Why Read Celia Dropkin by Faith Hill - from The Yiddish Book Center
Another Yiddish woman poet was Celia Dropkin (1887-1956). An eager student, she was formally educated for most of her youth in Belarus. She began writing poetry in Russian at
age 10 and was encouraged to keep writing by Uri Nissan Gnessin, a Hebrew poet who she became close with. After getting married, Dropkin immigrated to New York. She began
translating her Russian poems into Yiddish and published them in several leading Yiddish
literary magazines. While some of Dropkin’s works were about her life experiences and children, she is famed for her passionate poetry about sex, eroticism, love, and relationships, themes that resonate with readers today. In the early 1900s, most people thought that Jewish women only wrote tkhines, Yiddish prayers often concerning domestic matters and child-rearing; Dropkin challenged that. While a number of critics felt that her works were too personal and too overtly sexual, her contemporaries were generally positive about her writings. Modern-day Yiddish enthusiasts have not forgotten Dropkin’s contributions to Jewish literature, as her poems have been published in several contemporary Yiddish anthologies and set to song by klezmer bands.. From The
Jewish Women’s Archive Blog
“At the Rich Relatives” by Celia Dropkin, translated from Yiddish by Faith Jones, from Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars:Jewish Women in Yiddish
“At the Rich Relatives” is set in late Tsarist Russia. A widow and her 14 year old daughter recently lost there house in a fire started during a pogram. Their rich relatives have invited them to come stay on their estate. The daughter initially resists, saying her rich cousins look down on her. They make the move anyway. Just as the daughter worried, she feels inferior to others in the family her age. They have much better and many more clothes. The rich families income comes from a factory about a mile away. The workers live in shacks near the factory and are barely paid enough to live. One of the cousins has a fire for social justice. He tells the family their luxurious life comes from the misery of others.
He begins to talk to the girl about communist ideologies. Mingling a romantic feeling, they become bonded in their love for justice.
Dropkin very well develops the characters and her descriptions of the property of the rich and their splendid diet in contrast to that of the poor have the power of Zola.
I have access to a few more stories by Dropkin and will be posting upon them.
My thanks to Faith Jones for her elegant translation
FAITH JONES is a short-story writer and translator and a researcher of book and library history. Her work has been published in anthologies and in scholarly and literary journals such as Canadian Jewish Studies, Lyric, Bridges, Fiddlehead, and Geist. She is a librarian in the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library and is active in Yiddish, feminist, and peace organizations.