The poet really means his title. This book was generated from an artist’s model’s intensely bodily experience of stillness, observed stillness at that. It is itself a series of brief, formally invariable stills that shine a light on occult links among memory fragments littered over generations of suffering. It is a kind of La Jetée in words. But words, it is still true to say, can do even more, and they can ask more of you. Reading these poems feels almost like writing poetry, and the poetry is of a seriousness and lightness that should inspire its readers to try the excellent and immortal game themselves. Good poetry is contagious, and this haunted, haunting sequence is good poetry.
—Mary Baine Campbell, author of Trouble
I admire the narrative reistance, the precise yet enigmatic details, and the playful, elusive “I” of these finely attuned and resonant poems. The collection’s measured trajectory—written in numbered series of five lines each—ushers us through war, troubled memory, eros, and finally into “gleaming”—illuminating as the title suggests, a compellingly multilingual psychic landscape where queerness, redemption, and grace boldly coexist.
—Peter Covino, author of Cut Off the Ears of Winter, Winner of the PEN America/Osterweil Award
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub breathes in and out the air of his past and present in two, sometimes three languages. His poetic element is American English and cosmopolitan New Yorkish (the latter sometimes allows itself to become endearingly parochial). His languages, other than English, are his near-native and fundamentally Jewish Yiddish, as well as his ancestral Hebrew laced with some Aramaic of his learned Orthodox upbringing. The present volume is as unique as it is multilingual; each poem appears in English and in Yiddish, and in a few cases in contemporary Ashkenazi Hebrew. A rare and astonishing achievement of urban, American, and, yes, truly multicultural poetic creativity.
—Dov-Ber Kerler, author of Origins of Modern Literary Yiddishand ELABREK: [Yiddish] poems
of the new millennium
Stillness and motion engage the interplay between silence and sound. Both apparent dichotomies are artfully rendered in Yermiyahu Ahron Taub’s What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn. This experimental collection of sketch poems vivifies the partiality as well as the possibilities of language to capture moments of flux, fear, revelation, and desire. These telling moments are shadowed and shaded as Taub presents each poem in English and Yiddish, and, in a few instances, in Hebrew as well. Through these different iterations he challenges our assumptions about words on a page allowing us to see the interplay of signs and symbols we so often take for granted. As if in a dream, here a richly imagined film is made still, its images and sounds slowed to a halt so that we can appreciate all of the different strands and their relation to each other. With these distillations Taub sheds new light on the dramatic potential of all of these languages, showing us what comes when they are seen, read, or heard next to each other.
—Laura Levitt, author of American Jewish Loss
after the Holocaust
The lyrics of What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn are rich, romantic, elusive, and finely crafted, like miniatures carved in ivory or dark wood. They remind me of imagism’s sharp snapshots, the haunting brevity of haiku, or the wistful eroticism of Cavafy. Taub has given his readers a world of mystery and delicate beauty.
—Jeff Mann, author of Bones Washed with Wine
and On the Tongue
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub’s bilingual poems, sometimes puzzling, always intriguing, offer mystery and insight, taking Yiddish where you never thought it could go. In five lines he captures a scene, a moment, a world of emotion often brimming beneath the surface.