Poetry as Testimony
Witnessing and Memory in Twentieth-century Poems
Routledge – 2014
This book analyzes Holocaust poetry, war poetry, working-class poetry, and 9/11 poetry as forms of testimony. Rowland argues that testamentary poetry requires a different approach to traditional ways of dealing with poems due to the pressure of the metatext (the original, traumatic events), the poems’ demands for the hyper-attentiveness of the reader, and a paradox of identification that often draws the reader towards identifying with the poet’s experience, but then reminds them of its sublimity. He engages with the work of a diverse range of twentieth-century authors and across the literature of several countries, even uncovering new archival material. The study ends with an analysis of the poetry of 9/11, engaging with the idea that it typifies a new era of testimony where global, secondary witnesses react to a proliferation of media images. This book ranges across the literature of several countries, cultures, and historical events in order to stress the large variety of contexts in which poetry has functioned productively as a form of testimony, and to note the importance of the availability of translations to the formation of literary canons.
Introduction Section I 1. Poetry as Testimony: Primo Levi’s Collected Poems 2. Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After as Precocious Testimony 3. Culpability and the Lyric in Tadeusz Borowski’s Selected Poems Section II 4. The Oasis Poets: Perpetrators, Victims, and Soldier Testimony 5. Siegfried Sassoon: Trauma and Testimony in the War Poems and ‘Aftermath’ 6. Voices Magazine and Working-Class Testimon 7. A Post-Testamentary Age?: The Poetry of 9/11
Antony Rowland is Chair in Contemporary Literature at the University of Lincoln, UK