On the Verge of Verse: Charles Reznikoff’s Lineations in Holocaust

Roi Tartakovsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jewish-American poet Charles Reznikoff’s 1975 book Holocaust takes as its basis the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials and the Eichmann trial. Among the various subtle interventions on the way from source material to “documentary verse,” the least theorized but most dramatic is Reznikoff’s decision to lineate the original courtroom prose of the survivors. Reznikoff’s prose in chopped-up lines offers a unique opportunity to engage in the larger question of the poetic force of lineation, while considering the specific advantages and risks that it entails in the case of Holocaust. This article argues that lineation is central to Reznikoff’s book because it allows him twice to straddle the line between conflicting goals: (1) lineation signals that the text is poetic while avoiding overt aestheticization that is often associated with lyrical poetry; (2) lineation implies Reznikoff’s response to the tragic material, while avoiding explicit, over-bearing authorial presence and sentimentality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-373
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Charles Reznikoff
  • Holocaust poetry
  • enjambment
  • free verse
  • lineation


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