Ernest B. Gilman
Mikhl Likht's Yiddish Modernism
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In his day Yiddishist Mikhl Likht (1893–1953) was regarded an outlier, and today his work appears in no current anthology of Yiddish literature in translation. Yet he was gifted and passionate, both as a poet and as a translator. With his poetry he introduced new kinds of expression into the Yiddish language, and with his translations he aimed to make the works of American authors accessible to contemporary Yiddish speakers. His goal was to enrich both Yiddish and Yiddish speakers with new ideas and new experiences that would enhance their connections in their new world. Today he is little remembered, because when he was writing, culturally minded Yiddish speakers were already abandoning the old language. But examination of his works can tell us much about his times. In retrospect, his projects should be measured by their ambition rather than their success.