Challenging the Coming Menace
by Amos Lassen
Hyam Plutzik wrote this letter on the eve of America’s entry into World War II and in it w find a young Jewish American man’s spiritual and literary odyssey that began in rural Connecticut and went on to urban Brooklyn during the hectic 1930s.
Young Plutzik tells his mentor, what it means for a poet to live an authentic life in the modern world. Plutzik ultimately found a path that responded to both by his literary muses and his ancestral voices. We can see this as an early example of Holocaust literature from the way Plutzik challenges the growing menace of Nazism that he sees looming from afar.
What is so striking here is that while this is a look at a young poet coming of age, it is brutally honest, accurate and unique much in the style of James Joyce. It is indeed reminiscent of Walt Whitman’s challenge for poets to stand up and stand out. This is
Hyam Plutzik’s legacy as a soldier poet who was stationed there in Norwich during World War II. He deals with the difficult topic of what it means and even though his name is unfamiliar to many, I doubt that will be the case once others read this. This is a powerful personal narrative about a young Jewish-American man’s experience in a particular place and time as well as a universal chronicle of life and art.