cover image Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Primo Levi. Faber & Faber, $8.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-571-15256-8

Readers moved by Levi's penetrating autobiographical accounts of the Holocaust will equally esteem these harrowing poems assembled before his suicide in 1987. Embedded here is profoundly felt outrage, made all the more piercing by Levi's locating his experience of this uniquely appalling historical moment within a hallowed, unbroken literary tradition through the use of frequent quotations or allusions (such as to Dante). Poems written in late 1945 and early '46 record the painful yearning of the prisoner of Auschwitz simply to walk ``sweet beneath the sun''; the burden of the liberatedinescapable grief and horror ``That taint your bread and wine / Lodge every evening in your heart''; and a longing for a justice impossible to reckon. Among the most wrenching is a 1984 poem expressing the guilt of the survivor, who says to the ghosts of the murdered, ``Go away. I haven't dispossessed anyone, / Haven't usurped anyone's bread. / No one died in my place. No one.''; and a 1983 poem that links the poet's mortality to the discharging of his mission to ``tell the story'': ``What to do now? How to detach yourself? / With every work that's born you die a little.'' (Jan.)