Monday, March 12, 2012

Depressing Poetry: Requiem

The next Cybils poetry finalist is one I suspect I'm going to have a lot of trouble convincing my boys to read.  The cover of Paul B Janeczko's Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto promises what it delivers -- notes from the inmates clinging to hope or despair on their way to death.  I think the only survivors are the notes written by the sadistic guards.

My younger son has been depressed lately, and when he came for bedtime reading complaining that he couldn't face the future and wished it would disappear, I cheerfully announced I had just the book for him and brought this one out.  But he couldn't face it, so instead we read about frogs on the brink of extinction and the so far unsuccessful attempt to find a cure for the fungus that has removed them from the wild. I myself carefully selected a beloved bookmark made by my older son to hold my hand when I went back to reading about Terezin.

However, I wish the afterward came at the beginning. Here Janeczko explains that almost all of the characters were fictional, composites or pure invention.  One poem came from a real person.  Somehow the single true character makes the imaginary ones seem shadowy -- there were thousands of real people there; if he's giving names and numbers away than I'm wondering if these are stolen from real victims.  It's an unsettling epitaph for a moving subject.

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