POETRY MONDAY: April 7, 2014


Howard Stein

Happy Poetry Month, everyone!   You who are readers of this column probably agree that every month should be poetry month, but we have to take whatever we can get.  Perhaps those of you who don’t always buy poetry books will think about a visit to your local independent bookstore, if you’re lucky enough to still have one, to look at the various slim new volumes on display as well as the collected and new / selected works of your old favorites.  If you do have a poetry library of your own, you might want to note the publishers’ names and then go online to look for their web pages and order directly from them.  This can be our way of celebrating what many of us cannot live without.

Our featured poet this month is Howard Stein, who is Poet Laureate of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology.  He is a psychoanalytic, medical, organizational, and applied anthropologist, as well as a psychohistorian and organizational consultant – all of which disciplines inform and inspire his poetry, as enough others must agree, for among his 27 published books are seven chapbooks or full collections of poetry.  Professor Emeritus, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, he is also a Research Associate of the Center for the Study of Organizational Change, University of Missouri, Columbia, and an interdisciplinary group facilitator of the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center at the University of Oklahoma.

This is an impressive and almost overwhelming background for a practitioner of a quiet art like poetry, but true poets and poetry-lovers can always make room in their lives for “the news that men /and women/ die for lack of.”

Reminding us that the April calendar also includes Holocaust Memorial Day, below are three poems by Howard Stein, whose new chapbook, Raisins and Almonds, is available now from Finishing Line Press.

 Irene Willis
  Poetry Editor


Reply to Adorno

“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Theodor Adorno, 1949

After Auschwitz, I wish to speak,
Knowing that whatever I say,
It will not be enough to hold
The horror that threatens to break
Every vessel it enters.
Still I try to find the words —
There must be some redeeming value
In trying, even if no word is enough.

The unspeakable must be spoken.
What happened must be given a voice
If only to say “This really happened,”
To allow to have happened
What could not, should not, happen.
The horror haunts us until it can be uttered.
And sometimes even speech is not enough.

It is the trying that is enough,
That must be enough, because
It is all that we can do.
Words make it real: the poetry of atrocity
Bears witness to the erasure
Of all meaning and hope.

So many names for the slaughter:
Auschwitz, Cambodia,
Rwanda, Bosnia, Armenia,
Can only become past
Once we have allowed them
To be fully present.

Barbaric is to be silent,
To visit upon ourselves
A kind of killing once again.

Theme and Variations. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2008.


Survivor’s Wound (In memoriam, Paul Celan)

If none will see
Does the survivor
          Have a wound?

If I screamed
And no one
            Heard me,
Would I have screamed
            at all?

My torment is double:
              Holes in my flesh
              And holes in time.

I speak for the dying
              And for the dead:
Affirm, at least,
            My scream!

Nothing happened,
You whisper back –
Your atrocity is
            But a dream.

If none will see
Does the survivor
            Have a wound?

In the Shadow of Asclepius. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, p.24


In the Cross Hairs (unpublished)

“O mia patria, si bella e perduta,” Giuseppe Verdi, Nabucco

O, my country, to what good end
do you put your people
in the cross hairs of a rifle sight?
What do you so fear that you
spew hate to fend it off?
Were we not all somewhere unwanted,
kept on the other side
of a fiercely guarded wall?
Do we not all fear that which
we so long toiled to attain
will be taken away?
We are all haunted
by the same dark night.
I can see my own reflection
in the face of the foe I would kill.

Come! Let us sit at the same table
and dip our ladle from the same pot.
The vineyards are plentiful;
no one need thirst here.
Let us lower our shields
and put to our lips
a draught of reconciliation.


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One Comment on “POETRY MONDAY: April 7, 2014”

  1. Howard F. Stein Featured for Poetry Monday « Center for the Study of Organizational Change Says:

    […] Read the Poems […]

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