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27 January 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by Angela Jarman, 27th January 2020

In August 2019, Arc published Poetry of the Holocuast: an Anthology - one of our publications in recent years of which we are most proud. The culmination of 5 years' research (funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council) by Jean Boase-Beier and Marian de Vooght, this bilingual volume comprises poems in 19 different languages from all over Europe and beyond. Some of them were written before the start of the Second World War by poets with a sense of foreboding about what was to come, but most of them were either written in the camps, prisons and ghettos during the war (and by the relatives of those incarcerated), or after the war when the true horror of what had taken place emerged. And although many of the poems were by Jews, there are also poems by Roma and Sinti, gay men, political dissidents and descendants of those who were victims of the Holocaust. A small number of poems are by celebrated poets -- Jan Campert, Jaan Kaplinsky, Nelly Sachs, Rose Ausländer and Paul Celan -- but the majority are by little-known poets, and by individuals who turned to poetry to attempt to express what they felt couldn't be expressed in any other way. So this is a very different anthology from those which have appeared in recent years.

Because producing an anthology of this nature is very expensive (apart from production costs there were some rights payments to be made and fees and complimentary copies to be sent to translators and relatives of the anthologised poets) we decided to crowd-fund, and were overwhelmed by the generosity of those who supported the project, and helped us to exceed our target by almost double the amount we asked for. Since then, we have held a number of presentations by the Editors of the anthology, Jean Boase-Beier and Marian de Vooght, which have made a huge impact on audiences. All of which have resulted in praise for the anthology and have elicited many heartfelt comments from readers, not an insignificant number of whom have been personally affected by the Holocaust.

But where are the reviews? We are puzzled that an anthology of this importance has only resulted in two reviews (a very short one by Keith Richmond in the ASLEF Journal and a detailed and perceptive one by Lou Sarabadzic in the online journal Asymptote), despite the fact that we sent out numerous review copies to leading newspapers, journals and poetry magazines. And while we are quite resigned to Arc titles not being featured in round-ups in the national press of recently published poetry books (is this because we don't have anybody working for us in London?), we thought that a book of this significance and impact might at least get a mention.