The only book of poetry to date devoted to the Rwanda genocide and published in this country, this is a work of nonfictional poetry, a cousin in genre to the nonfictional novel. It is based not only on the poet's observations and encounters during months spent in post-genocide Rwanda, but on his numerous extensive interviews with survivors, all of whom lost most if not all of their families, and with convicted genocide perpetrators, conducted in prisons. The result is a startling book of poems that by turns is unthinkably horrifying, heartbreaking, and enraging, yet which at times breaks unexpectedly into stunning revelatory moments of grace. As a poetry of witness this book reveals what it is like to carry on with daily life in a society where nearly every adult male is either a genocide survivor or perpetrator, almost every woman either a survivor or the wife of a perpetrator, and where nearly every child at the time of the genocide witnessed multiple killings, often of immediate family members. Ranging from free verse to stanzaic forms, this book by an NEA-award-winning poet uses tools and methods of poetry to distill each of its many varied voices to its essence, allowing those who are heard in these poems to speak for themselves, often in juxtapositions that lend the book the structure and tension of a drama. Considered more broadly, THE RWANDA POEMS is a book about the extremities of evil that the human psyche is capable of enduring and inflicting, and the resulting psychic costs to survivors and perpetrators.
Collectively, The Rwanda Poemsachieve transcendence, they gather to a greatness, thanks to those survivors and perpetrators willing to speak and to Kaufman's technical skill, his distinctive ear for cadence, and unerring eye for the right image. That the collection is powerful goes without saying, the text gives us depth without excess, and invites multiple readings. Individual poems formed along the perpetrator / survivors axis deliver not just the killers' depravity but the survivors' resilience and humanity. Kaufman has woven the disparate elements seamlessly together. The Rwanda Poemsadds to our awareness of what living through genocide and sex slavery feels like on both intellectual and visceral levels. In a world that would rather forget, Kaufman's masterful achievement is a testament to remembering.” —Stephanie Dickinson, author of Blue Swan Black Swan and Razor Wire Wilderness
“I don't know why Andrew Kaufman found it necessary to immerse himself in the horrors of the Rwandan Genocide. It's like agreeing to visit hell. But once there, the poet/traveler who speaks these poems does not become a tourist. Instead, and as he's shown in earlier collections, the poet has mastered the uncanny ability to become part of the literal and emotional fabric of the place he visits and inhabits. But there's no mystery to this, unless understanding how to listen to the intimate stories of others' survival is a mystery. And this is more than a selection of random poems written over time and gathered into a collection. It exists, functions, and reads as a book, with a beginning, middle, and ending. Or rather several endings. I am moved by the depth of these sentiments, and excited by the poetry that emerges from them.” —Bruce Weigl, author of Among Elms in Ambush
“There will never be enough newspapers, cable news outlets, social media posts, or serious journals able to depict or describe for us the depths to which pleading screams, and a violated innocence reached during such an awful period in Rwanda's history. Even those who survived can barely speak for having either lost their minds, their tongues, their voices, their hands, an arm, a leg, or eventually their lives. Who's to speak up about these horrifying images must be someone intimate with its aspects, must have gone there, listened to their assaulted lives, their appalling stories. In these poems, Kaufman has gathered this profound suffering together with all of this incredibly malignant force's methodology and purposefully created out of it an equation to which every culture on Earth might very well pay close attention. Through his steady though not unaffected hand, Kaufman guides us around a most dangerous, unthinkable, and chaotic time. As readers, we can certainly feel how he both painstakingly shares this plight with us and how hopefully there's no sense in anyone ever repeating what should never have occurred in the first place.” —Paul B. Roth, editor, The Bitter Oleander Press
Poetry. African & African American Studies.
Andrew Kaufman's books include Earth's Ends, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize, The Cinnamon Bay Sonnets, winner of the Center for Book Arts book award, Both Sides of the Niger (Spuyten Duyvil Press), and the COMPLETE CINNAMON BAY SONNETS (Rain Mountain Press). The time he spent in Rwanda was made possible in part by an NEA grant. He has taught literature and writing at a number of colleges and universities, and resides in New York City.
Author City: NEW YORK, NY USA