THE SWASTIKA POEMS by William Heyen

THE SWASTIKA POEMS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wallace Stevens once said that the poet's particular morality was the morality of the fight sensation, and it is precisely in terms of sensation that this collection of poetry errs. William Heyen takes a loaded subject, the murder of six million Jews during WW II, and, rather than drawing upon the powers of his sensibility to make our response to that atrocity more subtle and intimate, he depends upon its collective clout: ""When a man has grown a body/ . . . when this body is taken from him/ by other men who happen to be/ this time, in uniform,/ then it is clear he has experienced/ an act of barbarism/ . . . these children gassed and starved/ and beaten and thrown against walls/ and made to walk the valley/ of knives and ice-picks and otherwise/ exterminated in ways appearing to us almost/ beyond even the maniacal human imagination/ then it is clear that this is the German Reich/ during approximately ten years of our Lord's time."" Lines like these do nothing to deepen or extend our subjective relation to the catastrophe. Though it is vitally important that we remember, the poet must do more than remember; he must bring us to a new understanding.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1977
Publisher: Vanguard