MALKE LI (MALKA LEE) (July 4, 1904-March 22, 1976)
The pen name of Malke Leopold-Rapoport, she was born in Monastrishtsh (Monastrikh), eastern Galicia, into a Hassidic family. During WWI she made her way [with her family] to Hungary and from there to Vienna where she lived until 1918. She studied in a Polish public school and Polish high school. In 1921 she made her way to the United States. She graduated from the Jewish teachers’ seminary in New York, and for a time she studied humanities at Hunter College in New York. She visited Europe, Mexico, and the state of Israel, where in 1960 she directed a trip of the Organization of Pioneer Women in America. She began writing poetry in German in her early school years and from 1921 switched to Yiddish. She debuted in print in Di feder (The pen) in New York in 1922 with a poem, which she first wrote in German and then translated herself in Yiddish. From that point, she contributed poetry, stories, and descriptions of her childhood years and her hometown in: Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Di vokh (The week), Frayhayt (Freedom), Yidish (Yiddish), Oyfkum (Arise), Tsukunft (Future), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Signal (Signal), Der hamer (The hammer), Kinder-zhurnal (Children’s magazine), Kleynvarg (Youngsters), Nay-yidish (New Yiddish), Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Day-morning journal), Proletarisher gedank (Proletarian idea), and Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter)—in New York; Literarishe bleter (Literary pages) and Di literarishe velt (The literary world) in Warsaw; Kiem (Existence) and Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris; Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) and Heymish (Familiar) in Tel Aviv; Tint un feder (Ink and pen) in Toronto; Di prese (The press), Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees), Der shpigl (The mirror), and Ilustrirte literarishe bleter (Illustrated literary leaves) in Buenos Aires; and Yidishe lebn (Jewish life) in Los Angeles; among others. In book form, she published: Lider (Poems) (New York, 1932), 160 pp.; Gezangen (Songs) (New York, 1940), 160 pp.; Kines fun undzer tsayt (Lamentation of our times), poetry (New York, 1945), 160 pp.; Durkh loytere kvaln (Through pure springs), poetry (New York, 1950), 176 pp.; Durkh kindershe oygn (Through childish eyes) (Buenos Aires, 1955), 178 pp., a portion of which was published earlier in Morgn-frayhayt (New York, 1927); In likht fun doyres (In the light of generations), poetry (Tel Aviv, 1961), 215 pp., with a bibliography of her work, compiled by Y. Yeshurin; Untern nusenboym (Under the walnut tree) (Tel Aviv, 1969), 108 pp.; and Mayselekh far yoselen (Stories for Yosele) (Tel Aviv, 1969), 105 pp. Her poetry was included in such anthologies as: Ezra Korman, Yidishe dikhterins (Jewish women poets) (Chicago, 1928); Mendl Naygreshl and E. Shindler, Kleyne antologye fun der yidishe lirik in galitsye (Short anthology of Yiddish lyric in Galicia) (Vienna, 1936); Y. Kisin, Lider fun der milkhome (Poems from the war) (New York, 1943); Moyshe Shtarkman, Hemshekh antologye fun amerikaner-yidisher dikhtung, 1918-1943 (Hemshekh anthology of American Yiddish poetry, 1918-1943) (New York, 1945); Eliezer Frenkel, Antologye fun der naye idisher dikhtung (Anthology of new Yiddish poetry) (Jassy, 1945); N. Mayzil, Tsvishn khurbn un oyboy (Between destruction and construction) (New York, 1947); M. Basin, Yidishe poezye af amerikaner motivn, zamlung (Yiddish poetry on American motifs, collection) (New York, 1955); Y. Milboyer (Milbauer), Poètes Yiddish d’aujourd’hui (Yiddish poets today) (Paris, 1936); Joseph Leftwich, The Golden Peacock (Cambridge, 1939; London, 1961); L. Faynberg’s Evreiskaya poeziya, antologiya (Yiddish poetry, anthology) (New York, 1947); and Shimshon Meltsar, Al hanaharot (To the rivers) (Jerusalem, 1956). She was the wife of the poet Arn Rapoport (Aaron Rappaport. As Shmuel Niger wrote: “The poetry of Malke Li—it is the real thing; authentic threads, brightly lyrical and lyrically enchanting threads, which she spins and weaves with the surrounding world, with us all. We believe her. Nature and nature’s power, love, passion, motherhood, songs, lament—we return in Malke Li’s poetry to the old, to the eternal motifs. We enjoy their freshness which never goes away.” She died in New York.
Sources: Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1932); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (January 22, 1933); Y. Bronshteyn, Yo, un nisht neyn (Yes, and not no) (Los Angeles, 1953), pp. 169-74; Yefim Yeshurin, “Biblyografye” (Bibliography) with 167 entries, in Malke Li’s book, In likht fun doyres (see above), pp. 199-211; B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (New York) (May 22, 1961); M. M. Shafir, in Keneder odler (January 22, 1962); Y. Gar and F. Fridman, Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books on the catastrophe and heroism) (New York: Yad Vashem and YIVO, 1962), see index; N. Mayzil, Tsurikblikn un perspektivn (Retrospectives and perspectives) (Tel Aviv, 1962), see index.
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 328.]