Thursday, March 22, 2012

Polish American Writers and Artists Update

Karina Borowicz’s The Bees are Waiting has been selected by Franz Wright as winner of the 2011 Marick Press Prize.  The book will be published this April.  Until then, here’s a poem of hers recently published in the journal Contrary.  

He comes to understand
the spirit abiding in each scrap of wood
that passes through his hands

every child is born he says
knowing the language of trees
for so long our unformed ear
is pressed to the wall of eternity

with his hands he smoothes the wood
from which a face is beginning
to emerge

tools rest at his feet
the blackened little knife
a bent nail

Oriana Ivy has a new chapbook coming out from Finishing Line Press soon.  It's called April Snow, and you can buy copies right now at the pre-release price.  The book was the winner of the 2011 New Women's Voices Series.  Oriana continues to write her blog of poetry and ideas.  Her responses to questions of fate, epiphanies, destiny, love, heaven, and so much more are always engaging and inspiring.  Check out the latest piece at her blog by clicking here.

Martha Silano's Little Office of the Immaculate Conception was blogged about her at Writing the Polish Diaspora recently.  Click here.

Chris Wiewiora frequently posts his essays at The Good Men Project.  I especially liked his piece “Grand (re) Opening” about trying to reunite with an old girlfriend.  He also maintains his own website at  


Jack Kulpa’s excellent True North: Reflections on Fishing and the Life Well Lived (Taylor Trade edition, 2005) was the first book-length project to win the Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers.  Sports Afield ranked Jack's work as among "the greatest outdoor writing of the twentieth century." 

Translations of some of Grzegorz Wróblewski poems recently appeared in the Exquisite Corpse.  

Aimee Pozorski, president of the Philip Roth Society, continues her important scholarly work on Philip Roth with a new volume coming out soon on Roth and Celebrity.  She has also recently signed a contract with EBSCO/Salem to do the Critical Insights volume on Roth

Dr. Margaret Wacker recently had a piece published on the death of her mother in Physicians Practice.   Margaret has also started her own blog called Stories of Living with Ghosts.  

Evelyn Posamentier's book of wonderfully mysterious and evocative poems Poland at the Door is now available from Knives Forks and Spoons Press in the UK.  Here's one of the poems:  

This is where we switch trains
my room sails through the fog.
wait a minute.  sea sickness
throws me from wall to wall.
yet pastures settle their greenishness
in the sailing room.  the trains
become confused.  what next?

Bruce Lader, the husband of Polish Poet Renata Lader, has a book coming out called Fugitive Hope.  You can read more about it at his website.  

Bozena Zaremba continues her excellent series of interviews with pianists for the Chopin Society of America.  Here’s the link to the most recent, an interview with Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev.

Maria J. Pilatowicz's Walking on Ice, a novel about a young girl's life in Communist Poland, is now available from Tate Publishing.

John Guzlowski’s poem “Love Song of T. S. Eliot” appears at Nonforgotten.  His poem "38 Easy Steps to Carlyle's Everlasting Yeah" appears in City of the Big Shoulders, an anthology of poems about Chicago from University of Iowa Press.  He also recently gave an interview about the uses of memory in his book Lightning and Ashes in the online journal As It Ought to Be.  You can read the interview by clicking here.  His anthology of poems about Heaven and Hell (37 poets, 48 poems) appeared online recently at Scream Online.


The graphics were done by Grzegorz Wróblewski.  They appeared originally at The New Post-Literarte: A Gallery of Asemic Writing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Little Office of the Immaculate Conception by Martha Silano

Polish American poet Martha Silano’s newest book The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception (Saturnalia Books) has been chosen a Noted Book for 2011 by Poets.Org.


Here’s what the blurb at Poets.Org says about the collection:

Silano's third book contains poems that explore motherhood, casting new light on the quotidian, while at the same time, broadcasting messages about our common humanity to the cosmos.

