Maia Evrona

Poet; Memoirist; Translator

Fulbright scholar profile, new mailing list

The Greek Fulbright commission recently posted profiles of me and other 2019-2020 fellows. You can read mine here:

In response to a number of requests, I have set up a mailing list. You can sign up on the mailing list page of this website.

Pakn Treger recently published its annual online translation issue, which includes one of my Sutzkever translations:

That’s it for now!

New publications in Poetry Northwest, Europe Now and the North American Review, upcoming event in Auckland, radio/podcast interview...

On the 16th of June, I will be giving a reading of my translations at 5:30 pm at the Raye Freedman Library in Auckland, NZ.

In advance of this reading, I was interviewed on Auckland’s local Jewish radio program Radio Shalom. We spoke about Sutzkever and his reception in Israel, about the translation process, and about the process of writing poetry itself. You can listen here:

A piece I wrote on the letters of Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs was recently published by Poetry Northwest:

Five of my poems were just featured in the the June issue of Europe Now:

Another poem was also published not long ago in the spring issue of North American Review, which can be purchased here:

Meanwhile, new Sutzkever translations are due out soon in Pakn Treger and The Arkansas International.

Fiscal Sponsorship through Fractured Atlas, upcoming reading in Auckland

I recently joined Fractured Atlas, a non-profit which enables potential patrons to give tax-deductible donations to artists. This is a concept I’ve long thought should be implemented, and it has the potential to be rather revolutionary, as it is a sensible way to support artists directly, rather than donating to another organization in the hopes that the money will eventually trickle down to artists (I’m not knocking donating to organizations).

This is my link:

If people do donate, I will only receive the money for approved expenses, such as travel for readings or research, or simply paying to maintain my website. I also still have a paypal tipjar:

By the way, if you are an artist and you decide to join Fractured Atlas as well, be sure to use my discount code, which gives you your first membership month free (and also results in $50 for my fund): FS19203

Speaking of readings, I have one upcoming in Auckland, New Zealand on June 16th at the Raye Freedman Library. This was tacked on as an addition after my readings in Melbourne and Wellington, both of which were supported by my fellowship from the Yiddish Book Center.

I recently published a poem in the spring issue of the North American Review. Additional poems are forthcoming in June in Europe Now, along with some Sutzkever translations in The Arkansas International and Pakn Treger.

Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellowship

I recently received a translation fellowship for 2019 from the Yiddish Book Center. You can read the announcement here:

This fellowship is for a project I have been planning for a while: a selected edition of translations of the poet Yoysef Kerler. Kerler was an important post-war Soviet Yiddish poet, who served five years in the Vorkuta gulag for advocating the teaching of Yiddish. He was also one of the first prominent refuseniks. After his release from the gulag, it was impossible to publish poetry in Yiddish in the Soviet Union, so he often worked as a lyricist and published his work in Russian translation, and in journals abroad. (Sutzkever, in fact, published his work in Di Goldene Keyt.)

Two of my Kerler translations were published a few years ago by In Geveb:

Fulbright scholar award, “The Symphony of Sickness,” new publications

I recently learned that I was awarded a joint Spain-Greece research award from the Fulbright Scholar Program, and will be spending seven months in Spain and Greece next year. The award is for my own poetry, though my project is intertwined with my work as a translator. I will be affiliating with an organization called Mozaika, in Barcelona, as well as the Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania, Crete.

A few months ago, one of my poems was published in The Coachella Review:

I had intended to write a longer note when this poem was first published, but time got away from me. This is actually a poem I wrote when I was eighteen and in the midst of a particularly trying health crisis, itself coming after ten years of serious illness. This poem has always held particular significance for me, as it was one of the first instances in which I was able to articulate a truth about chronic illness that had otherwise been difficult to communicate. Though I had already found reading poetry to be essential in finding meaning in my life, the sense of triumph that came with articulating a difficult truth through writing poetry left me with a lasting conviction in my own writing. This conviction was strengthened by what felt like the miraculous nature of the poem, coming as it did at a time when concentration and word finding were difficult. Conviction is necessary for a writer: years went by before an editor accepted this work for publication.

Alas it was only recently that I discovered that “The Symphonies of Sickness” or something along those lines, is also the name of a death metal album. Not being a connoisseur of the death metal musical genre, this similarity was only a coincidence. While I now can’t claim to be the first person to be intrigued by the similarity of the words symptom and symphony, I still believe in my poem.

