As far as Holocaust poetry goes, in general I stand with Adorno: it is barbaric. The subject’s too loaded, too heavy and too sacred to approach with crafted words. Yet, having picked up Walter Hess’s collection of poems, “Jew’s Harp,” I was swept away by the depth of its lyricism, gentleness, and sheer beauty.
Hess left Germany as late as 1940 and lost his grandparents in Terezin. So it is a core experience expressed in his collection, and yet, it is not all that’s there. While the first few poems address the Shoah directly, there are others that linger on books, nature and family. Particularly enthralling are the poems of grandfatherhood. Following the collection’s initial pieces, each of these is endowed with sense of quiet, miraculous pleasure derived from, well, life.