“There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.” This quote is attributed to Theodor Adorno, a German-born philosopher and poet. The sentiment provides the title for a poem, “Poetry after Auschwitz,” by San Francisco-based slam poet Daphne Gottlieb.
This is not a poem
it is a rock
through a window–
it is a smash
This piece, set at a present-day rally in protest of the Iraq War, wrestles with Adorno’s notion that nothing will be as devastating or emotionally loaded as the Holocaust. Gottlieb also vents her own frustration at the inability of herself and others to stop destruction–except by using tools that feed more destruction. In the poem, she notes, “It is terrifying how quickly ‘Free Palestine’ becomes ‘End the Occupation’ becomes ‘Kill the Jews’.”
Can we make poetry after Auschwitz? Is there room for quiet debate amid an international war? Gottlieb–who’s appeared on HBO and at Lollapalooza, and also as a character in the Lemony Snicket novels–offers no answers, but the questions she poses are electric and terrifyingly relevant.