LANDAU, ZISHE (1889–1937), U.S. Yiddish poet. Born in Plotsk (Poland) into a distinguished rabbinical family, Landau had both a traditional and a secular education and was orphaned in childhood. He went to New York in 1906 and began his literary career with lyrics that linked him with the emerging literary group, Di *Yunge, which in reaction to earlier traditions called for "pure" verse free of collective themes. Indeed he later rejected his early poems, written in a traditional style and stressing national and social themes, and recognized as genuine only those written after 1911, when he came under the influence of European impressionism and espoused the credo of "art for art's sake." He was a political conservative and a poetic revolutionary. His Antologye: Di Idishe Dikhtung in Amerike biz Yohr 1919 ("Anthology: Yiddish Poetry in America until 1919," 1919) best reveals his approach in his introduction and in the poets and type of poems selected. He included only four short poems of Morris *Rosenfeld, for example, who was then enjoying an international reputation for his powerful social and national lyrics. Deeply affected by Jewish suffering during World War i, Landau reverted to Jewish national themes and also wrote poems of U.S. patriotism. In his own verse, he was attracted to symbolism and made frequent use of romantic irony. His subjects are often exotic, his vocabulary allusive rather than expressive. Most popular was his poem on the *Ba'al Shem, whom he depicted as always finding a cheerful aspect in every phenomenon of nature and life. In his four comedies, published under the collective title Es Iz Gornisht Nit Geshen ("Nothing Happened," 1937), he employed masks in order to satirize human beings and human relations. His translations of early English ballads and of German, Russian, and French poets were posthumously collected in the volume Fun der Velt-Poezye ("From World Poetry," 1947).
Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1927), 62–4; lnyl, 4 (1961), 430–5; D. Kazansky (ed.), Zishe Landoy Zamlbukh (1938); H. Gold, Zishe Landoy (1945); J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1947), 126–43; D. Ignatoff, Opgerisene Bleter (1957), 33–51; S. Niger, Bleter Geshikhte fun der Nayer Yidisher Literatur (1961), 430–5; S. Liptzin, Flowering of Yiddish Literature (1963), 209–12. add. bibliography: A. Tabachnik, Der Man fun Lid (1941); H.L. Bass, "Zisha Landau z"l," at: www.zchor.org/zisza.htm.
[Melech Ravitch /
Jerold C. Frakes (2nd ed.)]