Celebrating Mascha Kaléko – Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Hamburg-based guest artist Ramona Ring, celebrates the German-Jewish poet Mascha Kaléko, whose incisive poems and chansons earned her notable acclaim among the literary avant-garde in 1930s Berlin. On this day in 1974, Kaléko held her final reading in Berlin’s America Memorial Library.
Mascha Kaléko was born Golda Malka Aufen in 1907 in Schidlow, Galicia, in what is today southern Poland. With the outbreak of World War I, she and her family fled the country for Germany and eventually made a new home in Berlin in 1918.
As a teenager, she began to write poetry, and within several years, she achieved a level of celebrity as newspapers began publishing her work throughout the capital. In Kaléko’s poem “Das Bißchen Ruhm” (“A Little Bit of Glory,” 2003) she metaphorically wrote of her fame as plants that must be maintained with daily care, a concept reflected in the illustration of today’s Doodle.
By the early 1930s, Kaléko was an established figure among Berlin’s literary avant-garde. She could often be found deep in conversation at the Romanische Café, the iconic bohemian hub frequented by notable contemporaries like Else Lasker-Schüler and Erich Kästner.
In 1933, she published her first book, “Das Lyrische Stenogrammheft” (“The Lyrical Shorthand Pad”), followed two years later by “Kleine Lesebuch für Große” (“The Little Reader for Grown-Ups”). Kaléko’s work wittily captured the essence of daily urban life during the twilight of the Weimar Republic and through satirical verses explored weighty themes like social injustice and exile.
After nearly two decades spent in the United States, Kaléko settled in Israel and continued to write poetry for the rest of her life.
Guest Artist Q&A with Ramona Ring
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Hamburg-based guest artist Ramona Ring. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: When I first started reading Mascha’s poems, I was struck by the tender language she found for difficult feelings that come with being lost and without roots, which I can relate to easily.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: I felt excited; I love reading poetry, especially by women. I was happy to dive into the often dark, sometimes bittersweet world Mascha created. Also I found it to be a delightful coincidence that Mascha and I share the same birthday.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: I read many of her poems, and what I found compelling amongst other things was her metaphor for fame in “Das Bißchen Ruhm”: flowers in a greenhouse that you have to keep watering and tending. I also liked how she talked about leaning against rain clouds in “Die frühen Jahre”: the clouds were a metaphor for the hardship she had to endure already as a young child. Those are the elements I drew from her poetry that inspired the Doodle artwork.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: That it is possible to overcome very difficult circumstances and grow resilient in the face of despair. I think expressing yourself through art is one of the most healing things you can engage in.
Early concepts and sketches of the Doodle
You can find more about Celebrating Mascha Kaléko on the official Google Doodle Page