Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Polish American Studies Online

Dear Friends, I recently received a note from Anne Kirchmann, the President of the Polish American Historical Association. She informed me that the journal Polish American Studies was now online. It is available through the History Cooperative at:

This journal has published articles on every aspect of Polish American life. There have been articles about Polish-American artists, parishes, workers, literature, history, music, and so much more. (The current issue contains a review of my book Lightning and Ashes, about my parents and their experiences in the concentration camps in Germany.)

Here's a description of the the journal:

Polish American Studies is an interdisciplinary, refereed scholarly
journal, published twice each year. It is a member of the History
Cooperative and JSTOR electronic databases and is abstracted in
Historical Abstracts, America: History and Life, and The Catholic
Periodical and Literature Index.

The editors welcome scholarship including articles, edited documents, bibliographies and related materials dealing with all aspects of the history and culture of Poles in the Western Hemisphere. They particularly welcome contributions that place the Polish experience in historical and comparative perspective by examining its relationship to other ethnic experiences.

Contributions from any discipline in the humanities and social sciences are welcome.

Recent acceptance rates for unsolicited manuscripts were: 28.6% in 2007, 47.2% in 2006 and 36.4% in 2005. Inquiries and submissions may be sentto the editor, James S. Pula, at .

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Recently, poems by Phil Boiarski, Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska, Elisabeth Murawski, and Christina Pacosz have appeared in an issue of the photography journal Private devoted to Poland and the vision of Polish photographers. The poems and the photos are stark, whimsical, touching, shocking, and inspiring.

A preview of the journal is available online.

Here are some of the poems:

How We Learned About the War

Elisabeth Murawski

There were the pictures from Life,
the spider in the brain of Harry Truman
saving the boys time by dropping the bomb.

There were the silent films of opened
boxcars in Poland, the sticks and stones
with holes for eyes that went on living.

Parts of V-mail letters arrived, sometimes
after the telegrams lame with regret.
In the windows hung miniature flags,

their stars assigned a simple code
of blue, silver or gold. Gold
was for the unlucky. Only months,

years later would diaries come to light
so that we might hear the boots
that kept the Jews awake, see shadows

burned into a wall. Only then
would we see how the world always knows
what it is doing--girding for war

and whistling, while Lorca died and Picasso
on fire created the hips of Guernica.
Sometimes we forget the noose and its length--

how we are joined. We hang our souls
in windows prophets die for, playing
our parts at both ends, holding

our spotted coats in our hands.

(first published in The Literary Review, USA)


Phil Boiarski

Five thousand decades have passed
since the dragon with a taste for virgins
was slain by Prince Krak. The jewels
of royalty and the chambers of the rich
rise above the cave where the bones
mounded before the open wound
in the earth. The stench of rotting
flesh and the fiery belches of
the beast, led the brave knight
deep within the bowels of
the hill, to slay the evil thing.
And while the mass is said
and the choir sings, the beast
awaits within. Where once
again it will awaken.

At Morskie Oko Lake, Zakopane

Christina Pacosz

It is a gray country
even when the sky is blue
and today it is raining.
Mist gathers itself
a quiet fist
clutching the mountains.
Nuns in gray habits
walk over gray rocks
circling the lake.
If this is too much gray
look at the trees, green
bodies, beds of moss
waiting, the small blue
eyes of niezapominakji*
The nuns have disappeared
and only the shore of the lake
the eye of the sea
is visible, a narrow
border of aquamarine
filled with trout flicking
tails in cold water
swimming in the only
sky there is.

* forget-me-nots

( Christina's book, This Is Not a Place to Sing, West End, 1987)

A Patriotic Song (1981)

Katarzyna Boruń-Jagodzińska

Maybe it was a dream,
maybe it didn’t exist,
though everyone remembers
how this country
lived and suffered and loved.
It was sung in the margins of letters,
in hundreds of poems.
From the very beginning
it was branded with ash.
Poland —
a word wilted
by familial warmth:
mother and father
waiting at the table
to break the Christmas wafer
with the son who never returned
from the war,
the daughter who loves carousing,
and beloved cousin who cleans houses
in a foreign land.
The heirloom rosebush,
packed carefully in straw,
rots from excessive warmth,
though with each passing year,
the winters here grow longer.

(translated in English by Karen Kovacik)

Monday, August 11, 2008

John Guzlowski: Editor's Choice for KRITYA

Poet and Editor Rati Saxena has chosen some of my poems about my mother for the "Editor's Choice" feature of KRITYA, an online Journal of Poetry.

The selection of poems includes several from my book Lightning and Ashes as well as some recent poems written since my mother's death. The poems are available in Hindi as well as English.

Here's one of the poems Rati Saxena chose:


My mother learned that sex is bad,
Men are worthless, it is always cold
And there is never enough to eat.

She learned that if you are stupid
With your hands you will not survive
The winter even if you survive the fall.

She learned that only the young survive
The camps. The old are left in piles
Like worthless paper, and babies
Are scarce like chickens and bread.

She learned that the world is a broken place
Where no birds sing, and even angels
Cannot bear the sorrows God gives them.

She learned that you don't pray
Your enemies will not torment you.
You only pray that they will not kill you.


Lightning and Ashes is also available from the publisher, Steel Toe Books.

Monday, August 4, 2008


After posting the earlier piece on Linda Nemec Foster's "Ten Songs From Bulgaria," I asked her to tell me something about the inspiration for this new book.

Here's what she wrote:

Ten Songs from Bulgaria is my latest chapbook (my eighth poetry collection) and it was recently published by Cervena Barva Press in Massachusetts. It was a top finalist in the Press' national chapbook competition and, although it did not win, the editor accepted the manuscript for publication. The poems were inspired by the black and white photographs of Bulgarian artist, Jacko Vassilev.

Several years ago, Harper's Magazine featured a portfolio of his work and I was very moved by his haunting portraits of the people that inhabit the fringes of Eastern European society: the inmates of mental institutions, the very poor, the homeless veterans, the destitute and abandoned, the itinerant musician and his performing bear trying to smile for the camera. I knew I had to write poems in response to Vassilev's work.

With my Polish and Slavic heritage, I have always been fascinated by the "other Europe"---not the traditional tourist traps of Britain, France, Italy, or Germany (they certainly have their allure)---but the landscape of central and eastern Europe that only recently has been released from history's dark shadow. In some places, that shadow still persists and Vassilev's photographs reflect the people living there with their joys, sorrows, exurberance, and pain. I hope my poems in some way recognize their lives and honor their spirits. As poet and writer living in America, I was overwhelmed by these images from the other side of the world.


Linda's Ten Songs from Bulgaria is available from Cervena Barva Press.

Vassilev's photos are available for viewing online at his website.

You can find out more about Linda Nemec Foster at her website.