This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.
Many Yiddish books are published these days with rabbinical endorsements but only once in a blue moon is a new Yiddish book released sporting a “mature content” warning on its cover.
Just such a book was recently published, Troim Katz Handler’s collected erotic Yiddish poetry “Simkhe 2” (Celebration). The book can be ordered both in print and as an e-book.
The poems are part of a larger cycle of over 550 poems that portray the sexual fantasies of one woman, Tema, in the form of letters to a man, Simkhe, with whom she had a lone sexual encounter some 36 years prior. Since both are married to other people she can only express her desires through these letters.
Troim Katz Handler, 92, began writing poetry after the death of her father, the Yiddish poet Menke Katz. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Menke Katz was once thrown out of the Yiddish Pen Club because his erotic poetry offended the sensibilities of his older colleagues).
Although Handler grew up speaking both Yiddish and English, she writes poetry solely in Yiddish. The new volume includes the original Yiddish texts (both in the Hebrew alphabet and in transliteration) and English versions by an anonymous translator who uses the pseudonym Shimon Beyles because he was raised in an Orthodox family.
The volume was prepared for publication by Shoshke-Rayzl Juni and Pearl Krupit, who both spoke about the project last year on the feminist Yiddish podcast “Vaybertaytsh.”.
Besides Troim’s own preface, the volume includes introductions by Shoshke-Rayzl Juni and Troim’s brother, the Yiddish linguist, historian and writer Dovid Katz.
Samples of the poems, which are too risqué to be quoted from here, can be accessed on the poet’s website..