Many contemporary writers, among them Anthony Hecht, Gerald Stem, Sylvia Plath, William Heyen, Michael Hamburger, Irena Klepfisz, Adrienne Rich, Jorie Graham, Jacqueline Osherow, and Anne Michaels, grappled with personal and political, ethical and aesthetic consequences of the disaster. Through confessional verse and reinventions of the elegy, as well as documentary poems about photographs and trials, poets serve as proxy-witnesses of events that they did not experience firsthand. By speaking about or even as the dead, these men and women of letters elucidate what it means to cite, reconfigure, consume, or envy the traumatic memories of an earlier generation. As the testimonies of eyewitnesses come to a close, this moving meditation by a major feminist critic finds in poetry a stimulant to empathy that can help us take to heart what we forget at our own peril.
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