In Yiddish news, my translations of the poet Celia Dropkin were published today on the Jewish Women’s Archive website:

More Sutzkever translations are forthcoming soon in Pakn Treger and The Arkansas International.

“It Drew Us Both Here,” Sutzkever translations in Lunch Ticket and Ezra; An Online Journal of Translation

Six of my translations of the Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever were recently awarded the Gabo Prize from Lunch Ticket, an online journal published by Antioch University in Los Angeles. I am including my favorite poem from the selection at the end of this post, but you can read them all here:

Three more of my translations of Sutzkever were also just published in Ezra; An Online Journal of Translation. There is a slight error in their introduction (they identify the translations as being from Hebrew rather than from Yiddish) but I’m grateful to them for publishing the translations nevertheless!

Read them here:

In a few days I’ll write a new post for a special poem/translation of mine that was just published by the Yiddish Book Center.

Lastly, in upcoming news, one of my own poems is forthcoming soon in The Coachella Review, along with an essay on Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs in Poetry Northwest.

It Drew Us Both Here….

By Abraham Sutzkever

Translated by Maia Evrona

It drew us both here, both the seashell and me,
to bring us together on the seashore in Yaffo,
so that within the seashell that being could send me
a greeting from its creator in the grottos.

The shell around the small pink body is still tender in immaturity,
and warm: a shell-child born in a woman’s head covering.
Still reflecting the caress of its distant arm
and the anguished parting with faultless form.

If I could be the smith of such a seashell,
with the phantom weeping sea and struck up bit of feeling,
with its armor speckled with tiny rainbow rings
and within the rain also rushing, a half shell or a whole:

I would tear myself away from syllables and thoughts—
the ribs of the soul—and like nothing in my nature,
lift the sea onto my shoulders in thanks
and gleam like its gull.

A Horizon of Furious Salt

A new Sutzkever translation of mine was recently published in Tupelo Quarterly.

This is one of my favorite poems from the Diary collection. One doesn’t need to have survived the Holocaust to have an experience like the one Sutzkever describes, in which a particular sight, scent, or sound suddenly recalls another time in one’s life. In Sutzkever’s case, the catalyst is seeing, and listening to, the storks who migrate through Israel back to northeast Poland/Lithuania/western Belarus—where Sutzkever was born but to which he could not return.

This poem featured the word Lite, a tricky word to translate, as I have explained elsewhere:

While in The Blade of Grass from Ponar, I translated Lite as Lithuania, this time, I chose to translate it as “what then was Poland.” I made this choice for a number of reasons, one being that, in this context, it is correct: Sutzkever’s hometown, Vilna, was indeed part of Poland at the time he lived in it. Going with what some might describe as an over-translation had other benefits, the first being musical: Poland flows better with “caravan” than Lithuania does.

Beyond that, “what then was Poland” drives home for the English reader that the place Sutzkever is longing for is one that no longer exists as it once did. Unfortunately, using either Lithuania or Poland carries the danger of leading an English reader to believe that Sutzkever held more attachment to those countries, as we currently define them, than he really did (his feelings about Poland are a topic for another time). The Vilna that had shaped him was a city with a significant Jewish presence, but where Jews were not necessarily seen as fellow citizens by Poles or Lithuanians. At the time when Sutzkever wrote this poem, Vilna was still behind the Iron Curtain. Even today, visiting the country would not be simple. Though the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel attended Sutzkever’s funeral, and claimed that the Lithuanian parliament had held a moment of silence upon his passing, the country has also, in recent years, attempted to prosecute former Jewish partisans, claiming that they murdered innocent Lithuanians (they didn’t, but Lithuanian volunteers did carry out the majority of the murders at Ponar).

While it’s always a danger, when translating from Yiddish, to make too much of the presence of words borrowed from other languages, there is a certain Polish presence in “A Horizon of Furious Salt.” Butshan the Yiddish word for stork that Sutzkever uses here, is borrowed from the Polish bocian. At the very end of the poem, Sutzkever uses the rather unusual Yiddish verb brentslen, to describe the demon strumming the “string of storks.” This word may be a related to a similar Polish and Russian word, which also means to pluck or strum, but which my klezmer friend Michael Alpert tells me has come to denote playing a stringed instrument badly. When this poem appears in a book, I may change “pluck” to “strike.”

