In the face of the total destruction of European Jewry, three Yiddish poets — Yitshak Katzenelson in Warsaw, Simkhe-Bunem Shayevitsh in Lodz, and Abraham Sutzkever in Vilna — underwent a period of radical self-confrontation, whereupon each poet assumed the mantle of prophecy. Rather than merely mimic Bialik, however, each poet subverted his poetic legacy in different ways. By combining the lyric and epic, the present and ancient past, sorrow and rage, the fate of the individual and that of the people as a whole, they repudiated Bialik's romantic agony. Whereas heretofore, only the male poet could arrogate to himself the voice of a biblical prophet, the ghetto poets, each in his own way, broke down the internal barrier between male and female victims and voices. And finally, it was the very scope of the catastrophe that made it imperative for the surviving poet to adopt such a commensurate literary genre: monumental, high rhetorical, and nationally significant.


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pp. 103-120
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