Celia (Tsilye) Dropkin (1887–1956) was a poet, painter, and prose writer whose work expanded the psychological and erotic horizons of Yiddish arts. She earned acclaim for her formally exquisite and hotly-embodied poetic voice, and her work remains startlingly contemporary, inspiring musicians and translators to this day.
Born in Bobruisk, White Russia (today’s Belarus), she began writing poetry in Russian at age ten. After marrying an activist in the secular socialist Bund movement, she immigrated to New York City in 1912. Dropkin inhabited avant-garde spheres in both the United States and Europe and published in Yiddish journals across the political and literary spectrum, including Di tsukunft (The Future), Inzikh (In the Self), Forverts (The Forward), and Di naye velt (The New World). Dropkin was one of the first female Yiddish poets to become widely anthologized. The only book of poetry she published in her lifetime was In heysn vint (In the Hot Wind), in 1935.
In this kit, we focus on a particular poem, "Adam," and offer multiple translations, literary critiques, intertextual comparisons, and a song clip, encouraging students to think about the complexity of the poem, and to engage with the text in numerous ways.
Cover image: Celia Dropkin, date unknown. Photographer unknown.