YANKEV SAPIRO (February 28, 1888-September 29, 1963)
He was born in Vilkovishki (Vilkaviškis), Lithuania. He studied in religious elementary schools and later graduated from a middle school in Kovno and the technical college at the University of Manchester (England). He went on to work as a textile chemist in Manchester, Lodz, and Moscow. In 1922 he moved from Russia to Germany, and from there to France, and in 1941 he arrived in the United States. He was active in socio-political affairs of the Zionist socialist workers’ party, the Zionist socialist party, and the Bund. In America he was involved with the Russian Social-Democratic Party (Mensheviks), Erlikh-Alter branch 313 of Workmen’s Circle, and the Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia) in Yiddish. He wrote for Russian- and English-language journals on technical issues. He first began writing in Yiddish in America and in 1947 debuted with a poem in Der amerikaner (The American) in New York. In book form, he published: Shtile vegn, lider (Quiet lanes, poems) (Paris, 1953), 128 pp.; Shtimungen, lider (Moods, poems) (New York, 1958), 102 pp.; Siluetn, lider (Silhouettes, poems) (New York, 1963), 88 pp. He died in New York.
“In each poem,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “one feels a lyrical tone and something of a natural musicality.” “To the thoroughly straightforward poets,” noted Y. Varshavski, “belongs Y. Sapiro. One can say of his book Shtile vegn that it lives up to his name. When readers will tire of all poetic revivals, perhaps one may return to this sort of simplicity.” As Yankev Glatshteyn put it, “in the poems there is a truthfulness. Even a certain dexterity and a fine tone. Everywhere one sees Yankev Sapiro’s refined, nostalgic approach.”
Sources: H. Abramovitsh, in Unzer shtime (Paris) (November 28, 1953); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (January 8, 1954); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (March 1954); A. Trotski, in Di idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (April 25, 1954); A. Leyeles, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (July 7, 1963); obituary notices in the Yiddish press in New York.
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