The problem, as I sit before my desk that’s covered tonight with overflowing, unruly piles upon piles of poems by Sorah Rosenblatt, a”h, aka Ruth Lewis, aka Rivka Glick, author of Notes to Myself… is that I can’t stop reading them long enough to start writing about her. It’s akin to being tempted by a box of particularly luscious chocolates.
Hundreds of poems…recent ones typed on what appears to have been a modern computer; dozens from the years in which she was still using a typewriter; many others handwritten in pencil or ballpoint; many printed out on the continuous computer paper rolls (the kind with holes running up and down either side) that date back to the early years of personal home-computer use in Israel, even by a bespectacled, Yiddish-speaking, old-fashioned-looking, Yerushalmi-style Meah Shearim-type bubby, someone whom you’d never guess, upon meeting her, was an American English-speaker from Baltimore.
In any case, I find it impossible to imagine that the piece I have to write is supposed to be…how can it be?—something along the lines of her obituary. For Sorah Rosenblatt? Tell me it ain’t so! Her unmistakable, surprising, humorous writing voice is so vividly, so potently alive; how could she have died?
Furthermore, it’s not autobiographical facts and details that Sorah Rosenblatt shared; rather, it was her inner life—and only in her writing, not so much in person. After a quarter-century of writing-related friendship, I hardly recall our ever having had a personal conversation.
On the other hand, Sorah Rosenblatt’s Yiddish-speaking and Hebrew-speaking family—her husband and grown children– told visitors during the shivah period that they’re surprised to hear so much about their mother as an admired poet. They knew, of course, that their mother worked as a copyeditor for Orthodox publications. And of course, they said, yes, they were aware of Notes to Myself. But like other parents in their chasidic circles, the Rosenblatts had no interest in exposing their children to language spoken in the Daispora. The children, who are married and grown, seemed amazed and intrigued by belated news of their mother’s widespread popularity among English-speaking Orthodox readers.
Their mother hadn’t mentioned it.