Praise for The Last Stone in the Circle by Irena Praitis
Winner of the 2015Red Mountain Poetry Prize.
In her extraordinary book The Last Stone in the Circle, Irena Praitis examines the nature of evil as a central paradox of human experience. The Holocaust is the poet’s occasion for an appraisal of social destruction. “The camp Römhild/ is not like Buchenwald./ It goes faster here…,” she writes in the opening, quoting a commandant. Beauty entwines with pain. “Chord” is an amazing poem, intermingling sounds of execution with opera. This serious, substantive topic is an essential addition to the genre of tragic literature. – Denise Low, author of Jackalope and Mélange Block, 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate
These poems report from the human edge and as their readers we are changed. That they are visually simple is what makes them shocking—so few words revealing so much, suggesting by simplicity an enormity—of sadness, regret, outrage, pain. The litany of relative sentiments is long, but it reaches toward understanding, too, no matter how much we resist, and that may be the ultimate shock. “Don’t think I am not you,” one poem ends. Underneath all these tellings, music offers itself everywhere, and perhaps keeps us—and the people in these poems—going, but it is not the same as consolation. When we reach such moments as, “I sing for Papa,” the music is almost unbearable. This is a clearly important book, worthy in its humanly difficult work. ― Alberto Ríos, poet, memoirist, Arizona Poet Laureate 2013-2015
This powerful debut sears itself in memory, not by its vivid descriptions making the unimaginable painfully real, but with its relentless focus on seemingly inescapable moral complicity, evident not just in Nazis and kapos, but in all attempting to survive the death camp―and in us, by implication. Would we, could we have survived otherwise? What responsibility are we taking or failing in contemporary theaters of persecution, suffering and death? Such questioning―and her universal compassion―argue eloquently the importance of Praitis’s achievement. ― April Ossmann, poet and editor, author of Anxious Music