliteration and pronunciation and a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish terms appear at the end of the book. The book includes two pairs of interlocking stories. The author of six volumes of poetry, Yermiyahu Ahron Taub brings a quiet lyricism to his debut collection of short stories.
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Listen to an earlier version of “Flowers for Madame” in Second Hand Stories Podcast (read by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub).
The Education of a Daffodil: Prose Poems/Di bildung fun a geln nartsis: prozelider is an extended reflection on violence on a small scale and its legacies. In the first section, “Brief Histories of Fear,” the poet constructs an atmosphere of foreboding and danger. This is a sequence of discrete narrative and portrait poems highlighting protagonists in a variety of historical and contemporary settings in moments of crisis and/or introspection. Crafted in sometimes ornate language, this section presents the conjured kindred spirits that have shaped the title character and evokes some of his principal literary influences and moods. In the second section, “Life Studies in Yellow and Other Primary Colors,” the lens is narrowed, and the poems are interconnected. Here, the effeminate eponymous hero moves from a state of innocence, or rather unknowing, through the crucible of brutality, into ultimately a state approaching equilibrium. Taken together, the book can be read as a Bildungsroman in free verse and a chronicle of tenacity and endurance. Six poems also have a Yiddish version.
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Read “Radio Nights in Candyland” in Pyrokinection, “Alley Apparition (Without Pierogis)” in Hamilton Stone Review, “From Night to Night” in Jewrotica, “Portrait of a Predecessor” in Jewrotica, and “In Blue Moonlight” in Jewrotica, “Dialogues in Transit,” “Dreams of Declamation: an Invitation,” and “Love in the Reign of Raining Rockets” in Dead Snakes, “Clarissa’s Convocation of Muses” in The Ofi Press Magazine, “The Problem of Cacophony” in miller’s pond poetry magazine, “1:00 A.M. Beneath Bronze Arches” in Masque & Spectacle, “The Introvert Who (Almost) Ran for Town Council” in Wild Violet Literary Magazine, “Midnight in the Garden of Gridiron,” “Musings (Made-Up) of Melanie,” and “On a Given Sunday” in The Tower Journal, “The Intruder Overhead” and “Return of the Repressed” in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, “First Fruit (and Aftermath)” in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and “Where Once Were Cherry Blossoms” in Hill Rag.
Blume Lempel is a fearless storyteller whose imagination skillfully moves between the realistic and the fantastic, the lyrical and the philosophical. Her subjects, like her settings – Paris, Poland, Brooklyn, Tel Aviv, California – range widely. A Holocaust survivor speaks to the shadows in her garden; a pious old woman imagines romance, a New York subway commuter forges a bond with a homeless woman; and in the title story, a mother is drawn into a transgressive relationship with her blind son. Lempel’s narratives are masterpieces of poetic imagery and startling modernist touches, suffused with an abiding compassion. Readers of these stories, superbly translated by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, are in for a stunning literary journey. Winner of the 2012 Translation Prize awarded by the Yiddish Book Center.
Read praise for Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories.
Read “The Power of a Melody” in Ezra: an Online Journal of Translation,” “The Little Red Umbrella” in The Brooklyn Rail: In Translation, “Neighbors Over the Fence” in Pakn Treger, “Pastorale” in K1n, and “The Debt” in In Geveb.
Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres explores the “crime” of heresy and the condition of existential displacement through the language of prayer and prayerful voice/s. In the first section, “Visits and Visitations,” the poet imagines a variety of protoganists in situations of supplication. The second section, “In the Gleaning,” examines the life, trangressions, and prayers of the title character and the primacy of books, libraries, and reading for refuge and reconfiguration. Eschewing a secular/religious divide, the book offers an expansive interpretation of the enduring power of prayer. Four poems also have a Yiddish version.
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Read “Flotsam Without Jetsam” and “Semi-Somnia” in Hamilton Stone Review, “Eavesdropping,” “Prayers, in Dialogic Embrace,” “Staged Reading,” and “The Woman Who Did Not Turn Her Sorrow Into Art” in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, “Yermiyahu the Book Peddler” in Misfits’ Miscellany, “His Favorite Patron” in Misfits’ Miscellany, “Two Sisters” in Misfits’ Miscellany, “J. Edgar Song” in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, “Early Talkie” in Jewrotica, “Ephemera” and “How the Peeping Tom Came to Remember” in Avatar Review, “Thorns of Perhaps” in Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews (p. 17), “Breakfast in the Basement (With Bureaucrats),” “Odessa,” and “On Being a Minorities Poet” in Dead Snakes, and “Empty Nesters” in Poetry Pacific, “Dialectic in Abeyance,” “A Meditation on the Question of Agency,” and “The People of the Book…Without Books?” in Pyrokinection.
