Poem Research

I’m try­ing to write a poem about Birkenau that com­bi­nes a sort of in­fer­nal glee on the part of the Nazis and in­fer­nal ter­ror on the part of the Jews, Roma and ho­mo­sex­u­als in their power. This is very hard, and made harder by the fact that I’m try­ing to use the arrange­ment of the words to in­di­cate the in­ti­macy caused by this mad­ness. Coupled with the fact that I have no de­tailed knowl­edge of ei­ther Nazi ide­ol­ogy and in­doc­triniza­tion or the func­tion­ing of a con­cen­tra­tion camp from a prisoner’s point of view; this is an ex­er­cise in em­pa­thy [on all sides] that is cur­rently be­yond my ca­pac­ity. Library, ho. This is the first poem I’m ac­tu­ally go­ing to have to do re­search on. Any book rec­om­men­da­tions from y’all?

8 thoughts on “Poem Research

  1. It’s dif­fi­cult to at­trib­ute in­fer­nal glee to any­body who’s a hu­man be­ing – you just can’t make the as­sump­tion that the Nazi him­self wasn’t at least a bit hor­ri­fied, too, or at least re­morse­ful af­ter light­ing the match. That’s why we in­vented Satan and Lucifer and that whole crew, I guess – to per­son­ify the pure evil we couldn’t stick or project onto a fel­low hu­man, cred­i­bly. You’ve given your­self a tough as­sign­ment.

    I might talk to some of the WWII vets still around, no­tably those who par­tic­i­pated in the lec­ture se­ries (I saw a few at the South Euclid li­brary, and I think they were recorded) a few years back that es­sen­tially said that war is a piss-poor way to set­tle our dif­fer­ences.

    Participants I re­call offhand were Dr. Joe Foley of Cleveland Heights and Robert Madison the ar­chi­tect, who may still be from Cleveland Heights, so you could prob­a­bly start there.

  2. Thanks for the di­rec­tion! I’m mainly try­ing to work with the form, but with­out a sense of con­tent it won’t be ef­fec­tive. I could pos­si­bly drop the specifics al­to­gether and work at it from an­other an­gle. I’ll think about it on my drive home.

  3. Shalom Adam,

    Start with Maus and Maus II. Then plan a trip to the Matlz Museum here in Cleveland. And any­thing by Ellie Wiesel, spe­cially Night, is an ex­cel­lent source.



  4. Adam,

    I get touch by vi­sual and Euro movies par­ti­c­urlarly the Italians and French of the post war era were ex­cel­lent at com­mu­ni­cat­ing the spirit and emo­tions of that time. Some of these movies by De Sica, Visconti and Rossellini are au­then­tic but may be dif­fi­cult to see.

    My fa­vorites were:

    Two Women with Sophia Loren di­rec­tor Victorio De Sica

    I would rec­om­mend you to see “Life is Beautiful” and “The Pianist” which are eas­ily avail. in DVD

    “Sophie’s Choice” and “Schindler’s List” are also very good but I pref­ered “Sophie” Vanessa Redgrave was in­cred­i­ble in “Playing for Time” about fe­male pris­on­ers spared from death in re­turn for per­form­ing mu­sic for their Nazi cap­tors. It was based on a true story.

  5. I’ve seen most of those, Daniella, but I’m look­ing for some­thing more his­tor­i­cal rather than cin­e­matic cop­ing mech­a­nisms, which are what most Holocaust and Vietnam movies end up be­ing, no mat­ter how well in­ten­tioned. Schindler’s List is a par­tic­u­larly ap­pro­pri­ate ex­am­ple in that con­text.

  6. Yeah, the cin­e­matog­ra­phy is in­cred­i­ble. Unfortunately the Jews are ef­fem­i­nized and their deaths made into beau­ti­ful things, and a Nazi war prof­i­teer is idol­ized. A pretty bad show­ing for a movie made by a Jewish man. If I wanted to dig through boxes of com­puter para­phre­na­lia I might be able to find the pa­per I wrote on it back in col­lege. Unfortunately I don’t have a 3” floppy drive any­more, so I wouldn’t be able to get to it any­way.

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