Blossoms in Snow: Austrian Refugee Poets in Manhattan

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The term refugee conjures up crowds desperately on the move, hungry, bewildered, often poor, and carrying all their possessions. The Austrians, whose poems are recorded in Blossoms in Snow risked their lives to get to the United States. They did not fit this pattern. Many were intellectuals, educated professionals, fleeing from the Nazi regime as it gathered momentum in the late 1930s, targeting Jews and other minorities.

Man and woman of Manhattan,

keep the Bible always nearby,

in leather, gilt-edged, Technicolor,
or simply pocket-sized. (Alfred Gong)

They left behind possessions, careers, relatives whom they would not see again. Many came to Manhattan, established themselves, attempted to pick up the pieces…and wrote poetry, Joshua Parker has selected their poems, translated them from German.

A fly’s buzz

At the window, monotone

If I spoke to it a bit,

Would I feel slightly less alone? (Maria Berl-lee)

They were energized or enervated, overwhelmed, driven. Words reflect their emotions and the images of buildings they beheld:

This is a dream, fantastic as a dream,

When the giants light themselves up at night,

Towers with a thousand dungeon cells so bright

Drowning in light… (Ernst Waldinger)

Created mostly when the experience of migration was new, the poems are not only eloquent but also poignant and disturbing, above all memorable.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 296 pages
Publisher University of New Orleans Press
Publish Date 2020-07-23
ISBN 9781608011872 Buy this Book
Issue October 2020
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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