What Stillness Illuminated / Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn

SKU: 978-1-60235-092-2

Poems in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

Free Verse Editions
Edited by Jon Thompson

Cover of What Stillness Illuminated

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978-1-60235-092-2 (paperback; $14.00; £10.00; €11.00; $ 18.00 Can); 112 pages, © 2008 by Parlor Press

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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 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 the reader to extend the narratives beyond the borders of the poems to imagined conclusions of their own.  What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn is written in English and Yiddish, with two poems also in Hebrew.

What others are saying about What Stillness Illuminated / Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn

I admire the narrative resistance, 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 PEN America / Osterweil Award

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

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 vivify 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 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

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 learned 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 Yiddish
and ELABREK: [Yiddish] poems of the new millenium

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.
—Sheva Zucker, Uriel Weinreich Program in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture and editor of Afn shvel

About the Author

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of The Insatiable Psalm (Hershey, Pa.: Wind River Press, 2005). His English and Yiddish poems, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, have appeared in numerous publications, including The Forward, Kennesaw Review, Lily, and Prairie Schooner. He was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, New York, he now lives in Washington, D.C.

Visit the author's website.

Free Verse Editions
Edited by Jon Thompson

Free Verse Editions is a joint venture between Free Verse: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry & Poetics and Parlor Press. The series will publishes three to five books of poetry per year, collections that use language to dramatize a singular vision of experience, a mastery of craft, a deep knowledge of poetic tradition, and a willingness to take risks. Please review the series description for more information.

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