Black Sparrow is proud to restore to print one of the great long poems of the late 20th century, Charles Reznikoff’s Holocaust, originally published in 1975.
Reznikoff’s subject is people’s suffering at the hand of another. His source materials are the U.S. government’s record of the trials of the Nazi criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal and the transcripts of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. Except for the twelve part titles, none of the words here are Reznikoff’s own: instead he has created, through selection, arrangement, and the rhythms of the testimony set as verse on the page, a poem of witness by the perpetrators and the survivors of the Holocaust. He lets the terrible history unfold – in history’s own words.
Reznikoff’s technique, says David Lehman, “contradicts the very faculty of understanding. He lets reality speak for itself, lets it state the externals of the thing or event, and leaves unspoken (or edits out) the emotions, which the reader may be counted on to provide for himself.”
Few readers will forget the emotions they bring to Holocaust.
The son of Russian garment workers, Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) was a blood-and-bone New Yorker, a collector of images and stories who walked the city from Bronx to Battery and breathed the soul of the Jewish immigrant experience into a lifetime of poetry.