Genre: Collection (Poems)
- Coulehan, Jack
- Date of entry: May-12-2006
This is a sequence of 45 poems on the Holocaust. Of course, "on" is impossible. These poems suggest, approach, reflect and consider. They range from the tale of the Maker of Walls in Krakow who chooses to make his new wall out of "jewstone," which is cheap and conveniently sized, since it consists of gravestones; to a paean in which the poet asks the blessing of "the god of small poets" to take pity on him: "May a self-righting gyroscope inhabit me and guide me. / May I smell the lilacs of my parents' yard."
The poems situate themselves in gnomic utterance ("Black Forest Cake" and "Women"), narrative movement ("Amsterdam" and "Grace Note"), ironic lyricism ("Idyll" and "Spring"), and reflective toughness; take "Nothing" for example: "He leaves us nothing / as a remnant of His people."
As I read these poems, they remind me of the Medieval via negativa, or theology of negation. Any positive statement that one can make to try to "understand" God (e.g. God is Love, God is Good, God is Omnipotent, or even that God Exists) is actually untrue and tells us nothing about God, since God is beyond knowing, and therefore beyond the concept of love, or goodness, or powerfulness, or even existence. It is only through a series of negations that we might come closer to God. Similarly, Michael Lieberman considers the Shoah--the evil, the absence, the nothing, and the utter incomprehensibility--and this becomes his own path, his own via negativa, a spirituality of paradox, for "Who can do as He does / or understand what He says?"