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Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto Hardcover – August 9, 2011
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—Library Media Connection (starred review)
Janeczko draws on factual records to imagine fictional characters, who narrate each poem in this searing collection. The inmates speak in spare, accessible free verse, and the plain words contrast with the enormity of their personal heartbreak, cruelty, and loss. ...Together, the images and the poems capture unforgettable truths
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Janeczko is at the top of his game with the narrative voices, but that's precisely the problem. The voices of the Nazis are too intense (and probably, frighteningly accurate), whereas the imagined voices of the Jews do not quite ring true. The poem "David Epstein," for example, is about a Jew wishing for revenge against the Nazi who incinerated his wife, Sarah (yes, David and Sarah are the names that the Nazis gave to most Jews, regardless of what their names were), but revenge is no more a Jewish concept than it is a Christian one. In this poem, the speaker seems to relish ideas like force-feeding, with a spoon, the ashes of his wife to the Nazi. This line seems particularly objectionable and again, does not ring true.
Lastly, the word "Requiem" is a Catholic word, despite Janeczko's explanation that he chose it in its secular sense. For a poet, the right word--le mot juste--is the goal, and this word is off the mark.
Some poems, such as "Chess Game," are absolutely beautiful, so a teacher would need to be sensitive, skillful, and selective when using this book in the classroom.