Where Lightning Strikes: Poems on The Holocaust

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Grand Prize Winner, Elliston Poetry Prize
Isabel & Mary Neff Creative Writing Fellowship
First Place, Elliston Poetry Prize
Second Place, Elliston Poetry Prize

Where Lightning Strikes includes all Szeman’s Holocaust poetry, from the poems featured in her Ph.D. dissertation Survivor: One Who Survives,to the original versions of “Rachel’s poems” appearing or mentioned in Szeman’s award-winning, critically acclaimed first novel The Kommandant’s Mistress. The poems in this collection revisit the classic themes that have inspired poets for generations: love, passion, betrayal, doubt, loyalty, despair, faith, and survival — this time in the context of the period before, during, and after the Holocaust with its systematic persecution and extermination of the majority of European Jewry by the Nazi regime.

In this collection, victims are given voices. The true story of Auschwitz-survivor Anna Brunn Ornstein, who was in the camp as a young girl with her mother, is transformed from Anna’s own stories and related in the disturbing yet moving poem “Sofie and Anna.” Other disturbing yet lyrical poems trace the Holocaust from the perpetrators’ perspective, from Speer’s musings to a Ghetto guard’s complaints. Haunting depictions of abusers’ and survivors’ lives after the war appear, from those who protest innocence, not always convincingly, to those who survived the camps and rebuilt their lives, only to encounter surprising events after the War.

Though the line-breaks are syllabic — imitating the arbitrary rigidity of the Nazi persecutions as well as of the concentration camps’ operations — the language flows passionately over the artificially imposed line-breaks and formal stanzas. All of the poems in this collection have been previously published in literary and university journals. Winner of the prestigious Elliston Poetry Prize (’83, 84, ’85) and the Isabel & Mary Neff Creative Writing Fellowship (’84-85). Along with her non-Holocaust poetry collection, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, this volume, Where Lightning Strikes, was unanimously accepted for publication by all outside readers of UKA Press in 2004.

Szeman’s themes, though set, in this collection, around the Holocaust, are universal, encompassing the perpetrators’, victims’, and survivors’ perspectives equally insightfully. As powerful, unsettling, and lyrical as her first novel, The Kommandant’s Mistress, these poems will take you on a compelling, chilling, and unforgettable journey into the lives, hearts, and minds of all those who were in the Holocaust.

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Where Lightning Strikes:
Poems on The Holocaust

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets

The Dead Bodies that Line the Streets chatter and snipe at me constantly, as if I were responsible for their being there. But I ignore ...
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Lager-Lieder (Camp Songs)

Lager-Lieder (Camp Songs)

Not last night but the night before, twenty- four Gestapo came knocking at the door. As we ran out, they ran in, and this is ...
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On the Other Hand,

On the Other Hand,

On the Other Hand, death: not everyone’s favorite topic of conversation, I know, but some things they have to be talked about, they can’t be ...
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Survivor: One Who Survives

Survivor: One Who Survives

The only difference between a madman and myself is that I am not mad. Salvador Dali Four or five times a day, steamy baths fog away her ...
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The Day the Snakes Came

The Day the Snakes Came

We thought, at first, that we were imagining them: that sliver of disturbed dust by the sidewalk, that hint of damp on the kitchen floor ...
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Letter to Sylvia

Letter to Sylvia

I praised the dead, which are already dead, more than the living, who are yet alive. Ecclesiastes 4:2 For years, whenever I thought of visiting you, a certain ...
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Where Lightning Strikes: Poems on the Holocaust

© 1980-1986, 2000-2007, 2013 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
May not be reprinted or excerpted without written permission.
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