Academic journal article Shofar

A Note on the "Yinglish Strophes" Series

Academic journal article Shofar

A Note on the "Yinglish Strophes" Series

Article excerpt

The Yiddish impact on English is documented remarkably well by Leo J. Rosten in his books, including his outrageous work of fiction, The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N. He uses the term" Yinglish" to refer to particular words that enter English, often with some modification. I employ it to signify how Yiddish syntax and sensibility modify standard English structures.

My grandmother Ethel Landsman (1888-1986) was forced by pogroms to leave her native Odessa, Russia in 1905. She settled in New York City, where she met my grandfather Louis. They spoke Yiddish to one another as much as they spoke Yiddish-inflected English. Recognizing her as a bearer of my Jewish cultural inheritance - though I have long embraced Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism - I jotted down her spoken and written phrases and sentences for nearly a decade.

The versions of "The Ethel Landsman Poems" in my first two books of poetry, Surprise Visit (New York: Domestic Press, 1993) and Gossip (East Rockaway, NY: Marsh Hawk Press, 2001), collage her utterances, which sometimes focus on her experience as an immigrant Jew in the U.S. In my next book, After Taxes (Marsh Hawk, 2004), I began the "Yinglish Strophes" series to avoid focusing exclusively on Ethel's "voiceprint" so that, while continuing to foreground multiple significations stemming from Yinglish syntax, I could add my own discourse and concerns and include hints of social contexts available only after her passing. …

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