YANKEV-BETSALEL STODOLSKI (JACOB STODOLSKY) (March 17, 1890-January 20, 1962)
He was born in Parisov, Shedlets (Siedlce) district, Poland, into a poor and very devout home. He received a traditional Jewish education, although early on he began reading secular books. Because of his fervent quarrels with his Hassidic father, he left for Warsaw when still quite young, and there worked in a filthy factory; he developed class consciousness at a young age and organized strikes. It was there as well that he exchanged blows with someone. Later, when he was a soldier in the Russian army, his friends dressed him in civilian clothes and smuggled him into Lemberg. Stodolski did anarchist work there and even created there a small anarchist group in his name. His ideological comrades called him: “Prince Stodolski”—an allusion to the great anarchist, Prince Kropotkin. From Lemberg he traveled to Paris, and he was active there as well in the anarchist movement. He mastered French so as to be able to read French poetry, and in the course of time absorbed the Parisian mood and became a fervent lover of French culture. In 1912 he came to the United States still full of anarchist ideas, but under the influence of Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, he became a Jewish nationalist. In New York he was a partner in the publisher “Grohar-Stodolski” and later, several years before his death, he was the owner of a Yiddish book company on the Lower East Side of New York. He began writing poetry in Paris and debuted in print with Parizer nokturn (Parian nocturne) in a German translation in the German-language journal Neue Menschen (New people). In 1919, when he was already in the United States, he joined the Inzikh (Introspectivist) group and contributed to their publications, such as: the journal Inzikh, the anthology In zikh (a collection of introspective poetry, published in 1920), the journal Kern (Nucleus), and other periodicals. He was one of the Introspectivists who battled the group “Di yunge” (The young ones)—including Mani Leib, Moyshe-leyb Halpern, Zishe Landau, Ruvn Ayzland (Ruben Iceland), and Dovid Ignatov, among others. In 1944 he published (together with Meynke Kats and William Abrams) the journal Mir (We)—three issues appeared. Over the course of years, he was a member of the editorial board of Nyu yorker vokhnblat (New York weekly newspaper). He also published the journal Undzer horizont (Our horizon), which ceased publication several times and then returned to print, once Stodolski saved up a little more money. Two years before his death, he again revived the journal and brought out four issues, the fifth—after a long break—appeared in December 1961. Much of the journal was filled with his own poetry, of a mostly extreme modernist style. In book form, he published: Irlikht (Jack-o’-lantern), poetry (New York: Gov, 1933), 128 pp.; Likht far di lodns (Light by the shutters), poetry (New York: Biderman, 1938), 34 pp.; D”r khayeim zhitlovski (Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky), a poem (New York, 1941), 45 pp. He died in New York.
“Over Stodolski’s better poems,” wrote Yankev Glatshteyn, “shines the sun of the accumulated merit of our ancestors. This is the way back the fighting Jew of Kotsk, of Ger, of Makov, whose sun through all the lost lights became the poet Yankev Stodolski, who has left behind an unassuming legacy of fine lyrical poetry.” “Stodolski’s endeavor, his pains in carving out a poetic idea,” noted N. B. Minkov, “he created alone, but not sedately, a poem, a style, but an intense poem which carried with it all the signs of an entreaty, a prayer.”
Sources: N. B. Minkov, in Bodn (New York) (Summer 1934); Sh. Tenenboym, in Nyu yorker vokhnblat (New York) (March 15, 1940); Tenenboym, in Di shtime (Mexico City) (February 28, 1942); A. Leyeles, in Inzikh (New York) 54 (April 1940); Leyeles, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 3, 1962); Moyshe Shtarkman, ed., Hamshekh-antologye (Hamshekh anthology) (New York, 1945), pp. 104-9, with a bibliography; Mikhl Likht, Af di randn (At the margins) (Buenos Aires, 1956), pp. 8, 53, 58; Der Lebediker, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (December 15, 1957); A. Potovro, in Undzer horizont (New York) (December 1961); A. Goldberg, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (February 1962); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (March 25, 1962); Glatshteyn, Mit mayne fartog-bikher (With my daybreak books) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 511-17.