Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Joseph Lisowski's Letters to Wang Wei
Polish-American poet Joseph Lisowski grew up in the shadow of the Heppenstal Steel Mill in Pittsburgh among Poles and Polish Americans who still remembered the work they did in the old country, in Katowice and Lublin and Gdansk. What they taught him was that a man's life was mostly spent in exile, and much of Lisowski's life has been spent away from them and Pittsburgh.
Since leaving Pittsburgh, he has almost always lived and written his poems and novels near the sea. First in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and most recently near the outer banks of North Carolina. There he is a professor at Elizabeth City State University.
His most recent book Letters to Wang Wei is a series of letters he has written to the 8th-century Chinese poet in response to his poems. Lisowski's poems talk of beauty and loss, friendship and family, and the hope and longing that all exiles feel.
Here's one of the poem from this collection:
The peonies you touched
I touched too.
Held them to my face,
blood red in the spring garden
of another life.
I searched as your words told me:
deep in the flower's heart
Autumn was about to break.
I wanted too much then.
In the red lust of passion,
Forgive me for bruising your flowers,
for desire I cannot lose or break.
Joseph Lisowski's Letters to Wang Wei is available from Pudding House Publications.