Uncle Feygele

March 1, 2012 | By

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“Who exactly are my people? Where do the borders of folk begin?” asks poet Yermiyahu Ahron Taub in his poem “Wandering Jew in Little Rome.”

Community–the traditional Jewish community he was raised in, and the gay community he created for himself–is one of Taub’s favorite subjects. He was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Philadelphia. When he realized he was gay, Taub felt distanced from his old life–but he also didn’t want to simply let go of his family’s culture and values.

Taub writes poetry in both English and Yiddish. His last collection of poetry, What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn, featured Taub’s translations of his own poems. His newest book, Uncle Feygele, contains poems about gay life, the border between Jewish and non-Jewish, and life in the Diaspora. The poems are sometimes political in nature, but always personal at heart.

The term feygele was originally a friendly or diminutive form of “bird.” It’s also an old piece of Yiddish slang that, pejoratively, refers to a gay person. Taub’s poems are unmistakably flamboyant in that way, but they’re also flamboyantly Jewish–funny, eyebrow-raising, and brilliantly genuine.

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