3: Poem, Else Lasker-Schüler's "Esther," 1913.
Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945) was a German-Jewish poet and author of prose fiction and plays, as well as a flamboyant figure in literary cafés and salons frequented by German Expressionists. She was known for her unconventional behavior and her public readings complete with costumes and acoustic effects.
“Esther” was published in Lasker-Schüler's collection Hebräische Balladen (Hebrew Ballads) in 1913. Drawing from her imagination of the Orient, the book contains poems on biblical figures. In this poem, the author portrays Esther as holy and faithful to God, even while living among non-Jews. She depicts Esther as beautifully embodying an authentic form of Jewishness and describes her as a role model for other Jewish women.
Suggested Activity: Have your students discuss: what does the poet find admirable about Esther? Who else from the Book of Esther is mentioned in the poem, who is left out, and how does this impact the representation of Esther? What moments from the Book of Esther do you think inspired this poem? How does Lasker-Schüler's representation of Esther compare to other representations of the character the students have studied?
Source: Else Lasker-Schüler, “Esther,” translated by Janine Canan, from Star in My Forehead: Selected Poems by Else Lasker-Schüler. Translation copyright © 2000 by Janine Canan. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Holy Cow! Press, www.holycowpress.org.