Photo Credit: Robert Giard

Irena Klepfisz

b. 1941

Current City, State, Country

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Warsaw, Poland


Poet Irena Klepfisz was born in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941. She survived the war hiding in an orphanage and later in the Polish countryside with her mother. After the war they lived in Lódz and Sweden before settling in New York in 1949. Klepfisz’s poetry broke new ground in its brazen lesbian voice, while also finding new ways to poetically investigate the trauma of the Holocaust. Klepfisz played a key role in the emergent Jewish lesbian movement starting in the 1970s. She has been dedicated to the recovery and transmission of women’s writing in Yiddish, as an active scholar, translator, and teacher. Her own poetry engages the Yiddish language, writing bilingually to create a Jewish feminist poetics for the past and present.

Source (with an extended biography): Jewish Women’s Archive: The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women: “Irena Klepfisz” by Zohar Weiman-Kelman

Published Works

Her Birth and Later Years: New and Collected Poems 1971-2021 (Wesleyan University Press, 2022)
A Few Words in the Mother Tongue: Poems Selected and New (1971-1990) (Eighth Mountain Press, 1990)
Dreams of An Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches, and Diatribes (Eighth Mountain Press, 1990)
Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology, ed. with Melanie Kaye/ Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (Beacon Press, 1986)
Different Enclosures: Poetry and Prose of Irena Klepfisz (London: Onlywomen Press, 1985)
Keeper of Accounts (Persephone Press, 1982)
Periods of Stress (Out and Out Books, 1975)

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading


BA, City College of New York (CCNY)
PhD, University of Chicago, 1970

Subject Matter


Profile Created By

Julie R. Enszer