While a sense of "the alien" is pervasive in this collection, and being alienated (from one's body, from one's friends, from one's needs) is the frustration from which Silano's manic energy stems, the use of sonic riffs and raucous humor enliven this work of the domestic and the divine—Silano's frenzied diction is just as much rooted in play and pleasure as it is in exhaustion or pain. This sense of celebration, paired with a sense of wonder at one's surroundings provides a comforting antidote to alienation. In the poem, "Because I Knew," Silano writes
                                                because I knew

that rather than interview a bolas spider, you'd
dial me up on the last pay phone, the one
   out back

of Tacoma Screw. Because I knew it was
like a cashmere-wool blend sock and the pair
   of leopard-

print panties it's electrically sticking to, I
   was wishing
for no red lights because you're Fantasia
   Fun Park,

the Red Dragon Casino, Rock and Roll's Greatest
The poem moves from this localized scene and opens up to the realm of space. It ends,
Because I knew you'd understand this—you, me, 
   our sibling

earthlings, our sibling citizens of this swirly world,
which only grows bluer the farther away from it
   we get.


I haven't read this collection of poems yet, but I read and enjoyed her earlier one Blue Positive (Steel Toe Books).  Her poems about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood never stop engaging the reader.


Here's one of my favorite poems from the book:

Getting Kicked by a Fetus

Like right before you reach your floor, just
before the door of an elevator opens.
Like the almost imperceptible
springs you waded through
in Iroquois Lake.

Sometimes high and jabby near the ribs;
sometimes low and fizzy like a pie
releasing steam, like beans
on the stovetop — slow

like the shimmer of incoming tide — hot, soft sand
meeting waves, slosh bringing sand crabs
that wriggle invisibly in.

And sometimes a school of herring
pushing through surf,
or a single herring

caught from a pier like a sliver of moon rising in the west;
sometimes a tadpole stuck in a pond growing smaller
and smaller, a puddle of mud, squirmy like worms —
now your left, now your right. Sometimes

neon flickering, like that Texaco sign near Riddle, Oregon —
from a distance it read TACO, but up close
the faintest glow, an occasional E or X,
like an ember re-igniting.

Like seeing your heartbeat through the thinnest part
of your foot, sunken well between ankle and heel,
reminder of a world beneath your skin, world
of which you know little,

and the pond growing smaller and smaller, soon the rolling waves
like the ones you dove into at Bradley Beach, at Barneget,
growing less frequent, your giant ocean
drying up, your little swimmer
sinking, giving way
to the waves
of his birth.

Martha Silano‘s The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception was chosen by Campbell McGrath as the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Martha teaches composition and creative writing at Bellevue College. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thad Rutkowski in the New York Times


Thad Rutkowski's short story "The Mountain Man" is featured today in the New York Times.

Here's the opening of the story.  The entire piece is available by clicking here:


I walked to the post office to pick up my family’s mail. When I opened the swinging doors, I saw that the dusty room was empty. Presently, the postmistress came out of her living area and stepped behind the counter.
While she checked a pigeonhole for mail, I looked at the “wanted” posters on the wall. They showed fugitives’ faces and described their crimes. Some of the men were “armed and dangerous”; others were “extremely dangerous.” I tried to memorize what they looked like, in case I saw one of them. If I did see one there wasn’t much I could do, because I had no weapon. I would just have to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction.
The postmistress handed me a roll of mail, and I went out through the heavy wooden doors.
On my way home, I saw a couple of hunters outside the hotel bar. They were wearing plaid wool coats and fleece-lined boots. As I walked past, I saw a dead deer in the back of their pickup truck. The deer had no antlers — it looked like an illegal kill.
In the truck cab, a gun rack held two rifles. Both of the guns had scopes and shoulder straps. I could imagine the hunters marching through the woods like soldiers, guns slung over their shoulders, barrels pointing into the air.
One of the men noticed me and asked, “Doing any hunting this season?”
I shook my head no and walked on.

Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the novels HaywireTetched and Roughhouse. He works as a copy editor, adjunct lecturer and fiction-writing instructor. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

"Pan Taddeus," a chapter of Rutkowski's novel Haywire, was featured last year at Writing the Polish Diaspora.  Click here to read it.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Suzanne Strempek Shea: Award-winning author rooted in faith, Polish heritage, experience

One of my favorite Polish-American novelists is Suzanne Strempek Shea, the author of the wonderful Selling the Lite of Heaven and Hoopi Shoopi Donna.

She recently gave an interview to the online journal MASSLIVE.  Here's the piece:

Award-winning local author Suzanne Strempek Shea can easily rattle off certain life experiences that have helped her evolve as a writer: her Polish background, growing up in a rural setting in Three Rivers, working as a newspaper reporter, surviving breast cancer, losing her dad and her best friend, both suddenly and unexpectedly, and how she views her faith.

All of these events – and then some – have shaped the 53-year-old author of “Selling the Lite of Heaven” and four other novels, as well as “Sundays in America” and two additional memoirs, and countless articles for newspapers and magazines.
She doesn’t go around pinching herself, but Strempek Shea says she feels so fortunate to have a life and career that have brought her accolades for her very detailed and often humorous writing style, and opportunities to share what she’s learned with budding writers.

One of those opportunities occurs at Bay Path College in Longmeadow where, three years ago, Strempek Shea started working as a writer-in-residence after having served as an adjunct professor there since the early 2000s. The opportunity to teach creative writing is more than a paycheck.

“Right now, I have 17 students, so I am getting 17 lessons every day on inspiration and perseverance, how to tell a story and how to get the work done,” said the winner of the 2000 New England Book Award that recognizes a literary body of work’s contribution to the region. “They’re showing me how to do it, and hopefully it’s an even exchange.”

In between her classroom teaching and mentoring other writers as a consultant, the Bondsville resident is finishing up her next book, a true story about Mags Riordan, an Irish educator who raised money to help build a medical clinic in the African nation of Malawi in memory of her late son.

One of the perks of being an author allows her the freedom to travel so she can write and teach. Ireland is one of her favorite locations to draw inspiration. During one visit, she got the idea for her novel “Becoming Finola,” about a young woman in search of herself who works in a small shop in a fictional town in Ireland.
Jokingly, Strempek Shea tells her students who want to be writers to “get in with a family who has relatives in cool places,” just as she did with her husband, Tom Shea, whose parents came from Ireland and who has other relatives over there.

When not in the classroom or across the ocean, Strempek Shea and her husband, a longtime writer and columnist for the Springfield Newspapers, take their wealth of knowledge and experience as writers on the road to local venues to share with wannabe authors about how they could fulfill their literary dreams.

“We’re kind of like evangelists a little bit. We love reading and writing and going around with our boxes of books and showing people,” she said. “(Our careers) have gotten us a very nice life. Why can’t other people try it if they want to?”

That spirit of sharing experiences led Strempek Shea to voluntarily hold a “Writing as Healing” workshop last September for survivors of the June 2011 tornado in Monson and other affected areas, noting “their stories are of historical and cultural importance to the town and the region.”
And for six weeks starting in March at the Hitchcock Free Academy in Brimfield, a grant will allow her to mentor other tornado survivors at a workshop with the potential of turning their stories into a book if they so choose, she said.

Like the tornado victims, Strempek Shea knows life changing events. Such as the time she was an infant and had a serious bout of pneumonia. Or when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and underwent radiation treatment. Or when her best friend Rosemary Wojtowicz died at age 23 in a horrible car accident.
These experiences could easily sour a person on feeling there is anything positive to believe in. But then, there’s her faith.

“It’s what I lean on,” she said. “I pray every morning and night. I do it for gratitude but I also hope things will go better for other people. I realize how lucky I am.”

God isn’t the only recipient of Strempek Shea’s appreciation.”Every time I speak, I start by saying I’m grateful to readers because if nobody reads, I wouldn’t get to do this,” she said.


If you want to read more about Suzanne, here's a link to her webpage.  Just click here.