Joseph Brodsky used to tell this anecdote, repeated in his Nobel lecture. A journalist was interviewing him and Mark Strand and maybe John Ashberry. At some point, the journalist asked something like, “To pose the Adorno question, how can you write poetry after Auschwitz?” [The original Adorno line, taken out of context, is “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”] To which, Mark Strand retorted, “How can you eat lunch after Auschwitz?” Over at the New York Review of Books:
My Death (1968)
Sadness, of course, and confusion.
The relatives gathered at the graveside,
talking about the waste, and the weather mounting,
the rain moving in vague pillars offshore.
This is Prince Edward Island.
I came back to my birthplace to announce my death.
I said I would ride full gallop into the sea
and not look back. People were furious.
I told them about attempts I had made in the past,
how I starved in order to be the size of Lucille,
whom I loved, to inhabit the cold space
her body had taken. They were shocked.
I went on about the time
I dove in a perfect arc that filled
with the sunshine of farewell and I fell
head over shoulders into the river’s thigh.
And about the time
I stood naked in the snow, pointing a pistol
between my eyes, and how when I fired my head bloomed
into health. Soon I was alone.
Now I lie in the box
of my making while the weather
builds and the mourners shake their heads as if
to write or to die, I did not have to do either.