Candles of Song: Celia Dropkin

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

Photo of Celia Dropkin

Celia Dropkin (1888-1956) was born Celia Levin in Bobruisk, White Russia. She lost her father at an early age and her mother never remarried. She had a high school education and began writing poetry in Russian while still a young woman and was greatly encouraged by the Hebrew writer U.N. Gnessin. When she was about 21 she married Shmaye Dropkin, an active socialist in the Bund party, and in 1912 she followed him to America where he had fled for political reasons.

Between 1910-1926 she bore six children, five of whom survived, and around 1918 she began writing poetry in Yiddish. She published in many of the Yiddish publications of the day, including Inzikh, Tog, and Tsukunft. Her books include In heysn vint – lider (In the hot wind – poems; 1935) and In heysn vint: Poems, Stories and Pictures published posthumously in New York by her children. Her poems are remarkable for their sensuality, bold eroticism, and inversion of the reader’s expectations of traditional women’s writing.

Here, Ikh Vel Antloyfn, by Celia Dropkin, read by Sheva Zucker: