Maeera Y. Shreiber

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199228133
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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This article considers the subject of survival, focusing on the continuation of Jewish rituals of mourning and memory in Jewish poetry. Poets such as Charles Reznikoff, Allen Ginsberg, and Adrienne Rich show how the kaddish is used in ways that complicate and thicken the understanding of the modern elegy. Of the three poems discussed, Reznikoff's ‘Kaddish’ is the most critical of this shift from the human to the divine; instead of directing the poem towards God. Ginsberg's ‘Kaddish’ significantly avoids the ancient Hebrew prayer altogether. In Rich's ‘Tattered Kaddish’, it is observed how the liturgical frame may be appropriated and refashioned in the service of reclaiming ritualized grieving in such a way that challenges the idea of poetic mourning as an individualized mode of expression. Rich insists that institutions, whether they be religious, political, or aesthetic, be able to accommodate pain and unmitigated loss.

Keywords: Jewish American elegy; Charles Reznikoff; Allen Ginsberg; Adrienne Rich; kaddish; mourning; memory; Jewish poetry; Jewish rituals

Article.  7766 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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