Print Story Poem of the Day: "Spiritual Distress" by Hédi Kaddour
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By Beechwood 45789 (Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 02:20:11 AM EST) (all tags)
"Don't wander too far off, distress, and start to giggle
because what comes next is a riddle."


Spiritual Distress
by Hédi Kaddour

And damn the almanac-makers who leave you
stuck between debts and death
or a week with seven tomorrows. Today
here's another gent: History's convulsions,
monstrous metaphor of our
spiritual distress.
Listen to this, distress:
in Burgos, in the Middle Ages, a baker's son
converted to Christianity, and his father,
in a fury, flung him into the oven.
Saint Mary, says the chronicle, saved the son and
the citizens of Burgos burned the father and

don't wander too far off, distress, and start to giggle
because what comes next is a riddle: my first is
a convoy of Jews sent to Auschwitz by
the Prefecture of Gironde; my second, a procession
of bullet-bloated Algerians who float
under the Pont Mirabeau; my third the funds
of a national political party in the sixties,
and together they make the proper name of a great
spiritual distress which is certainly not called
Martin Heidegger and don't get annoyed, what's annoying
is that this should merely be allusion.

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Poem of the Day: "Spiritual Distress" by Hédi Kaddour | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
This is a tough one. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Jun 17, 2008 at 05:48:07 AM EST


My take. by Beechwood 45789 (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Jun 17, 2008 at 06:26:03 AM EST
I think the poem makes more sense if you track down some of the historical references.

In the first stanza, the quote is from Heidegger - whose membership in the Nazi Party is an important detail for the poem.

I can't track the story about the baker and his son, but I think the reference here is that the victim group (the Christians) visit upon the baker the evil he was going to visit on them.

In the second stanza, the death camp is pretty clear, but the poet (who is French) makes a point to underscore the role of French collaboration in the Nazi's Final Solution.

The "bullet-bloated Algerians" refers to the Paris Massacre of 1961, when police attacked an unarmed group of Algerian demonstrators. Many were shot. Many more were violently herded into the Seine, where they drowned and were left to float down river. The estimated death toll was 40 and 200. Though the police now officially admit to 40 deaths, at the time the deaths of Algerians were so unimportant that there were no official death toll estimates.

I don't get the reference to party funds. Some sort of political scandal, I imagine.

My take is that the poet is taking Heidegger to task for his flippant remarks about history being merely a projection of internal unease, as if the decisions he made (to join the Nazis) and the decisions the French people have made (religious brutality, racist policies, Nazi collaboration, etc.) do not have real world consequences.

On a more universal level, she's taking abstractionists to task for playing semantic games with metaphors rather than tackling the real.

That's my take on it anyway. As I've said before, I don't always have these things figured out prior to posting.

[ Parent ]
no problem by garlic (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Jun 17, 2008 at 08:15:17 AM EST
that was very helpful.

sorta makes me wish the original poet had included hyperlinks in the text. Might not have made the poem better, but I would have appreciated it.


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Poem of the Day: "Spiritual Distress" by Hédi Kaddour | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback