Monday, March 15, 2010

Two Polish Girls Standin' Around Readin' Poetry

Cecilia Woloch and Sharon Mesmer, two excellent Polish-American poets, will be reading this Saturday at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. If you have a chance, you have to stop by and see and hear them read. I've seen them read, and I'll never forget it.

Here's the pertinent information:

Two Polish Girls Standin' Around Readin' Poetry:
Cecilia Woloch and Sharon Mesmer
Saturday March 20 at 2 p.m.
Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery
(Between Houston and Bleecker)
F train to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker

And here are a couple of their poems:

CARPATHIA by Cecilia Woloch

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.

Blue-Collar Typeface by Sharon Mesmer

From the colophon to Aaron Simon’s Carrier, Insurance Editions, 2006:

“Gotham 2003: This plain yet quintessential font was designed by Tobias Frere- Jones and is based on vernacular architectural lettering found throughout New York City. It is a blue-collar typeface that is both utilitarian and perfectly simple.”

Some people would like to be blue-collar
without actually having been born blue-collar.
While you,
who were born blue-collar,
wish you could afford something more
than the Wendy’s salad bar.

Some people who are proud of how blue-collar
they think they are
speak roughly to waiters,
never look them in the eye,
and refuse to pay to get into poetry readings,
while afterwards
they’re back home
putting their Manhattan co-op on the market
so they can buy a house
on the outskirts of Paris.
Some of these people are your friends.
They will surprise you.
Because someday you will discover
that all that time they seemed so interested
in what you had to say about your
blue-collar upbringing,
they never found actual blue-collar people
all that interesting.

Because a blue-collar person can’t recommend them to an editor
or get them into an MFA program
or set them up with a teaching job.
Blue-collar people often don’t care about
academic poetry,
the breaking of the line,
and they may not necessarily give a shit about anything
Noam Chomsky ever said.
But that doesn’t mean that blue-collar people are
“utilitarian” or
“perfectly simple.”
I know lots of useless,
imperfectly complicated
blue-collar people.
And their line breaks
kick your line breaks’s


Cecilia Woloch's new book Carpathia is available at BOA editions, or

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.

Sharon Mesmer is a recipient of two New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellowships. The Virgin Formica (Hanging Loose) and Annoying Diabetic Bitch (Combo Books, her most recent books, were published in 2008. Her blog is available online . She also reviews books and music for the Brooklyn Rail.


Joe M said...

This comment is really asking for help. I am in my 70's now and would ask for references as to where to begin to study poetry and its various styles. I always thought poems were essays, stories that had to have a distinct meter and words ending a line had to rhyme. I see what are termed poems everywhere where this is hardly the case. Thank you in advance.

John Guzlowski said...

Thanks for the comment, Joe. I think that poems have changed in the last 100 years, just like songs and movies and paintings.

The kind of song that was popular in 1910 is not the same kind of song that's popular today.

Where to begin learning about the changes in poetry?

I recommend reading some recent poems by people who are considered good poets. One poet I like is Billy Collins who was the US Poet Laureate a couple years ago. There are a number of his poems at the Poets.Org site:

I would also be happy to talk to you about modern poetry. Drop me a line at