15 - How to Spot One of Us by Janet R. Kirchheimer Sept 24, 2008 1:54:19 GMT 2
Post by shayepoet on Sept 24, 2008 1:54:19 GMT 2
How to Spot One of Us: Poems
Janet R. Kirchheimer
Theodor Adorno wrote that poetry after the Holocaust would be a barbaric act. Janet R. Kirchheimer proves in How to Spot One of Us that poetry after the Holocaust can be a holy act, inviting us to see that the mystery and inscrutability of evil carry within them a response, not of hatred but of an ever-constant love, which triumphs over evil in the only way it can for finite human beings––in the details of the love between a husband and wife, parents and daughter, a family and its past. Janet R. Kirchheimer has taken a particular Jewish event––the Holocaust––a particular family’s experiences, and the personal and intimate details of particular people in particular places at particular moments and has aspired to a universal revelation of a new sense of reality, knowing full well that the Holocaust was the new reality. There is no easy catharsis here and yet as we read these poems and experience the intimacy of tragedy, loss, anguish, and despair we are invited with fierce grace to preserve our humanity and faith.
The doctor comes in, introduces himself,
asks questions about my health (good),
recent illnesses (none), operations
(tonsils removed when I was four), maternal
grandparents (grandmother died at ninety-two from old age,
grandfather died at sixty-six from a heart attack),
paternal grandparents (died before I was born).
The doctor says it is important for my medical history
to know how they died.
So I tell him they died in Auschwitz.
He has no more questions and tells me
to undress for the physical exam.
Raves and Reviews for How to Spot One of Us:
"Written in plain, sometimes sparse free verse, How to Spot One of Us brooks no soft words to temper the harsh reality of the actual events of the Holocaust or the horrific memories left for its survivors and their relatives. The title poem clearly elucidates the accents, fear of absence of a loved one, forearms with numbers described to the neighbors as phone numbers, conversations without mentioning the past, and those who ...wish words could just be words, wish ‘camp’ / or ‘selection’ didn’t make us flinch... ….The four memorable parts of this poetry collection span the war, emigration, and the past merging into the present. Let us never forget—How to Spot One of Us is a unique contribution to assure that the world does exactly that." DS
—From Jewish Book World
"There is every reason to read How to Spot One of Us. There’s the pleasure of witnessing a poet unafraid to listen, so that she may truly hear. There’s the grace with which this poet takes what she hears and makes it speak. As we listen to this talented new voice that speaks so eloquently for those who lost their lives in the Holocaust, for those who have lived through it, and for their children, we cannot help but hear. It is not often that we get the opportunity to learn what we thought we already knew."
"Janet R. Kirchheimer brings several gifts to her vital task of poetic witness: she is a keen listener and recorder, she writes with a beautiful restraint, an instinct for just enough detail, just the sufficient piece of dialogue, and she trusts that her steadiness and fidelity to the facts will accumulate their own urgencies and plangencies. From the tender, stirring image of its first poem to the blessing of its last, How to Spot One of Us subtly establishes its argument for remembrance over silence, for life over erasure."
—Jeanne Marie Beaumont
"Janet R. Kirchheimer’s poems are poignant and evocative of times of darkness and despair. Their warmth is communicative and necessary."
"In her distinguished book, How to Spot One of Us, Janet R. Kirchheimer bears her power as a poet and a daughter of Shoah survivors, balancing in a masterly way the commitment to her art and her legacy as a second-generation witness. These are rich and original poems that build a moving narrative. She keeps seeing connections everywhere. This is poetry made necessary and true through careful juxtapositions between the victims’ words, documentary “evidence,” and the poet’s struggle to record, interpret, and identify without appropriating what belongs to the actual witnesses: You remain right behind my eyelids … //… as I fly / on my own.”
"What separates Janet R. Kirchheimer from every other confessional poet out there today is the reticence of her “I.” As the child of Holocaust survivors, she feels she cannot know what it means to exist: What if Hitler had never come / to power, she writes, what would have become / of me? How to Spot One of Us is a disquieting meditation about taking possession of others’ narratives in order to understand oneself. Only at the collection's end does the “I” open out, releasing and inflaming her complexity of emotions: Oma, Opa, Ruth, Josef, can you hear my screech / in every line, the breath of each stanza, the hiss / and moan of every poem? In a lesser poet's hands, subject matter would take precedence over the imaginative shaping of language and form. Janet R. Kirchheimer does not prettify what happened with flowery language but restrains herself with disquieting transparency. The urgency is here. I cannot let go of it."
—Mary Stewart Hammond
"With just a few words, this incredible poetry evokes entire scenes, memories, experiences, and history. I was transported and transfixed -- to a time and place of which I have often read, but only rarely sensed with such passion and clarity. This slender volume encompasses both the breadth and depth of a period which cannot be forgotten. Thank you, Ms. Kirchheimer!"
"With a few well-chosen words and images, Janet R. Kirchheimer conveys the impact of the Holocaust on its victims more effectively than many a lengthy volume of history."
—Rabbi Harold Kushner
"The front cover of this book tells it all: the story of happy families, of ordinary people, of pleasant lives … then torn apart, remembered in poignant, heart-rending verse. I was in tears half the time."
—Sir Martin Gilbert
About the author:
Janet R. Kirchheimer’s work has appeared in journals, including Atlanta Review, Limestone, Connecticut Review, Kalliope, Lilith, Natural Bridge, PoetryNZ, Main Street Rag, on beliefnet.com and babelfruit.com. In 2007, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
A Teaching Fellow at CLAL–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Janet conducts writing workshops that teach adults and teens about Judaism using creative writing exercises and poetry. For more information, go to www.clal.org.
ISBN 13: 978-0-9633329-8-1, 114 pages, $15.00
CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, November, 2007
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