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The Fuehrer Bunker as a stage play


How The Fuehrer Bunker was received by the Jewish intellectual community
WD Snodgrass Poet
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I must say that when I… when I wrote these poems, I thought that I was on their side. I mean, I am picturing these people as so wicked that I… I had felt, you know, I'm on the Jews' side here. They didn't see it that way. Or that isn't exactly true. Some of my best supporters, indeed, were Jews. But in general, the Jewish intellectual community… and without the Jewish intellectual community, it’s…, it's a question of whether we would have an intellectual community, almost… the… that community as a whole took the opposite viewpoint of this. They almost never attacked me because then someone could have… could have defended me and say… and show that this is not so, that I am in no way sympathetic to these people.

On the other hand, I think, you know, there are certain African tribes that have, you know, more or less continual wars with their neighbors. They'll have a war every year, you know, the yearly war with the… the whoever it is living over in the next valley. After the war is over, they have a large ceremony begging forgiveness for the people they had to kill. That seems to me not a bad idea… that maybe I had to kill these people to… but, you know, they're humans. They were trying to kill us. We were trying to kill them. It's wrong, but at the same time, that's what we do. And it seems to me that that would not be a bad attitude. Also, a… a very good friend of mine- I… I expect you knew him, Milton Kessler — Jewish, obviously — and a… a very good poet who taught down here at Binghamton. You know, some of these complaints against me had… had been brought to my attention, and he asked me about it and I... or I asked him. And he said, 'But you know, of course, you can't expect Jews to be reasonable about that'. And of course, you can't. I… well, I knew that some people would… would be very much upset.

I didn't know how long it would last, I must say. You know, I became a pariah for… for really quite… for 20 years or more, 25, maybe. I… when I would go to give readings, people would turn their backs on me when… if there was a reception afterwards, would not speak to me. These were people I had known well. And there was almost never a printed attack. That… that is fading. That's very definitely fading now. There… there isn't much else I can say about it that I …I think I was concerned with the depths of human depravity. And I don't think I see it, you know, more in one group than another. It so happens right now that… you know, I was going to say that we are being less depraved than… but then… then I forgot this morning's paper. But you know, the… you know, the… who lived here four centuries ago, and where have their descendants gone? I mean on this hill that we're living on. We did it.

American poet WD Snodgrass, entered the world of poetry with a bang winning several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle. A backlash followed his controversial fifth anthology “The Fuehrer Bunker”, but in recent years these poems have been reassessed and their importance recognised.

Listeners: William B. Patrick

William B. Patrick is a writer and poet who lives in Troy, New York. Among his work are the poetry volumes "We Didn't Come Here for This" and "These Upraised Hands", the novel "Roxa: Voices of the Culver Family" and the plays "Rescue" and "Rachel's Dinner". His most recent work is the non-fiction book "Saving Troy", based on the year he spent following the Troy Fire Department.

Mr. Patrick has been Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute and has taught at Old Dominion University, Onondaga Community College, and Salem State College, and workshops in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Tags: The Fuehrer Bunker, Africa, Binghamton University, Milton Kessler

Duration: 4 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008