The Full Pomegranate

Poems of Avrom Sutzkever

By Avrom Sutzkever
Selected by Richard J. Fein
Translated by Richard J. Fein
Introduction by Justin Cammy

Subjects: Poetry, Jewish Studies, Judaica, Literature, Holocaust Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions, SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438472508, 320 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents

Note on Selection and Arrangement
Note on Translation

Justin Cammy

From Collected Poems, Volume One (1963)

In the Village
At Dawn
Like a Sleigh in Its Wistful Ringing
Fiery Pelt
In a Siberian Forest
To My Father
Siberian Spring
My Friend Tshanguri
By a Bonfire
North Star
A Haystack
Ant Nest
Poems to a Sleepwalker
Two Bullets
In the Cell
I Lie in a Coffin
From a Lost Poem
Every Hour, Every Day
The Burial
To the Thin Vein on My Head
The Woman of Marble in Père Lachaise
From Collected Poems, Volume Two (1963)

Deer by the Red Sea
Denkmol nokh a ferd
Trained Animals
A Poem without a Name
[Gather me . . . ]
From Square Letters and Magical Signs (1968)

When the River Overran Its Banks
To Leivick
Poem without a Name
From Ripe Faces (1970)

From The Fiddle Rose (1974)

Granite Wings
From Both Ends of the World
The Full Pomegranate
Collected Treasures
Alto Cellos
[Here I am fated to see . . . ]
From Twin Brother (1986)

[Who will last . . . ]
[Good morning, woodpecker . . . ]
[Fate—hairy dog . . . ]
[Who blessed me . . . ]
[Gone, the green . . . ]
[Draw a thread . . . ]
[I remember Pasternak . . . ]
[And if I go . . . ]
[It belongs to me . . . ]
[Death redeems death . . . ]
[A woman points . . . ]
[My unborn heir . . . ]
[Memory of three . . . ]
[Good morning, young . . . ]
[When your words . . . ]
["How come you don't mention . . . "]
[A distant morning's . . . ]
[Not even the least . . . ]
[Ever since my pious mother . . . ]
[Tell me, what did you want . . . ]
[I am your abyss . . . ]
[I read texts . . . ]
[I still owe you . . . ]
[The murmur-hieroglyphics . . . ]
[Where are they . . . ]
[Not one, not two . . . ]
From In Somewhere-Night of Black Honey
From The Heir of Rain (1992)

[Two-legged grasses . . . ]
Like Sun through a Crevice
Poem about Nothing
I Seek Those Few People Who to This Day Remember My Mother
[Soon it will happen!]
From Shaken Walls (1996)

[Just before his bar mitzvah . . . ]
[A special announcement . . . ]
[It sometimes seems to me . . . ]
[All that is past . . . ]
[I know that nothing remains . . . ]
[I regret that I was born . . . ]

Sporadic visitant . . .
Richard J. Fein


Translations of selected poems by the Yiddish writer, covering the entire breadth of his career.


Yiddish writer Avrom Sutzkever (1913–2010) was described by the New York Times as "the greatest poet of the Holocaust. " Born in present-day Belarus, Sutzkever spent his childhood as a war refugee in Siberia, returned to Poland to participate in the interwar flourishing of Yiddish culture, was confined to the Vilna ghetto during the Nazi occupation, escaped to join the Jewish partisans, and settled in the new state of Israel after the war. Personal and political, mystical and national, his body of work, including more than two dozen volumes of poetry, several of stories, and a memoir, demonstrated the ways in which Yiddish creativity simultaneously balanced the imperatives of mourning and revival after the Holocaust. In The Full Pomegranate, Richard J. Fein selects and translates some of Sutzkever's best poems covering the full breadth of his career. Fein's translations appear alongside the original Yiddish, while an introduction by Justin Cammy situates Sutzkever in both historical and literary context.

Richard J. Fein is Professor Emeritus of English at the State University of New York at New Paltz and the author, editor, and translator of many books, including With Everything We've Got: A Personal Anthology of Yiddish Poetry.


"…carefully curated and beautifully illustrated … The volume exemplifies Fein's engagement with Sutzkever's poetry, which serves as an inspiration for his own poetic creativity. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Judaic)

"…a rich and daring cross-section of Sutzkever's verse … Fein crafts a portrait of Sutzkever neither as a historical relic nor as a witness to catastrophe, but as an inexhaustibly accomplished creator of poetry, and a devoted imaginer of a lost world. This, one imagines, is what Sutzkever would have wanted. " — Los Angeles Review of Books

"A remarkable aspect of this volume is its breadth. It allows readers to note how Sutzkever's images transformed and reappeared over the course of his fifty-year career. " — In Geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies

"…represent[s] important contributions to the growth of a great, neglected poet's reputation in the English-speaking world…" — Times Literary Supplement

"Richard Fein is among the best translators of Yiddish poetry into English—the best now, and, for that matter, among the best ever. He has a deep, inward sense of Yiddish poems, both intuitive and analytic, and a patient tenacity in burrowing into them. He also has what is still rarer, a beautifully fine ear for diction and rhythm; the translations are alive on the page, every word is necessary, every cadence has its music.

"The poems of Avrom Sutzkever were a challenge to him; he writes, candidly, 'they wanted me to find new powers in my English. ' There is a special, precious audacity in accepting such a challenge, and Fein has indeed found the new powers the poems demanded. " — Lawrence Rosenwald, Wellesley College

"Avrom Sutzkever has no more loving translator than fellow poet Richard Fein. Even those who think they 'do not understand poetry' will be inspired by the poet who bore witness to the most dramatic points of modern Jewish experience and could transmit their power. Strength and spirit fuse in Sutzkever, wit and insight, moral confidence and grace. Our thanks to the translator and to Justin Cammy's introduction for bringing this Jewish cultural landmark to English readers. " — Ruth R. Wisse, author of No Joke: Making Jewish Humor

"Richard Fein's translations strive for the impossible acrobatics of Sutzkever's writing, from the rare alchemy of his striking metaphors to a postwar longing for poetic redemption in the face of destruction. To capture just an echo of Sutzkever's singular voice would be an achievement. This collection, simultaneously careful and daring in its choices, amplifies that echo to the maximum that the English language would allow. " — Saul Noam Zaritt, Harvard University

"In dialogue with Avrom Sutzkever, Richard Fein offers us a vibrant selection of the poet's works in a beautiful facing-page translation. Sutzkever's superbly inventive Yiddish imagery and wordcraft inspired Fein, the poet-translator, to dynamically engage both Yiddish and English, with remarkable and moving results. " — Ellen Kellman, Brandeis University