This article offers a queer formulation of the present of Jewish literary history by reading two Yiddish poems by women that speak in a cross-gendered male voice and deploy queer content and poetics. The first poem, “Ikh bin geven a mol a yingling” (“I Was Once A Boy”), written by Anna Margolin in the interwar period, offers its own vision of history and critique of the powers oppressing Jews, as well as the powers oppressing women. The second poem, " Der Soyne/The Enemy: An Interview in Gaza,” written during the First Palestinian Intifada by Irena Klepfisz, speaks in the marginalized voices of Palestinians and in Yiddish, all in the Israeli context of Jewish power. The article explores how each poem critiques its present moments while activating multiple histories. Poetically disrupting the linear sequence of (hetero) normative temporality, the poems create queer histories that conflate multiple times and transgress categorical boundaries of gender, religion, and national identity. The article shows how both poems play on the irony of shifting powers and perspectives, as their speakers voice an irreverent yet anachronistic challenge to power, powers that be, powers past, or powers to come. At the same time, the poems make all too real the violence of history and the ongoing horrors of their respective presents, pasts, and futures. Looking through these poems, this essay will ask how we might think differently about the poetic politics of language, gender, and power in Jewish literary history and beyond.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Religious studies
- Literature and Literary Theory