Anthology cover

The ACJR Anthology of Poetry


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Review of 'The ACJR Poetry Anthology'

We are all survivors of the Holocaust, trying to come to terms with its revelation of the depravity below the surface of our civilisation; sharing feelings of guilt, compassion and helplessness. But the children of actual survivors are confronted by this on a different scale altogether: emotions of such depth can only be expressed in poetry.

This anthology is intensely moving. Many of the poems recreate in imagination the experiences of parents, the exceptional survivors of extreme persecution.

'I struggle with images that pass before me', one poem begins: and the images come crowding in: images of Kristallnacht,

Synagogues - battering
doors - shattering
glass

And images of the journey in

Cattle cars
Jew cars
For me
Or
For you?

Then after the arrival:

All I can hear is screams in the silences.
Jackboots crunching on the gravel
heads shaven with rusty shears

But the direct experience of these children, now in middle life, is equally heart-rending:

While the children play
They carry the names of those no longer
The ones who never returned
Who are missed still.

They feel the isolation of family bereavement:

Yes, I feel sorrow for I will never know
My grandparents, whom I would have loved so.

We realise that these children have few relatives. Not only grandparents but uncles, aunts, cousins perished in the gas chambers. They do not even live in family photographs.

The silence is profound:

'Why do I find it so difficult to talk?', one asks: but another seems to reply:

I simply cannot ignore
My feelings - I must let them out.

These poems release some of the anguish of feelings suppressed. It is hard to assess the literary value of such poems: they are seldom crafted: but if poetry, in Wordsworth's phrase, is 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings', then these writers are indeed poets. I hesitate to single out any one author, but reading and re-reading, I keep returning to the poems by Patricia Tausz. She ends one of her poems with a prayer:

God will
perhaps
spare us that grief
in our generation
and in many generations
to come.

Dr Ruth Cowhig (former lecturer in English literature)

The Anthology is a wire-bound A5 book of about 90 pages. In addition to the poetry it contains introductory paragraphs, 4 drawings and biographical background information about some of the contributors and their parents. It costs £5.50 including 2nd class postage within the UK. To find out how to obtain a copy send us an email: info@acjr.org.uk.

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