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Where Lightning Strikes includes all Szemans Holocaust poetry, from the poems featured in her Ph.D. dissertation Survivor: One Who Survives, to the original versions of Rachels poems appearing or mentioned in Szemans award-winning, critically acclaimed first novel The Kommandants Mistress. The poems in this collection revisit the classic themes that have inspired poets for generations: love, passion, betrayal, doubt, loyalty, despair, faith, and survival — this time in the context of the period before, during, and after the Holocaust with its systematic persecution and extermination of the majority of European Jewry by the Nazi regime.In this collection, victims are given voices. In First Day of German Class a young, teenaged girl unfamiliar with the Nazis and their atrocities in Germany and other Nazi-occupied territory develops a crush on the handsome and enigmatic SS Officer who passes out the yellow Stars of David they must now wear, like a brand, to identify and isolate them from the rest of the population. In the authors first Holocaust poem, Cutthroat: A Player Who Plays for Himself — excerpted in The Kommandants Mistress — a female inmate forced into sexual servitude by the Kommandant of the camp considers suicide as an escape from her personal bondage and from the camp, even as she alternately pities or condemns those weak enough to go to the wire (grab the electric fence), offering her own suggestions for suicide to escape the intolerable situation. Survivor: One Who Survives, the title poem of Szemans dissertation, also mentioned in her first novel as one of Rachels poems/books, explores the life of a woman who survived her experiences in the camps but is having difficulty living. Other disturbing yet fascinating poems trace the Holocaust from the perpetrators perspective. We hear Albert Speers musings about which path to take in the dramatic monologue Learning the New Language, in which he initially claims not to understand the new language that everyone in the Nazi-regime is speaking, but then begins to practice some of the words himself. A Warsaw Ghetto guard in The Dead Bodies That Line The Streets bitterly complains about all the dead bodies who watch his every movement, whisper behind his back, and generally prevent him from doing his job effectively and from sleeping well. Early, unnamed versions of Max (of The Kommandants Mistress) appear, isolated and morally confused in Dead: Out of Play Though Not Necessarily Out of the Game, where he momentarily sees an inmate as a fellow human being. A younger SS officer finds himself disconcerted and alarmed after he is unexpectedly attracted to one of the female inmates when he sees her dancing ballet to the music floating from his office window in White on White.In the camp itself, one of the Sonderkommando, who were in charge of guiding the Jews to be exterminated into the gas chambers, gives instructions to a new member of this chosen group on how to survive the camp, in the grim yet spiritually philosophical On the Other Hand. Nursery rhymes and childrens songs take on a deadly, mesmerizing meaning in the stunning, award-winning Lager-Lieder (Camp Songs). The true story of Auschwitz-survivor Anna Brunn Ornstein, who was in the camp as a young girl with her mother, is transformed from Annas own stories and related in the haunting yet moving poem Sofie and Anna. Haunting depictions of abusers and survivors lives after the war appear in works like Those Who Claim We Hated Them, where the narrator insists — not always convincingly — that he, his family, and his colleagues held no contempt whatsoever for the Jews, and only did what was politically and morally required of them so that they themselves might survive the Nazi regime and the War. In the collections title work, Where Lightning Strikes, a survivor of the camps who now holds a Professorship likens his encounter with contemporary anti-Semitism to a trees being struck by lightning: swift, unexpected, brutal, devastating, but terrifyingly and sadly illuminating.Szemans work speaks to us with clarity and resonance. Her themes, though set, in this collection, around the Holocaust, are universal, encompassing the perpetrators, victims, and survivors perspectives equally insightfully. Though the line-breaks are syllabic — imitating the arbitrary rigidity of the Nazi persecutions as well as of the concentration camps operations — the language flows passionately over the artificially imposed line-breaks and formal stanzas. The poems many fans often state that, despite the fact that they may have been initially wary of the subject matter, they were enthralled and shaken by poetry which so clearly, simply, and memorably portrays such complex and harrowing events in human history.All of the poems in this collection have been previously published in literary and university journals, and many of the poems in this collection have been awarded prizes, including the University of Cincinnatis Elliston Prize (anonymous competition; 1983, 1984, 1985), Michigan State Universitys The Centennial Review Michael Miller Award for Poetry (1985), and The Isabel & Mary Neff Fellowship for Creative Writing (1984-85). Several poems were part of her dissertation, Survivor: One Who Survives (University of Cincinnati, 1986). Along with her non-Holocaust poetry collection, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, this volume, Where Lightning Strikes, was unanimously accepted for publication by all outside readers of UKA Press in 2004.As powerful, unsettling, and lyrical as her first novel, The Kommandants Mistress, these poems will take you on a compelling, chilling, and unforgettable journey into the lives, hearts, and minds of all those who were victims, perpetrators, and survivors of the Holocaust.

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