Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

Bill West at West in New England is hosting his Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge
Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written! Or if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video of someone performing the song.
The deadline for submission is November 20th.  The rest of the details can be read on his blog.

I have participated in the first two editions of this contest, but between last year and now I have come to the conclusion my Feinstein/Dudelsack ancestors arrived from Volhynia, Russia.  So I decided to find a Volhynian poet. It wasn't difficult, and I was pleasantly surprised, as he turned out to already be one of my favorite poets.

In 1873, Chaim Nachman Bialik was born in Radi, Volhynia. Bialik's father died in 1880, when Bialik was 7 years old. In his poems, Bialik romanticized the misery of his childhood, describing seven orphans left behind—though modern biographers believe there were fewer children, including grown step-siblings who did not need to be supported. Be that as it may, from the age 7 onwards Bialik was raised in Zhitomir by his grandfather. (source).

Bialik is considered by many to be the "father of Modern Hebrew poetry," and it is great to see he was raised in the same town (Zhitomir) my great great grandfather's brother, Julius, put down as his town of origin on his immigration papers.  Selig and Julius Dudelsack left Russia in the 1890s, a decade before Bialik began publishing poetry - but did the Dudelsack family know Bialik's grandfather?

Bialik's poetry (in Hebrew) can be found here.

I share an excerpt below of an English translation. with a link to another site where the entire poem can be read. (While the original Hebrew was written in 1904, the translation is still under copyright.) The poem below was read in 2003 at the Memorial for the fallen Columbia astronauts.
After My Death

Say this when you mourn for me:

There was a man – and look, he is no more.
He died before his time.
The music of his life suddenly stopped.
A pity!  There was another song in him.
Now it is lost

(Read the rest of the poem)


Bialik is also known for his gathering and editing of the Sefer Ha-gaddah (Legends from Talmud and Midrash)

Note for the curious - actress Mayim Bialik has indicated she is descended from a sibling of Bialik's.

1 comment:

Bill West said...

A great poem, John. Here are so many beautiful poems from other countries that we here in America never see.

Thank you for sending this in for the Challenge!