Uncle Feygele is a portrait of a poet poised between the ultra-Orthodox Jewish milieu in which he was raised and his queer daily life. Rather than highlighting displacement, the poems in this collection meditate on the challenges in sustaining familial and romantic connection and the hope for social justice. Despite his failure to fulfill the biblical injunction “to be fruitful and multiply,” the title protagonist grapples with questions of community, family, history, identity, and language. His quest is peopled by characters, “real” and imagined, historical and contemporary, who provide fellowship and inspiration. By probing the interior life of an uncoupled hero, the book shifts the persona of the “unmarried relative” from the periphery to the very center of investigation. Taken together, Uncle Feygele offers a new portrayal of a ubiquitous but often obscure literary figure and an alternative paradigm of Jewish engagement. Six poems also have a Yiddish version.
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Read “Cat Lady’s Request” and “Walking With Sarina” in Dark Lady Poetry, “Friday Afternoon Circle Play” in Eclectica Magazine, and “Alternative Yuletide” and “Idyll” in Loch Raven Review, and “Wandering Jew in Little Rome” in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and “Nostalgia/Benkshaft,” “Song for the Unknown Song,” “Rub a Dub-Dub: Three Figures and a Tub,” and “Spinster’s Lament” in Beltway Poetry Quarterly.
Inspired by the poet’s experience as an artist’s model, What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn is a kaleidoscope of mysterious tableaux vivants. Composed entirely of numbered five-line poems, the book offers glimpses of individuals in moments of flux or revelation and suggestions of lives altered. By drawing on the dramatic potential inherent in brevity, Yermiyahu Ahron Taub invites his readers to extend the narratives beyond the borders of the poems to imagined conclusions of their own. Each of the poems in What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn has English and Yiddish versions, and two poems also have a Hebrew version.
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Read poem 15. in Eclectica Magazine, poems 10., 22., and 48. in Free Verse, poem 3. (English) in Orange Room Review and (Yiddish; then called 43.) in Der Bavebter Yid, poems 17. and 33. (Yiddish; then called 7. and 11.) in Der Bavebter Yid, poems 35. and 38. (Yiddish; then called 2. and 10.) in Der Bavebter Yid, and poem 66. (Yiddish; then called 54.) in Der Bavebter Yid.
The Insatiable Psalm explores the love between an ultra-Orthodox Jewish mother and her increasingly less observant son, while drawing upon themes in Jewish history and culture. As the two unnamed protagonists speak to each other across a widening philosophical divide, the book alternates between the voices of the mother, son, and the poet narrator. The first section follows a narrative arc of the mother’s life from girlhood and adolescence to marriage and motherhood to illness, and ultimately, death. It also tells the story of the son, who is beginning to envision the possibilities of a gay life. The second section examines some of the challenges in composing an homage in a context where it is neither sought nor admired. The mother, despite a yearning for romance and beauty, fiercely claims her faith, which she sees as a bulwark against communal and personal destruction. The son, in his newly acquired enthusiasm for feminist theory and liberation, must navigate the reality of a mother who is interested in neither. Their enduring love in the face of conflict gives the book its primary dramatic momentum. Rather than a readily apparent reconciliation, the book offers a conversation, an insistence on connection, despite difference.
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Read “arrangement without sun” and “dust into stars” in Salt River Review, “iris outside time” in Pif Magazine, “advice” in Melic Review, “questions of dress” in The Adirondack Review, “woman of letters” in Free Verse, “invitation to psalm” in The Paumanok Review (page 234), “homage restored: bar mitzvah fantasia” in KotaPress Poetry Journal, “east central european paradigms” in Snakeskin, and “the filth box wreaks havoc!” and “figure prostrate on tishebov stone” in Eclectica Magazine.
Tsugreytndik zikh tsu tantsn: naye Yidishe lider/Preparing to Dance: New Yiddish Songs is a CD of nine of Yermiyahu Ahron Taub’s Yiddish poems set to music by Michał Górczyński and performed by Malerai-Goldstein-Masecki was released on the Multikulti Project label (Poznan, Poland). The music has been performed in concert at various venues in Poland.
Purchase: Tsugreytndik zikh tsu tantsn: naye Yidishe lider/Preparing to Dance: New Yiddish Songs from Multikulti Project.