Candles of Song: Yiddish Poems about Mothers Mani Leyb

Yiddish poems about mothers, in memory of my mother, Miriam Pearlman Zucker, 1914-2012.

Photo of Mani Leyb

Mani Leyb (1883-1953) was the pseudonym of Mani Leyb Brahinsky. He was born in Niezhyn, (Chernigov district, Ukraine). At the age of 11 he left school to be apprenticed to a bootmaker and was twice arrest for “revolutionary activities” while still in his teens.

He emigrated to New York in 1906 where he began publishing poems in the Forverts and Fraye arbeter shtime. He worked as a shoe and boot-maker until he contracted tuberculosis and lived in a sanatorium for two years (1932-1934).

He was a leading figure in Di Yunge (the Young Ones), a poetry group which, in rebellion against the earlier worker poets, placed individual mood and sensation at the heart of poetry. The appeal of simplicity as an aesthetic goal attracted him to folks songs and folk motifs, and to the writing of children’s verse.

In 1918 he published three volumes of poetry – Lider (poems), Yidishe un slavishe motivn (Jewish and Slavic motifs), and Baladn (Ballads). Some of these and later poems were published posthumously in 1955 in Lider un Baladn (Poems and Ballads). After an unhappy marriage and five children he began a relationship with with the Yiddish poet Rashelle Veprinski which lasted from the1920s until his death in 1953.

Here, Mayn Mame, by Mani Leyb, read by Sheva Zucker: