Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Babette Deutsch (1917). To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!
Deutsch was born in New York City on September 22, 1895 to German-Jewish parents Michael and Melanie (Fisher) Deutsch. After completing high school at the Ethical Culture School, Deutsch obtained her B.A. from Barnard College in 1917 and received an honorary D. Litt. from Columbia University. As an undergrad, Deutsch began publishing her poetry in magazines and journals, such as the New Republic. For a short period of time, Deutsch worked with the Political Science Quarterly, after graduation, and also wrote several critical essays, including one on Thorstein Veblen for Reedy’s Mirror, Marion Reedy’s one-man journal of opinion. This led to her landing a position as Veblen’s secretary while he taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She also published her first volume of poetry, entitled Banners, shortly thereafter, in 1919. She then published a second work of verse, Honey Out of a Rock, in 1925, dealing with many biblical themes and reflecting a Jewish cultural influence. It also incorporated imagism and pieces of Japanese haiku. In 1921, Deutsch married Avraham Yarmolinsky, a Russian-Jewish writer and chief of the Slavonic Division of The New York Public Library. He was also a translator himself, as well, much like Deutsch. The two had sons named Adam and Michael.
Together, the couple published translations of several Russian works in English. Futhermore, Deutsch, fluent in German also produced an English translation of the works of Rilke.
Until 1962, Deutsch published 9 volumes of poetry, in addition to Banners (1919) and Honey Out of a Rock (1925), four novels, six volumes of children’s literature, five criticisms, four books of prose on poetry, and numerous translations, and edited Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1967). Her volumes include Epistle to Prometheus(1931), Take Them, Stranger (1944), Coming of Age (1959), and Collected Poems, 1919-1962 1963. Among her novels are A Brittle Heaven (1926), In Such a Night (1927), Mask of Silenus (1933), and Rogue’s Legacy (1942), and criticisms are Potable Gold (1929), This Modern Poetry (1935), Poetry In Our Time (1952, 1956, 1963), and Poetry Handbook (1957, 1962, 1974). Her children’s literature consists of I Often Wish (1966) and Tales of Faraway Folk (1963).
With her husband, Deutsch also critiqued and translated three other works, Modern Russian Poetry (1921), Contemporary German Poetry (1923), and Two Centuries of Russian Verse (1966).
Aside from writing, editing, and translating, Deutsch was an active member of and contributor to her committee. She served the National Book Committee as a member of the advisory board, worked as a secretary for the PEN National Institute of Arts and Letters, and was chancellor for the Academy of American Poets. From 1960 to 1966, Deutsch was also a consultant at the Library of Congress. She also used her poetry as a means to pay homage to the Jewish community. She wrote verse about war to deal with her rage against the destruction and horror of World War II and make some sense out of the evils of humankind. In one of her poems, she wrote: “A sage once said the mind of God forgets/Evil that men remember having done, as it remembers/The good that men do and forget.”
Honors and Awards
In 1962, Babette Deustch was awarded a Poetry Prize by The Nation for her poem, Thoughts at the Year’s End, published in her book Five for the Night (1930), and a Julia Ellsworth Ford Foundation Prize for her critical work on Walt Whitman. She later received an honorary doctorate in literature from Columbia University in 1946. Furthermore, in 1977, she was recognized as a distinguished alumna by her alma mater. Deutsch had also been Phi Beta Kappa poet at Columbia University in 1929.
Babette Deutsch died on November 13, 1982.
–Aziza Rahman ’20
Friedman, Natalie. “Babette Deutsch: 1895-1982.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archives, March 1 2009, accessed July 2, 2018, https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/deutsch-babette.
New York Times. “Babette Deutsch, 87, Novelist, Poet, Translator and Editor.” New York Times Archives, NYT, November 15, 1982, accessed July 2, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/1982/11/15/obituaries/babette-deutsch-87-novelist-poet-translator-and-editor.html.
Poetry Foundation. “Babbette Deutsch: 1895-1982.” Poetry Magazine, Poetry Foundation, accessed July 2, 2018, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/babette-deutsch.
The New York Public Library. “Babette Deutsch papers.” The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts, The New York Public Library, accessed July 2, 2018, http://archives.nypl.org/mss/778.