In the original collection, “The Blade of Grass from Ponar” and “A Horizon of Furious Salt” appear next to one another. I look forward to replicating this order when these translations are published as a book, so I can keep readers on their toes about the imperfect translations of Lite.

If you are interested in the connection between Poland and storks, be sure to read this article:

Migrating birds, hundreds of thousands of storks among them, travel through modern-day Israel, and are particularly fond of the Hula Valley. There was a time when the Israelis were, as Yehuda Amichai once wrote, “convinced the Hula swamp had to be drained” due to malaria. However, doing so proved disastrous for migrating birds, and the valley was eventually filled with water again. As Amichai wrote, “it was all a mistake.” Now some birds are so comfortable in the Hula Valley that, in a twist that is both fitting and ironic, they stay year-round.

Here is an article about Israel’s migrating birds:

New poem in Habitat Magazine

One of my poems (not to be confused with one of my translations!) was published today in the online journal Habitat Magazine. The poem is inspired by a month I spent subletting an apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It's from a series of poems I've written about cities and languages, or perhaps a different series about childhood, or yet another series on being Jewish in the 21st Century. 

In any case, you can read it here:

My poem "Childhood Spanish"

This poem first appeared in Poetica Magazine. I am sharing it again in light of Stephen Miller's recent comments on "cosmopolitan" outlooks and the Trump Administration's demand that prospective immigrants be fluent in English. 


Childhood Spanish


Language I learned en la escuela primaria,

en una programa bilingüe, language of homework

and a terrifying third grade teacher, language I feared

forgotten after every summer.


Language of nearly none of my ancestors,

except those fleeing Sephardim, 

who dispersed in all directions

and, I have read, through all Ashkenazim.


Language once purged, still so Catholic

school seemed parochial by mistake,

as if my native English needn’t be selective,

purged of Jew-you-down and good Christian praise.


Language that feels so American,

not the Russian, the German, the Polish

my grandparents’ parents fled Europe fluent in

and shed, keeping only Yiddish.


Language that confused my English pronunciation,

loosened my accent, further cultivated in me

the seeds of a rootless cosmopolitan,

even here, in the Land of the Free

--Maia Evrona


Piece on continued funding for the NEA published on Artnet; more Sutzkever translations in The Brooklyn Rail

A piece I recently wrote on financial funding for the arts in the US, particularly in light of the Trump Administration's desire to defund the NEA, was recently published on Artnet

Five of my Abraham Sutzkever translations were published a week or two ago in The Brooklyn Rail; In Translation. Here is a sample:

Of All Words I Envy Only One

Of all words I envy only one: The Hebrew yehi’,
“let there be.” Would the creator grant me a spark
of the word, the smallest trace of its strength, yehi’,
I would proclaim, let there be song, and it would be.

Let song be made from a rainbow’s vanishing end,
from a single ant, one lost in the desert,
from moonlit ivory born in the jungle,
from a human skull laughing at its own reflection.

Let a star become song, for no one leaves it at least
a wooden grave-marker, there where it falls.
A small face of grass in the aquarium giant and green,
a tiny golden ring, for its wife cannot see.

Yehi’, let there be a song, which until now has never been,
for the living and for these, whom men name “the deceased.”
Yehi’, let there be joy, and joy would be and all would be joyful,
Yehi’, and for an instant suffering would grow hollow.

More translations are coming soon in The Ilanot Review, West Branch, and The Northwest Review of Books. (The last two will only be in print, as far as I know.)


Reading in Brooklyn on March 9th

I will be reading for the Another Way to Say reading series in Brooklyn, on March 9th. This reading series is dedicated to works in translation, writing influenced by multilingualism and the polyglot experience in New York City. I'll be reading some of my own poetry, as well as translations of the poet Anna Margolin, who was very much a poet of 1920s New York. If I have time, I'll squeeze in a Sutzkever translation or two. Hope you can make it. 

Here is a link to the Another Way to Say website:

Here is a link to the Facebook event page (feel free to RSVP):

And here is a link to the restaurant: (What better way to enjoy translations of Yiddish poetry than with oysters?)

New Publication and a Reading at Book Culture in New York City

I will be participating in a reading at Book Culture in NYC on February 26th. The reading is sponsored by The Grief Diaries, an online journal that recently published two of my Sutzkever translations. I'll be reading those translations, as well as my own poetry. 

Here is a link to the event page on Facebook:

And here are the translations:

See you there!

Copyright: Maia Evrona, 2013. All rights reserved.