On writing poetry

Year: 2013

Commissioned by the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund

Instrumentation: E. Guitar (or E. Bass) amplifier with Vol. and Wah-wah Pedals, Flute, Bass Clarinet in Bb, Trombone, Tuba, Piano (also a mechanic Metronome), Percussion, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Contrabass

First performance by Ensemble Moto Perpetuo and Ensemble Meitar - 23.04.2013, 14th Street Y Theater, NYC (USA)

Other performances:

  • Delirium Ensemble - 20.01.2018, Muzeum Historii Zydów Polskich POLIN, Warsaw (Poland)


More than 60 years after Theodor W. Adorno’s claim that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric" (Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’, 1949, English translation by Shierry Weber), the impotence of creating art while facing the horrors of war is intensified by the inability to ever experience reality in its purity. The awareness of the cruelty and extreme darkness ingrained in the human nature deprives us of the right to believe, to enjoy, to embrace. My emotional experiences will always be overshadowed by those of my ancestors. The incessant presence of the atrocity becomes an absolute to which everything is compared.

17 years after the preceding quotation, Adorno writes: “Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living […]” (Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Negative Dialectics’, 1966, English translation by E. B. Ashton)