Tuesday, November 24, 2009

News from the Polish Diaspora

Joanna Czechowska, author of the highly acclaimed Anglo-Polish novel The Black Madonna of Derby, recently published an article about why she started speaking Polish again after four decades. The article is called "After my Polish grandmother died, I did not speak her native language for 40 years," and a PDF of the piece can be downloaded by clicking here.

Linda Nemec Foster's new book of poems, Talking Diamonds, is now available from New Issues Press.

Poet Lisel Mueller said the following about it,

In this luminous new book of poems, Linda Nemec Foster shows us that there are no "ordinary" lives, that each life is meaningful and even magical, whether we know it or not. The brilliance and power of Foster's language, which has been evident in earlier volumes, is even stronger in this book.

John Guzlowski's
Third Winter of War: Buchenwald, about his father's experiences in the Nazi concentration camp, has recently been reviewed by Jennifer Whitaker for StorySouth.

Christina Pacosz's chapbook Notes from the Red Zone is the first in a series of re-issues by The Seven Kitchens Press. Leslie Hayreth's review of this excellent book recently appeared in Fieralingue.

Grzegorz Wroblewski's poem "In The Afternoon Babylon" (translated by Adam Zdrodowski) appears in the current of Exquisite Corpse.

Andrena Zawinski recently gave a reading and interview on the Jane Crowne Show.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cecilia Woloch's Carpathia

Cecilia Woloch is a poet I like a lot, and it's not just because she's a Polish-American and she writes about Poland, and it's not because she's probably done as much in recent years as Janusz Zalewski to bring Polish and American poets together.

I like Cecilia Woloch because her poems touch me. Years ago, I wrote a short blog piece about the poems I like to read, good poems, and here's part of what I wrote:

"Someone asked me recently how I know what is good poetry and what isn't. There is the long story of what is good and the short story of what is good. The long story involves criteria and personal biography, the short story involves a simple statement. I'll give you the short story. What I feel is 'good' is what touches me."

Cecilia's new book Carpathia touches me.

I grew up hearing stories about the lives of people who started with nothing and ended up with nothing and spent most of their lives working for something, anything, that would feed the hunger that nothing brings. Sometimes they would find something and it would bring them joy. And sometimes it would bring them sorrow.

But the stories they told were never about the sorrow. They were about the search for joy or wisdom or friendship or love or honor that left the sorrow behind.

Cecilia's poems are like those stories. They takes you by the hand and ask you to rest and breathe and listen to the songs in the wind, the voices from the past and the voices from faraway telling you their stories.

Her book is full of such stories, and here are two I really really like, "Anniversary" and the title poem "Carpathia."


Didn’t I stand there once,
white-knuckled, gripping the just-lit taper,
swearing I’d never go back?
And hadn’t you kissed the rain from my mouth?
And weren’t we gentle and awed and afraid,
knowing we’d stepped from the room of desire
into the further room of love?
And wasn’t it sacred, the sweetness
we licked from each other’s hands?
And were we not lovely, then, were we not
as lovely as thunder, and damp grass, and flame?


Having rinsed off the soot and stink
of the Polish train,
having sung with the child.

Having eaten and laughed and wept,
had my vodka with apple juice,
my bread.

Having walked through the fields
at dusk, and into the forest
and back again--

meadows of buttercups,
thistles with bristling heads,
the first blue cornflowers of June.

Having opened my arms to the sky
falling back on itself
in my dizziness.

Having taken the small purple berries
that dropped from the wild bush
into my palm

--Siberian berries, like tiny plums--
put their sweet bitter inkiness
onto my tongue.

Having failed and failed at love.
Having gone anyway,
breath after breath.

Having trusted the world to be kind
and stood in the doorway
and listened for wolves

and heard my own dead in the high
grass whispering,
beloved, beloved, beloved.


Her new book is available at BOA editions, or Amazon.com.

You can also find out more about Cecilia at her website or by taking a look at the other Writing the Polish Diaspora posts about her: Woloch and Luczaj Read in Krakow and Cecilia Woloch's New Book Narcissus.