Described by the critic Emmanuel Fershlayser as an “individualistic rebel, creeping all the deeper into the extremes of modernism,” Mikhl Likht (1893-1953) remains, more or less, the only Yiddish poet to have modeled his practice on Anglophone modernism, especially what he took to be T.S. Eliot’s program. As such, he literally wrote himself out of any conceivable readership, remaining inaccessible to non-Yiddish readers and alienating his Yiddish peers, who found his collage technique and aesthetic purism suspiciously apolitical and “umfarshtendlekh” (incomprehensible). A full-length English translation of Likht’s astonishing and difficult nine-part masterpiece, Protsesiyes (Processions), has long been overdue.
This English version of Procession: I owes an immense debt to the pioneering efforts of Merle Bachman, who inaugurated this recovery project with her masterful translation of Procession: III, published in her book, Recovering “Yiddishland”: Threshold Moments in American Literature (2007). Readers hoping to find out more about Likht’s poetics and contexts are strongly encouraged to check out Recovering “Yiddishland,” which, in addition to the first-ever English translation of Likht, includes by far the most significant scholarly treatment of his work to date, along with extensive notes and reflections on the challenges of translating him.
Ariel Resnikoff is an American poet, essayist and translator. His work has appeared in Jacket2, The Oxonian Review, Matrix Magazine and Scrivener Creative Review. He was the recipient of the 2013/14 Dorot Fellowship in Israel and currently lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Stephen Ross is Teaching Fellow in American Literature at the University of Warwick and Associate Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute. He completed his PhD at the University of Oxford in 2013, writing on the poetry of John Ashbery. He is a founding editor of the literary web-journal, Wave Composition.