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So! I’ve ordered several anthologies and picked up a couple at the library for good measure to scour them for new poets. The one I found this week was a wee bit mysterious. Took me an hour or more to find some kind of bio of him on the internet. But here he is…

Alter Brody

674_b(Alter Brody 1895-1979) Alter Brody migrated from a small Russian village to New York, in 1903. He was not famous during his lifetime, and stopped writing after 1930, but he “was one of the first American Jewish poets to write of Jewish themes and subjects” in a unique, effective style that showed his concern for Jewish issues (209). He was also one of the few migrant poets who wrote in English, rather than his native Yiddish (204). Many Jewish migrants would have related to his feelings of “dislocation and regret” concerning his present situation in America, as compared to the “more joyful, innocent existence” of his childhood in Russia, all of which he writes about in his collection of autobiographical poems, called A Family Album and Other Poems, (207). Brody not only wrote in free verse, like Walt Whitman, but created a sad, nostalgic mood throughout his poems, depicting a “deep sense of loss and alienation” using “Whitmanesque repetition of ordinary images and details” (206). These “clear, simple pictures,” were derived from memories of his beloved village in Russia and compared to life in New York City. These “compelling and forceful” images of sight, sound taste and touch, “create a sense of desolation, loneliness and despair” that many migrants of this time experienced (208). Rubin, Steven. “Poets of the Promised Land.” In Jonathan N. Barron and Eric Murphy Selinger, eds., Jewish American Poetry. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2000. (https://www.mesaartscenter.com/)

I think it was the mystery of this poem that really captured my attention. I suspect it is part of one of Brody’s larger works, Lamentations: Four Folk-Plays of the American Jew, because there is DEFINITELY a story going on here, and I’m dying to know why the photograph was torn up, and by whom? The girl? The old woman? Who was in the picture??? So many details are missing that I may have to see if I can find this book!


In a dingy kitchen
Facing a Ghetto backyard
An old woman is chanting Jeremiah’s Lamenations,
Out of a Hebrew Bible.

The gaslight flares and falls. . . .

This night,
Two thousand years ago,
Jerusalem fell and the Temple was burned.
This white-haired Jewess
Sits in her kitchen and chants–by the banks of the Hudson–
The Lament of the Prophet.

The gaslight flares and falls. . . .

Locked in her room,
Her daughter lies on a bed convulsively sobbing.
Her face is dug in the pillows;
Her shoulders heave with her sobs–
The bits of a photograph lie on the dresser. . . .


Picture Source: www.jta.at