Published by Holland Park Press
To Sing Away the Darkest Days is the culmination of a five-year project which saw Norbert Hirschhorn source more than one thousand Yiddish songs.
Ruth Rubin, pioneer archivist of Yiddish folksong, wrote: ‘Yiddish folksongs are in a vernacular closest to the popular speech of the folk.’
For Norbert they helped him to rediscover and trace his own Jewish cultural history. However, some of the songs ‘spoke’ to him as a poet and begged for a new translation, or ‘re-imagining’ as he calls it, into English poems.
The resulting collection of poems tells the story of the emigrant, the Jew in the Diaspora. Norbert adds his unique view: he personalises the Diaspora, and at the same time brings a vanished culture back to life. The collection is funny and poignant and captures the Jewish experience, but the struggle and questioning of the poet add an extra dimension.
To Sing Away the Darkest Days is not only a wonderful collection of poems but also a necessary historical document.
The Quantum Rebbe
Nu, Einstein, with your ferret’s brain,
come sit at our Rebbe’s table and learn
a thing or two. So you made a rocket
to shoot at the stars? Which makes you
a wonder? Ha! Our Rebbe opens his
umbrella and he’s dancing on Mars.
You discovered relativity? Our Rebbe can fly
faster than light to greet the shabbos bride
from the previous night, returns looking younger.
Don’t beat the kettle about your Big Bang!
Who do you think was virtually there when G-d,
Master of the Universe, created time, heaven, earth!
And when the moshiyekh, the Anointed One,
comes to rebuild our Temple, our Rebbe will be
alongside – sanctifying, cantillating, praying.
© Norbert Hirschhorn 2013
About the Author
Norbert Hirschhorn is a physician specializing in international public health, commended in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as an ‘American Health Hero.’ He now lives in London and Beirut. His poems have been published in over three dozen journals, ten anthologies, four pamphlets, and three full collections: A Cracked River, Slow Dancer Press, London, 1999; Mourning in the Presence of a Corpse, Dar al-Jadeed, Beirut, 2008; Monastery of the Moon, Dar al-Jadeed, Beirut, 2012. His work has won a number of prizes in the US and UK.
You can find out more about Norbet and his work at Holland Park Press' website.