Tuesday, May 15, 2012



(WordTech Editions, Cincinnati, OH, 2006)

Ingrid Wendt’s intriguing and inquisitive poetry collection raises epistemological concerns, examines questions of identity, and inquires about our responsibilities in the world. The book  consists of four longer works.
Part I, “Learning the Mother Tongue,” is autobiographical and deals with the author’s reconciliation with her family’s German roots, as well as the German language.
To know who we are. To speak. To start all over again, lugging along the whole
sense of everything, all that kit and caboodle, not only the meanings of nouns,
verbs, adjectives, but

The structure of speech itself.
Wendt’s struggle with the language reminds us of Paul Celan’s doubts, and makes us wonder about the degree of responsibility one carries as a member of a larger group, whether that group be a team, a party, or a country.
Part II, “Suite for the Spirit’s Geometry,” explores concepts such as memory, time, responsibility, as well as an individual’s accidental position on the history’s timeline.
And what of those memories seeming
never to change, echoing: broken
records: words not spoken: the one
word that can't be taken back.

And what postulates for images all of us think we have buried?
Individual numbered poems in this section range from aphoristic one-liners to 3-4 verse explorations. Wendt shows an impressive skill with poetic tempo and narrative tone to raise a plentitude of important questions, all with a light touch.
Part III, “Questions of Mercy,” delves fully into something discussed more generally in the earlier parts: the WWII experience and what it did to the notion of “being German”, and then, on a grander scale, of being a person in the world. The poems in this section visit Auschwitz, Berlin, a Russian prison camp, and many other tragic places in history. The verses are populated with an intriguing international cast of characters.  In a brilliant one-liner, Wendt asks:
How does memory exist without blame?
Is blame truly inescapable or is there a chance to overcome history?
Here are the camps, open to tourists.
          Green wreaths on the train station wall.
         The names of those who took those trains.
The attempts to remember them all
This third section affirms the impossibility of a refusal to face the fundamental issues of the human condition raised by WWII, the Holocaust, and other destructive events in history. It’s Poetry of Witness refined to its most metaphorical, most effective execution.
Part IV, “’Memory/Memorial’: Theme and Variations,” is a quest for redemption in a world affected by the cancer of violence and prejudice. Wendt demonstrates that the ability to remember and to regret our civilization’s mistakes may be a survival tactic for our species.
The common bomb, the planned
Exterminations, ethnicity, gun,
The vast need to blame
Changing nothing
And where is the myth
To bind us?

The book’s final section is a gentle tribute to those who did not survive the injustice, as well as to those who did, but walked away scarred. Its handling of history’s tragedies is tactful and poignant.

As a poetry collection, this book takes me into territories I enjoy exploring. Wendt raises many important questions without beating the reader over the head with excessive violence. The horror of history’s events is all the more effectively reflected when presented in such an understated manner. The deeper meanings of our lives, the unthinkable humiliations we go through, the redeeming power of compassion and understanding – these general categories provide only a very general description of this tender web of moving, personal, interpersonal considerations Ingrid Wendt has laid out for us in her brilliant volume. Both an intellectual, and a person who appears to be highly attuned to the world’s emotional vibe, she is a powerful, perplexing, mature voice to follow.

Born in St. Petersburg, A. Molotkov arrived in the U.S. in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993.  He is the winner of various fiction and poetry awards, as well as the 2011 Boone’s Dock Press poetry chapbook contest for his “True Stories from the Future”.  Molotkov’s poem was selected for permanent installation in a Kaiser Permanente building in Oregon. “The End of Mythology”, a collaborative chapbook co-written with John Sibley Williams, is due in 2012 from Virgogray Press.  AM’s work has appeared in over 60 publications and received two Pushcart nominations. Visit him at www.AMolotkov.com.

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