Rootlessness and Alienation in the Poetry of Helen Degen Cohen

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This essay explores various themes in the poetry of Helen Degen Cohen. Cohen survived the Holocaust as a child in hiding. In her poetry she integrates her experiences in Poland, both before and during the war, with her life in America as a young immigrant. Her many identities as a Jew, Pole, child, teenager, adult, immigrant, and American blend together as stark memories in her exploration of themes of fear, war, death, ethnicity, family, and solitude. While Cohen's poetry is not expressly Jewish, underlying all her works are subtle references to the challenges of living in a world that is not entirely Jewish and often hostile.