Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Polish-American fiction writer Anthony Bukoski's new North of the Port has been receiving extremely positive responses.

The May 15, 2008 Booklist review said of this work, “Bukoski’s heart-piercing, poetic fiction of place and ethnicity makes one wish to be Polish, too, despite the heartbreak.”

Tony's new collection was also recently been listed by the Boston Globe as one of the 10 best summer reads for 2008. Here's what the Globe said:
Twelve poignant short stories about Polish immigrant families in the mid-20th century, most set in Superior, Wis., a few in Louisiana. Something of the feeling of Willa Cather's "My Antonia," catalyzed with a powerful Catholic atmosphere."

Earlier this month, The Daily Telegram's Anna Kurth wrote an extensive article about Tony and his new collection. Here's a part of what she wrote:

Anthony Bukoski writes his stories long hand.

He writes about the East End, Poles and immigrants looking to make new homes against the backdrop of Lake Superior. Northern Wisconsin, its climate, its landscape and its people are his inspiration.

The author on Friday released his fifth book of short stories “North of the Port.”

A professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, he has been writing since the early 1970s. His first published story was picked up in 1974 by Wisconsin Review magazine. Bukoski has been writing ever since, and all his works focus on northwestern Wisconsin and his home city of Superior.

“That’s my goal — to try to bring attention to us,” he said. “They’re all Superior stories. ... I have no reason to write about anything but Superior. ... There’s no place as stimulating for me.”

The people of northern Wisconsin are just as important as people in Paris or Moscow, he said.

“I want to bring recognition to Superior ... because we deserve recognition in literature,” he said. “People here are just as brave, tragic, foolish as people anywhere. But we’ve not been heard from up here.”

Bukoski’s other books of short stories include “Twelve Below Zero,” “Children of Strangers,” “Polonaise,” and “Time Between Trains.” The first, “Twelve Below Zero,” was published in 1986. An expanded edition of the book is being released this September.

All of Bukoski’s works focus on Superior from the 1950s until now.

Superior readers are drawn to Bukoski’s stories because they recognize the landscapes and the character types, he said.

Bukoski draws his characters from people he knows, and often local readers will try to identify the people his characters are based upon, he said.

Bukoski also writes book reviews, short stories and essays. “I haven’t found the strength to write a novel yet,” he said. “I desperately want to do that.”

“North of the Port” is a collection of short stories that follows a family of displaced persons who’ve moved to Louisiana after World War II to work on sugar cane plantations. The family moves north to Superior’s East End, and most of the stories take place in Superior or have a strong connection to the city, Bukoski said.

Immigrants from several eastern European countries — Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland — moved as displaced persons to the United State’s south east region. There they experienced tough working conditions in the sugar cane fields and mills. Some of them moved north, and “North of the Port” follows one such fictional family from Louisiana to Superior, he said.

“There were a lot of people in the East End who came from the old country,” he said.

Bukoski’s grandparents came from Poland. He said he remembers them and other people who emigrated to Superior from countries like Poland and Finland living in the neighborhood.

He was inspired to write about immigrants in “North of the Port” because he wants to bring recognition to the people who built the town as much as to the town itself.

While researching for “North of the Port” Bukoski visited the cane fields at harvest time in Louisiana and a co-op where sugar is refined. He lived in Louisiana for a year in the 1980s.

He finds inspiration for his stories by reading works by great writers, visiting the woods and his memories of life in the East End.

“I want to express all these delightful moments I’ve had — delightful and sorrowful,” he said.


Anonymous said...

Hi- I'm working on a critical essay about Bukoski and looking for the Ann Kurth article-- hasn't turned up on the web and I'm wondering if you might be able to point me to it. Many thanks.

John Guzlowski said...

Brendan, the article appeared in the Superior Daily Telegram, and it's by Anna Kurth. Not Ann as I had in the piece here. The essay appeared on June 4, 2008. You should be able to see it in the paper's archive.

I tried to access it this morning and it appears to be down temporarily. Let me know if that helps.