Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Polish-American Writers Read in New York City

This coming Friday, January 2, five Polish-American writers will talk about their ethnic background and read from their writings. The session will begin at 330 and go until 530 at the Hilton Hotel, 1335 Avenue of the Americas. The event is sponsored by the Polish American Historical Association, and complete information regarding registering for the conference is available at the PAHA website.

The session is entitled "Writing the Polish American Experience: East Coast."

The featured speakers are:

Stephen Lewandowski who was born in 1947 in Canandaigua, New York, where he still lives in a house built by his great grandfather. He has published eight books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently One Life (Wood Thrush Books, 2001). He has recently published a series of poems about his father available at The Scream Online. He is involved in environmental protection.

Sharon Mesmer is a 2009 Fulbright Senior Specialist candidate and a two-time New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in poetry. Her books include Annoying Diabetic Bitch (poetry, Combo Books 2008), The Virgin Formica (poetry, Hanging Loose Press, 2008) and Ma Vie à Yonago (fiction, Hachette Littératures, in French, 2005). She teaches undergraduate fiction writing, literature courses and MFA poetry seminars at the New School. She blogs at Virgin Formica.

Joseph Lisowski grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, near the Heppenstal Steel Mill. He taught for 10 years in St. Thomas, VI., which serves as the setting for his three published mystery novels, Full Body Rub, Looking for Lisa, and Looking for Lauren. He has also published four poetry collections: Stashu Kapinski Gets Lucky , Fatherhood at Fifty, Stashu Kapinski Strikes Out, Near the Narcotic Sea. He currently teaches at Elizabeth City State University, in South Carolina.

John Surowiecki is the author of two poetry collections, Watching Cartoons before Attending a Funeral (White Pine Press, 2003) and The Hat City after Men Stopped Wearing Hats (The Word Works, 2006 Washington Prize), and five chapbooks. My Nose and Me: (A TragedyLite or TragiDelight in 33 Scenes) won the Verse Drama Award from the Poetry Foundation.

Bill Zavatsky was born in 1943 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In the seventies and eighties, he directed the publication efforts of SUN, an independent literary press, bringing out thirty-five titles as well as several issues of SUN magazine and a two-shot specialty publication called Roy Rogers. He is the author of two books of poems, Where X Marks the Spot and Theories of Rain and Other Poems, two volumes of translation (Valery Larbaud and André Breton), and has published his work in many magazines and in anthologies, including The Face of Poetry, Up Late: American Poetry Since 1970, and The Jazz Poetry Anthology. His poems have served as liner notes for recordings by jazz pianists Bill Evans and Marc Copland. He himself has been a musician since childhood and specializes in jazz piano and the blues.

John Guzlowski will moderate.


Jeremy Edward Shiok at Two Review said...


This event looks fantastic! I'm sorry to miss it, but alas, I'm stuck in sub-zero Alaska until break-up. All best to you and those involved, especially John S., whose poems helped make Two Review what it is. Stay tuned for TR 2009 (January), which includes new poems by Linda Nemec Foster, and do spread the word: We're reading for the next issue already. Happy New Year! -- Jeremy

Danusha Goska said...

Whenever I hear, always by accident, about events like this, I always wonder who is making these decisions about what constitutes a Polish American writer, and why I am not included on that list.

I just received a devastating communication from a reader who wouldn't want to be identified in any way -- except I will say that this reader self-identified as Polish American.

The reader had read my essay at TheScreamOnline, "A Small Miracle." The reader said that the events described in that essay paralleled their experience so closely that this reader "wondered if I do not have a twin."

The reader went on to say that since this reader found so much of their own experience in "A Small Miracle," they wondered if there were not a lot of us out there, that is, Polish and other Bohunk Americans floundering in today's highly balkanized, identity-politics-driven Academia without alllies. Because Bohunks have not formed a supportive community in Academia.

And yet ... in spite of the overwhelming response to this essay, a response I've received from other Bohunk Americans before, always in the form of individual emails, all of whom report feeling kin to my story and my experience, and all of whom say something like, "Before I read your essay I thought I was the only one," I am not considered a Polish American writer by the folks who plan events like this one and I am not on the list of those invited.

And "TheScreamOnline" is very much not a Polish American publication and the editor is not Polish American. And yet the American editor ran that essay, an essay that readers find, on their own. Readers, of a variety of ethnic groups, continue to send me emails about it many years after its initial publication. In short, "A Small Miracle," about a Polish American woman in academia, has resonance. But I'm not a Polish American writer, in the eyes of the planners of events for Polish American writers.

Yes, I do wish we respected and supported our own, and I do wish we ... were a "we" in some real sense.

John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Danusha,Janusz Zalewski and I selected the readers for this reading. We did the same for the previous two PAHAs.

We chose Polish American poets and fiction writers with established reputations who we thought would bring something valuable to the discussion.

In the past, you've said that you don't want to be asked.