A new bilingual edition of Kadya Molodowsky’s enchanting Yiddish children’s poetry was recently published in Sweden. Edited and masterfully translated into English by Yaira Singer, “Through an Endless Stretch of Land” makes some of the most popular classic Yiddish children’s poetry available to a wider audience.
Kadya Molodowsky (1894-1975), a towering figure in Yiddish literature, is best known in English for her poetry for adults, in particular her devastating poem, “God of Mercy,” written in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Although she wrote acclaimed novels, short stories and journalism, before World War II she was perhaps best known in Yiddish for her children’s poetry. A longtime Yiddish and Hebrew teacher in Poland’s secular Yiddish school system, her moving “stories in verse,” as she called them, were inspired by her pupils.
Molodowsky’s children’s poems enjoyed an afterlife of sorts in Israel, where they became popular in Hebrew translation, but until now they have remained largely unknown in English. This is no surprise. Children’s poetry, with the notable exception of Dr. Seuss and a few other masters, does not have as prominent a place in English or American literature as it does in other literatures. It is also one of the hardest genres to translate.