Monday, June 1, 2009

Jehanne Dubrow's The Hardship Post

Jehanne Dubrow’s The Hardship Post (winner of the Three Candles Press 1st Book Award) is not afraid to ask hard, necessary questions about identity and memory, grief, and art as they relate to the Holocaust.

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In these poems, she questions, for example, whether she has a right to talk about the past, the Holocaust. And if she does, what gives her that right, and then how should she talk about the Holocaust? What kind of language should she use to embody what she feels? And is there even such a language? And what should she say to those who feel she doesn’t have the right to talk about the Holocaust? And what should she say to those who feel that whether or not she has that right is really unimportant because the Holocaust is not important?

Dubrow’s answers are shaped into verse that is constantly moving with thought and feeling at the intersection of her own and her family’s past. She speaks of her birth, her travels to Africa and Eastern Europe, her life as a diplomat’s daughter, but always with the sense that her life is a life in exile, separated from the unspeakable that touched her family and millions of others despite her best efforts to understand what happened.

She speaks of, writes about, these lives with a care, imagination, and thoughtfulness that finally convince us of the depth of her closeness to and love for these lives.

We see this in so many of the poems but perhaps most fully in the following poem:

Zeno's Paradox of the Shtetl

It is the frozen world that I’ve approached
for thirty years but cannot reach—

to Poland in a sleigh,

imagining the silver runners sled across
the permafrost,

and halfway to Galicia again,
passing the wooden synagogues, the men

who wear black coats and fur-trimmed hats,
their wives and daughters fat

with goosedown layers,
mittens, scarves, babushkas covering black hair,

the women’s faces lined, opaque,
a pewter sheet of ice above a lake,

and halfway to a town that shivers by
the Vistula, the river’s luminosity

like fish scales scraped
away with knives, then halfway following the liquid shape

which water makes through land,
always the distances expanding,

a home so faraway it can’t be seized,
intangible as winter through the trees.


Jehanne Dubrow was born in Italy and grew up in Poland, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Belgium, Austria, and the United States. Her work has appeared in Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (ed. Charles Adés Fishman), Poetry, The Hudson Review, New England Review, Barrow Street, Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, and others. She was the Editor's Choice at KRITYA, and a number of her poems are featured there.

She is also the author of a chapbook, The Promised Bride (Finishing Line Press 2007). A second poetry collection, From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers' Publishing House Prize and will be published in 2009. A third collection, Stateside, will be released by Northwestern University Press in 2010.

She blogs at Notes from the Gefilte Review. Her website is at

The Hardship Post is available at three candles press and at Amazon.