Anthology of Yiddish Poetry
of Poland between the two
World Wars (1918 - 1939)

אַנטאָלאָגיע פון דער ײִדישער פּאָעזיע
אין פּוילן צווישן ביידע וועלט מלחמות
(1918 - 1939)

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  About Reyzl Zykhlinsky      

Reyzl Zykhlinsky

We are grateful to Dr Marek Kanter, the poet’s son, for permission to publish the poems and their translations – and for some helpful biographical advice.

Reyzl Zykhlinsky is highly regarded for her visually evocative free verse, which restores mystery to the everyday. Consider "Before the Mirror" (1939) : a woman (still single at 29 ?) spots grey hairs - and momentarily her world freezes over - but then comes the brilliant , optimistic image of medusae which light their own way - an image a single person can live by.

She was born in Gąbin, (pronounced Gombin) near Warsaw, in 1910. Her mother was very frum and descended from Rabbis. Her father was a tanner with his own tannery. He travelled three times to the USA, for the last time in 1924 – and he died in Chicago in 1928.

Reyzl began writing at 12 in Polish, before turning to Yiddish. Her first Yiddish verse was written at 17, and she was first published in 1928 in the Warsaw Kleyner Folkstsaytung. For several years she worked in the orphanage in Włocławek, then from 1936 to 1939 she lived in Warsaw and worked in a bank. With the German invasion she fled first to Lviv (as it is known today), then to Kolomea, where she met Dr Isaac Kanter, who became her husband.

Together they fled to Kazan after the invasion of the USSR and in 1943 their son Marek was born there. In 1947 they returned to Poland, to learn that Reyzl’s mother and Reyzl’s brothers and sisters, who had remained in Poland, had all died at the hands of the Germans.

Tsu loytere bregn was published in Łódź in1948. After a time in Paris,1948 – 1951, the family came to New York. Shvaygndike Tirn (New York  1962) and Harbstike Skvern (New York 1969) were her next books. In 1975 she was awarded the Itsik Manger Prize.

Di November-zun (Paris  1977) included stories as well as poems. In 1981 publication of a selection of her poems in German translation in East Germany further increased her reputation. (Vogelbrot-Gedichte Aus Funf Jahrzehnten (Bread for the Birds - Five Decades of Poetry).

Her last work was Naye Lider (Tel Aviv 1993). She died in  2001.

In 1997 a selection of her work appeared in the English translations of Barnet Zumoff, Aaron Kramer and Marek Kanter: "God Hid His Face". Just one of the poems we present here can be found there as well – Biblical Story. The book can be purchased from Amazon or it can be read online, at

Recently a fine French language translation of Shvaygndike Tirn has appeared: Portes muettes , Zychlinski, Rajzel ,translated by Rachel Ertel (Paris 2007). It can be purchased through the Medem Bibliothėque in Paris.

(Ref: unsigned article in the 1960 Leksikon fun der Yidisher Literatur; also Aaron Kramer 1989 – A Century of Yiddish Poetry.)
Photographs and further biographical information are at


Our selection:
In 1936 Itsik Manger provided an introduction to her first book of poems, and the Yiddish PEN Club of Warsaw published “Lider” by Rayzel Żychlińska. The book was awarded a prize by the "in Zikh" poetry magazine in America. The PEN published her second book as well, “Der Regn Zingt” in 1939.

Our selection is taken from these two books: we have retained her ordering, with “October” being the first poem selected from the 1939 book. Thanks are due to Bobbi Zylberman (Melbourne) for re-typing the poems for the site.

In one place a typo has been corrected, and spelling has been standardized in a few places (though not all).

Readers can see the original books on line. “Lider” (R. Zykhlinsky) is freely available through the National Yiddish Book Center digital library collection. At present the 1939 book is unfortunately not in the NYBC Collection -  but it is available electronically upon request to the U S Library of Congress.


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