A poem begins with a lump in your throat ~~ Robert Frost

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Remembering a lost Atlanta in Eve Hoffman’s lyrical personal poems

Aug 24, 2018  Bo Emerson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The world in Eve Hoffman’s autobiographical poems is beautiful and frightening.

We see the barefoot girl treading a dusty road on the family farm in the bend of the Chattahoochee River, and we see the grown woman walking through the “No Sanctuary” exhibit of lynching postcards, horrified and thunderstruck.

The poems in “Memory & Complicity” tell the stories of Eve Hoffman’s life, both in and out of Atlanta. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The title of the book of poems she’ll read from at the AJC Decatur Book Festival is “Memory & Complicity,” and that includes the complicity of a white society that sold tickets to a lynching as if it were a county fair. And her own complicity, when she sold the farm to become a subdivision.

Hoffman is 75, and didn’t begin writing poems until she was 60, but in the meantime, she lived a life that seemed to brush against Atlanta milestones in a manner worthy of a Southern Zelig.

On Sunday, Sept. 2, Eve Hoffman will read from her book of poetry, “Memory & Complicity,” as part of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. CONTRIBUTED BY EVE HOFFMAN (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

She sees the transformation of the metro area from rural to urban, as her farm becomes Peachtree Corners.

She pictures herself as a young girl, swanning about The Temple in a brand-new yellow dress, hours before it was bombed by anti-Semitic terrorists.

She portrays her grandfather, Frank Neely, who became president of Rich’s department store, and chairman of Atlanta’s Federal Reserve Bank, and was at the center of battles over integration.

Some of those salvos were launched by Hoffman’s mother, Neely’s daughter Rachel, who was angry about the store’s whites-only restrooms on the fifth floor, and resolved to do her shopping elsewhere. “My mother was incensed that someone could buy a fur coat and had to go downstairs to pee,” said Hoffman. “The gossip was that the board was always worried that Rachel would show up on the (protest) line” outside the store.

Hoffman said she has many more poems to write, but what she wants most of all is to live up to the challenge voiced by Robert Franklin, president emeritus of Morehouse College, who wrote of her book: “I hope that you will peer into this unsettling mirror, invited by her lyrical gifts, and begin the process of reflection, dialogue and action to repair a broken world.”

Hoffman will give a free reading from “Memory & Complicity” 1:15-2 p.m. Sunday at the Historic DeKalb Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square, as part of the AJC Decatur Book Festival.


 September-October 2018 THE JEWISH GEORGIAN Page 9  by Carolyn Gold

Memory & Complicity: Poems

Eve Hoffman , Mercer University Press   $20.00

This book of poetry starts with Eve

Hoffman’s memories of her Georgia

childhood on the farm of her grandfather,

Frank Neely. Eve’s lyrical free verse

describes the red clay, the cows and dogs,

and the trees and flowers of her barefoot

life. The music of the words carries

one along in the telling of the young

girl’s beginnings along the banks of the

Chattahoochee.

“I come from tying a thread to the leg

of a June bug, watching it fly round and

round in circles trying to break free.”

Within this bucolic Southern beauty,

Eve begins to weave a few anti-Semitic

incidents that happened to her and her

brothers, Jewish kids growing up on a

farm in the mid-20th century. Later, she

includes bits about segregated school

buses and classrooms, of current events

such as The Temple bombing, the sit-ins

at Rich’s, freedom riders, and long-ago

lynchings.

Eve goes off to Smith College, then

California, where she meets her future

husband. They return to the Neely farm,

build a house, and raise their children.

Eve regrets selling some of the land and

the building of houses in subdivisions.

“My children stubbed their toes on

this earth, swam in the river’s cold water,

newborn calves suckled their fingers.

Now vapor lights numb nighttime skies

and spiral topiaries frame a bronze sign

with a mallard announcing Neely Farm.”

Deeply moving are Eve’s stories of

the Holocaust and the children lost. And

in her own family, descriptions of losing

her husband are sadly told in heartfelt

stanzas.

Eve Hoffman has written a memoir

in poetry within the complicity of her

times: the realities of churches failing

to give comfort to AIDS victims and of

KKK crosses burned on top of Stone

Mountain.

One has to appreciate that she has put

her own history and sensitivity into this

book of poems.

Poems evoke a beautiful

landscape in a troubled time

BY Carolyn Gold

 

 

 

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