Black Bread: Poems, After the Holocaust

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9780881254907: Black Bread: Poems, After the Holocaust

The Holocaust was - and remains - an incomprehensible event in human history. Only through the stories of survivors - the minutest detail, the retelling a single moment of that horrorcan one begin to fathom the enormity of it. Only through fragments of their memories can one dimly comprehend the separations, the indignities, the pain, as well as the courage, caring and life affirming impulses of those who lived and died inside that whirlwind. Many of the poems in this book are based on vignettes that survivors shared with the author, and Greenberg lovingly dedicates this book to them.
But this book is not only about survivors' lives and memories. It is also about the life and emotions of an American born Jew, a woman whose awareness of the Holocaust came much after the historical event. Like so many others who grew up on safe shores far distant from the cataclysm, Blu Greenberg was internally transformed by knowledge of the event. She calls it the Holocaust factor, a consciousness that springs autonomously into action, injecting itself into the most ordinary moments of life, interpreting and coloring everyday experience - taking a shower, riding a bus, unexpectedly coming upon a child sitting cross legged on the living room sofa, flying to Winnipeg, eating black bread. The reader, who shares this same range of ordinary experiences, will undoubtedly find great resonance here.
Yet there is another level at which these poems can be read. The Holocaust raises the most profound and terrifying questions, unanswerable questions, questions that can barely be asked - about God, spirituality, good and evil in the world, chosenness, tradition and faithfulness, relations between Jews and non-Jews, the efficacy of prayer, and more. The medium of poetry has the ability to evoke thoughts without speaking them. Many of these potent issues are raised in this collection, with subtlety and restraint, and without straying from the personal and the narrative.

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From Library Journal:

"Will I ever/Be able to/Just shower?" asks Greenberg, the author of two nonfiction books exploring traditional Jewish values, in her first volume of poetry. She imbues everyday ordinariness-the teacher riding in a student's German car, a friend's migraine, a son's ski trip-with terrifying memories. Yet as she struggles to understand horrors that she has not personally experienced, her melodramatic first-person narratives too often deny the identities and emotions of the people for whom she speaks. In her preface, Greenberg advises readers to read only a few poems at a sitting lest they succumb to "unbridled morbidity"; naive monotony is the more likely outcome. The finest quality of these works is their accessibility, making them more suited to general readers than such brilliantly crafted poetic explorations of the Holocaust as Charles Reznikoff's Testimony (Vol. 1, 1965; Vol 2., 1979; both Black Sparrow Pr.) or Jerome Rothenberg's recent volumes. [Glossary included.]-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New Yor.
--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Blu Greenberg
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