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This review is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

SURVIVORS AND SURVIVAL Yehuda Amichai, Love Poems: a bilingual selection (Harper and Row) Tadeusz Rózewicz, Conversation with the Prince and other poems (Anvil Press)

If there is any common denominator between the poets not silenced, though not unmarked, by the Adorno dictum of 'no poetry after Auschwitz', it is the way in which anything resembling ornament is ruthlessly excised from their work. This rejection of rhetoric has naturally been practised most stringently in Germany and in the countries adjoining it to the East which Germany invaded. Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, Erich Fried, Bertolt Brecht, Günter Kunert, Vasko Popa, Gertrud Kolmar, Johannes Bobrowski, Zbigniew Herbert - all of these poets, and others less well-known, have pared down their utterances to a point where language itself seems about to disappear. This obliges a reader to reconsider the relationship between poetry and reality, and two recent collections by the Germano-Israeli Yehuda Amichai and the Pole Tadeusz Rózewicz are reminders that this is not a matter which English readers can afford to ignore.

Poems by Rózewicz tend towards a telegrammatic brevity; each short stanza seems to insist on our recognizing its independent status within a given poem preparatory to disclosing its place in a complex network of reference. Poems by Amichai tend to be more discursive and homogeneous, though he, too, gives the impression of wanting to make notes in the margin, as it were. Both Rózewicz and Amichai require, and have received, extensive selections from their work to make an impact; in an anthology such poems would run the risk of being lost without trace. To read either of them in bulk serves to ...


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