Yankev Glatshteyn

Yankev Glatshteyn (Jacob Glatstein), one of the most important Jewish poets of the twentieth century and a founder of Yiddish modernism, was born in Lublin, Poland, in 1896, and immigrated to New York in 1914. Glatshteyn enrolled in New York University's law school in 1918, dropping out after a year and earning his living as a teacher. Like many other Yiddish writers, he later turned to journalism, publishing thousands of columns on politics and culture, including several volumes of literary criticism. But it was as a poet that Glatshteyn became known. In the 1920s, together with N.B. Minkov, an NYU law classmate, Glatshteyn founded a new Yiddish literary school called In zikh-"in the self," or "introspective." The Inzikhistn (Introspectivists) held that poetry should be beholden only to aesthetic criteria and not to political or social ends. Glatshteyn's work in the 1920s and 1930s was confrontational, pioneering, and innovative in form. In 1934, Glatshteyn returned to Poland and wrote two autobiographical novels about his visit; apart from their literary worth, they are important testimonials to pre-war Polish Jewry.

Glatshteyn's early, radical poetic modernism was made impossible by the Holocaust. During and after the war, he increasingly saw himself as a prophet-poet, urging Jews to national self-realization in America and Israel. His later work, though more ideological, retained, even developed, the verbal inventiveness of his youth. Glatshteyn died in 1971 in New York.