Autumn 2009: Alumni Ink

Portrait of Aaron Taub

Aaron Taub

Courtesy Aaron Taub

The Power of the Past

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By Andrew W. M. Beierle

As a senior cataloging specialist in the Israel and Judaica Section of the Library of Congress, Aaron Taub 94G spends his days working primarily with Hebrew and Yiddish rabbinic texts. For Taub, who was reared in an ultra-Orthodox community in Philadelphia, the immersion in sacred literature provides him a sense of continuity with his tradition-bound past.

The confluence of faith, history, and language found in Taub’s daily work also is critical to his poetry. His first book, The Insatiable Psalm, published in 2005, is an extended conversation in free verse between an ultra-Orthodox Jewish mother and her increasingly less observant gay son.

“My poetry comes from looking hard into darkness—gazing unflinchingly into that darkness without staying there,” he says. “In The Insatiable Psalm, that darkness results from a potentially devastating central conflict. How does love flourish despite fundamentally opposing philosophical perspectives?”

Taub, who publishes under his Hebrew name, Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, says he started writing poetry while studying history at Emory, as a balm to “the rigors of empiricism.”

“I realized that my writing and my creativity needed to be nurtured, and I turned toward poetry as a way of expressing those voices that were inside that were not getting out,” he says. His 2008 collection, What Stillness Illuminated / Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn, is a collection of “poetic glimpses,” five-line poems rendered in both English and Yiddish (with two written in Hebrew).

Taub’s work (see www.yataub.net) has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of the best emerging Jewish artists in New York, where he lived for about a decade.

Sacred ground: The memory of soldiers lost to the Civil War is embedded in monuments and cemeteries throughout the South. Kristina Dunn Johnson 03C, curator of history with the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, explores the stories behind the stones in No Holier Spot of Ground: Confederate Monuments & Cemeteries of South Carolina (History Press, 2009), a narrative of remembrance, mourning, and acceptance.

Beating the Blues: Research has shown that the more modern a society becomes, the higher its rates of depression, while more primitive groups such as the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea experience virtually no depression. In The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs (Da Capo Press, 2009), Stephen Ilardi 85C, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas, reveals six ancient lifestyle elements that help people alleviate depression in a postindustrial world.

All in the Family: In a trilogy of true-life stories, Jane Anne Mallet Settle 48M, an English teacher, recounts the compelling personal history of multiple generations of women from one Georgia family linked by the house her great-grandparents built. The Women of the House (Violet Press, 2009) spans a hundred years, through the Civil War and the Great Depression, loving marriages, the loss of children, enduring friendships, and promising careers. The author’s father, Hugh Mallet Sr. 11C, and brother Hugh Mallet Jr. 51C are also included. —Mallory Goldberg 10C

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