A harrowing poetic evocation of the infamous concentration camp.
Though this award-winning poet has combed the bright expanse of the poetic spectrum, dabbling in lighter subjects and forms (A Foot in the Mouth, 2009, etc.), here Janeczko returns to a dark historic moment where artists met unspeakable tragedy, not unlike his poetic exploration of the 1944 Hartford, Conn., circus fire that claimed over 150 lives (Worlds Afire, 2007). He tells the grim tale of Terezín, the Czechoslovakian town transformed by the Nazis in 1941 into Ghetto Theresienstadt, a temporary way station for Jewish artists and intellectuals herded from Prague en route to the gas chambers. Estimating 35,000 perished in Terezín, Janeczko creates over 30 poems loosely representative of the experience of the 140,000-some European Jews who passed through the camp prior to its liberation by Russia in 1945. Drawing on research and haunting illustrations from Terezín inmates, Janeczko effectively portrays the graphic horror of such twisted incarceration from the perspective of both captive and captor. For example, imprisoned young Miklos’ admission, “I am fragile / with fear,” starkly contrasts that of SS Captain Bruno Krueger, who seems to savor describing an execution: “I ordered my Jews closer. / Close enough to hear / the twig snap of his neck.”
Moving and brutal, a poetic remembrance of a tragedy too vast to forget. (Poetry. 14 & up)