Books: Mother tongue

Rivka Basman Ben-Haim’s intricate Yiddish poetry is now presented alongside an English translation.

February 10, 2017 12:40
4 minute read.

Rivka Basman Ben-Haim. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Yiddish is the most expressive, aesthetically and emotionally evocative of languages. It offers the Yiddish speaker and writer an inherent juiciness, an almost elemental grittiness, that exudes street-level nous, yet also incorporates the full spectrum of emotions – from unspeakable torment to cloud-nine joy – with not just a little tongue-in-cheek insight in the linguistic mix, too.

Rivka Basman Ben-Haim appears to have cornered the aforementioned expansive spirit, and conveys the verbal nuts and bolts succinctly in the self-explanatorily titled poem “Yiddish Words.” In it, the nonagenarian poet proffers the idea of the intrinsic value of language and, in particular, her beloved mother tongue.


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