Thursday, May 1, 2008


Glad to see so many of you here! I wonder if White Noise Day will ever work again, or if it will always lack spontaneity after this year.


skippy said...

Also, I wanted to say that today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and when a book is about Hitler Studies I think we should pay attention to this day. Here's a poem and some commentary that might help you experience the day:

Kenneth Sherman

The Necessity of Poetry:

Anthony Hecht's "The Book of Yolek"

Anthony Hecht was a witness to the Holocaust. He served with the U.S. 97th infantry and participated in the liberation of Flossenburg, an annex of Buchenwald. It was in Flossenburg that Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged, only days before the camp was liberated. In a conversation with Philip Hoy, Hecht revealed the shocking nature of his experience: "When we arrived. . .prisoners were dying at the rate of five hundred a day from typhus. . . .The place, the suffering, the prisoners' accounts were beyond comprehension. For years after I would wake shrieking."

So it is not surprising that the Holocaust is a persistent subject in Hecht's oeuvre. It provides the ironic conclusion to "It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You. Avoid It" and is the central concern of the much- anthologized "More Light! More Light!" In my opinion, "The Book of Yolek," which first appeared in The New Statesman in 1982—thirty-eight years after the initial shock—is one of the most powerful Holocaust poems ever published.

The Book of Yolek

Wir Haben ein Gesetz,
Und nach dem Gesetz soll er sterben.*

The dowsed coals fume and hiss after your meal
Of grilled brook trout, and you saunter off for a walk
Down the fern trail. It doesn't matter where to,
Just so you're weeks and worlds away from home,
And among midsummer hills have set up camp
In the deep bronze glories of declining day.

You remember, peacefully, an earlier day
In childhood, remember a quite specific meal:
A corn roast and bonfire in summer camp.
That summer you got lost on a Nature Walk;
More than you dared admit, you thought of home:
No one else knows where the mind wanders to.

The fifth of August, 1942.
It was the morning and very hot. It was the day
They came at dawn with rifles to The Home
For Jewish Children, cutting short the meal
Of bread and soup, lining them up to walk
In close formation off to a special camp.

How often you have thought about that camp,
As though in some strange way you were driven to,
And about the children, and how they were made to walk,
Yolek who had bad lungs, who wasn't a day
Over five years old, commanded to leave his meal
And shamble between armed guards to his long home.

We're approaching August again. It will drive home
The regulation torments of that camp
Yolek was sent to, his small, unfinished meal,
The electric fences, the numeral tattoo,
The quite extraordinary heat of the day
They all were forced to take that terrible walk.

Whether on a silent, solitary walk
Or among crowds, far off or safe at home,
You will remember, helplessly, that day,
And the smell of smoke, and the loudspeakers of the camp.
Wherever you are, Yolek will be there, too.
His unuttered name will interrupt your meal.

Prepare to receive him in your home some day.
Though they killed him in the camp they sent him to,
He will walk in as you're sitting down to a meal.

* We have a law, and according to the law he must die.

Gabby said...

Dr. Ferguson,
I think White Noise day will work againforever! After all, how could something so fabulous fail! I love satire.

skippy said...

i think white noise day would work even better next year because student will be more prepared for it and they will have time to look forward to it. also, things like the tshirts and movie making will appeal to seniors looking for a fun and interactive culminating experience.