Voices from the Quiet: An Artist’s Statement

In considering the body of my work written over a period of more than twenty-five years, a unifying categorization does not readily emerge.  Still, certain themes do appear with regularity.  It seems noteworthy that many of my poems and short stories explore the plight of individuals at the margins of society, striving to formulate a coherent response to a changing world.  My work emanates from the interstices between poetry and prose. Many of my poems are prose-y and narrative in nature, or at least offer the suggestion of narrative. My stories contain extensive poetic passages and focus on the psychological landscapes of my protagonists, depicting the enormous stakes involved in making what may initially seem like very small steps. In that way, I see myself as a storyteller illuminating the drama of reaching against isolation, towards connection.

My interest in the fate of the individual is situated in examinations of larger social and political conditions, both contemporary and historical.  I seek to balance lyrical depiction of social justice movement with observations on the challenges of communal mobilization.  Dislocation and the search for home, representations of the body and desire in the age of plague, and the fragility of the natural world are some additional themes that continue to figure prominently.

While not explicitly autobiographical, my work draws on a life lived first in an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva world and later in progressive and queer communities.  Instead of highlighting retreat from stricture, my texts engage the complexities of tradition and outline the project of living in multiple worlds.  The protagonists navigate the challenges of interplay, taking small steps from exile into former worlds and then back again.  In this dance, they confront ghosts of the past, shifts in their former and current lives, and their own commitment to living with paradox.

The Yiddish language has been a crucial tool for my literary work.  As a bridge to the past and an enhancement of my literary and social present, Yiddish opens a vibrant linguistic plane, full of texture, play, and reference.   However, as much as Yiddish functions for me as a source of enrichment, it is also a sign of dislocation, a reminder of rupture and fragmentation.  My familiarity with the language is tempered by an unavoidable distance, by its elusiveness and my own tentativeness in its pathways.  Although I persevere in creating new work in Yiddish, idiomatic expressions, case and gender agreement, and prepositions continue to daunt, despite years of usage. As a translator from the Yiddish, I take my place among the current generation of individuals dedicated to bringing gems of an extraordinary world literature to a wider audience.

So welcome to my website.  Thank you for visiting, for your interest in my work, and for your support of contemporary writers creating outside the mainstream.  Please do get in touch!

—Yermiyahu Ahron Taub