Avrom Nochem Stencl came to London in 1936. He was born in Czeladz, near Sosnoviec, Poland, in 1897. His family was rabbinical, and he had lived in Germany for some years, where he was a published author. His first volume of poetry in London was published in 1937. Stencil was an amazingly prolific poet. I have previously written about his book Yerushalayim, a book of songs, ballads and poems published in 1948. This book of poetry, London Lyrics, consists of writings from 1938 to January 1940. These were published prior to Stencl’s monthly Yiddish magazine, Loshen un Lebn, which started in 1940.
The book was published by a committee of Jewish writers in London, headed by Morris Myer, the editor of the London Yiddish daily newspaper Di Zeit.
Dovid Katz (In Yidishe Kultur, New York, 1993) wrote “Stencl was perhaps not the only Yiddish poet to have produced some forty works in his lifetime, edited a journal of his own for almost fifty years, led a literary society which met regularly, and held court to a host of faithful followers. but he was among the few in their lifetime who was treated by their followers as “gurus”, charismatic-mystical figures with the power to bewitch. he lived alone in his beloved Whitechapel, in a cold, damp, lonely hovel, surrounded by papers and books reaching to the ceiling. In his verse he crowned Whitechapel, the poor immigrant quarter of London, as “the last shtetl.” He was an old bachelor with a permanent wound in his heart for the love of his youth… he lived out the greater part of his life, almost half a century, in the great British metropolis, in and for Yiddish. Whether speaking to a waiter in a cafe or a conductor on a red London double-decker bus, he spoke Yiddish only. Yiddish was not for him a cultural language or a literary language, it was -the- language and, as he was wont to conclude the probing of complex matters, “shoyn” – that was that. “
Morris Myer’s foreword to the book is below, followed by a small selection from London Lyrics: