Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded

Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded

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Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded by John Z. Guzlowski

Winner 2017 Benjamin Franklin GOLD AWARD for POETRY.
Winner 2017 MONTAIGNE MEDAL for most thought-provoking books.
"A searing memoir." — Shelf Awareness
"Powerful...Deserves attention and high regard." — Kevin Stein, Poet Laureate of Illinois"Devastating, one-of-a-kind collection." — Foreword Reviews"Gut-wrenching narrative lyric poems." — Publishers Weekly"Taut...beautifully realized." — World Literature TodayIn this major tour de force, John Guzlowski traces the arc of one of the millions of immigrant families of America, in this case, survivors of the maelstrom of World War II. Watch the book trailer at

Raw, eloquent, nuanced, intimate—Guzlowski illuminates the many faces of war, the toll it takes on innocent civilians, and the ways in which the trauma echoes down through generations.

His narrative structure mirrors the fractured dislocation experienced by war refugees. Through a haunting collage of jagged fragments—poems, prose and prose poems, frozen moments of time, sometimes dreamlike and surreal, other times realistic and graphic—Guzlowski weaves a powerful story with impacts at levels both obvious and subtle. The result is a deeper, more visceral understanding than could have been achieved through descriptive narrative alone.

This is the story of Guzlowski’s family: his mother and father, survivors of the war, taken as slave laborers by the Germans; his sister and himself, born soon after the war in Displaced Persons camps in Germany; the family’s first days in America, and later their neighbors in America, some dysfunctional and lost, some mean, some caring and kind; and the relationships between and among them all.

As Guzlowski unfolds the story backwards through time, he seduces us into taking the journey with him. Along the way, the transformative power of the creative process becomes apparent. Guzlowski’s writing helps him uncouple from the trauma of the past, and at the same time provides a pathway for acceptance and reconciliation with his parents.

Ultimately, then, this is a story of healing.

Because America is a land of immigrants with myriad and varied pasts, Guzlowski’s story may reflect pieces of your own family’s history, though details will of course differ. Something similar may also be the hidden story of one of your friends, or a colleague at work, or the sales clerk or waiter who serves you one day…or even, like Guzlowski, your professor of English literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781607720218
Publisher: Aquila Polonica
Publication date: 03/07/2016
Edition description: 1st edition
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Over a writing career that spans more than 40 years, John Guzlowski has amassed a significant body of published work in a wide range of genres: poetry, prose, literary criticism, reviews, fiction and nonfiction.

His poems and stories have appeared in such national journals as North American Review, Ontario Review, Rattle, Chattahoochee Review, Atlanta Review, Nimrod, Crab Orchard Review, Marge, Poetry East, Vocabula Review. He was the featured poet in the 2007 edition of Spoon River Poetry Review. Garrison Keillor read Guzlowski’s poem “What My Father Believed” on his program The Writers Almanac.

Critical essays by Guzlowski about contemporary American, Polish, and Jewish authors can be the found in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies, Polish Review, Shofar, Polish American Studies, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, and Studies in Jewish American Literature.

His previously published books include Language of Mules (DP Press), Lightning and Ashes (Steel Toe Books), Third Winter of War: Buchenwald (Finishing Line Press), and Suitcase Charlie (White Stag/Ravenswood). Guzlowski’s work has also been included in anthologies such as Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (Time Being Books), Cherries with Chopin (Moonrise Press), Common Boundary: Stories of Immigration (Editions Bibliotekos), and Longman Academic Reading Series 5 Student Book (Pearson Education ESL).

Guzlowski’s most recent book, Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded, won the Gold Award for Poetry at the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Awards, and the 2017 Montaigne Medal of the Eric Hoffer Awards as one of the most-thought provoking books of the year. It got excellent reviews from many reviewers, including Publishers Weekly, World Literature Today, Harvard Review, Shelf Awareness, the current Poet Laureate of Illinois, and a past Poet Laureate of Virginia. Winner of the Illinois Arts Council’s $7,500 Award for Poetry, Guzlowski has also been short-listed for the Bakeless Award and Eric Hoffer Award, and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and four Pushcart Prizes. He has been honored by the Georgia State Commission on the Holocaust for his work.

In reviewing Guzlowski’s book Language of Mules, Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz wrote, “Exceptional…even astonished me…reveals an enormous ability for grasping reality.”

Born in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II, Guzlowski came to America with his family as a Displaced Person in 1951. His parents had been Polish slave laborers in Nazi Germany during the war. Growing up in the tough immigrant neighborhoods around Humboldt Park in Chicago, he met hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead horses, and women who had walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians. In much of his work, Guzlowski remembers and honors the experiences and ultimate strength of these voiceless survivors.

Guzlowski received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Purdue University. He is a Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Eastern Illinois University, and currently lives in Virginia.

Bio of Charles Adès Fishman
Charles Adès Fishman, who wrote the Foreword to this book, is an award-winning poet, editor and Emeritus Distinguished Service Professor of English & Humanities, State University of New York. While his extensive oeuvre spans a broad spectrum of topics, he has particular interest in the Holocaust and the Jewish experience. Among his many credentials, Fishman has served as a poetry consultant to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. for more than twenty years.

Other Books by John Guzlowski:
Suitcase Charlie
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: White Stag/Ravenswood (2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1508975523
ISBN-13: 978-1508975526
Lightning and Ashes
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Steel Toe Books (2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0974326453
ISBN-13: 978-0974326450
The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald
Paperback: 36 pages
Publisher: Finishing Line Press (2007)
ISBN-10: 1599241749
ISBN-13: 978-1599241746
Jezyk mulów i inne wiersze/Language of Mules and Other Poems
Translated into Polish by Bohdan Zadura
Paperback: 109 pages
Publisher: Katowice: Biblioteka Slaska (2002)
Language: Bilingual Polish/English
ISBN 83-87849-38-3
Language of Mules
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: DP Press (1999)
Language: English

Table of Contents

FOREWORD by Charles Adès Fishman • xv

Where I’m Coming From • xvii
My People • xx

Dreams of Unhurried Memories • 2
The Wooden Trunk • 3
My Parents Retire to Arizona • 9
A Good Life • 10
Windows Without Scars • 11
What My Father Believed • 12
My Mother’s Hair • 14
My Father’s Mother Asks Him to Forget the War • 15
My Mother Talks About the War • 16
I. My Mother Reads My Poem “Cattle Train to Magdeburg” • 16
II. How Her Mother and Sister Died • 17
III. The Beets • 18
IV. Liberation • 20
V. What the War Taught Her • 22
Why My Mother Stayed with My Father • 23
A Garden in the Desert • 24
My Mother’s Optimism • 25
At the End: My Father • 26
I. My Father Dying • 26
II. Pigeons • 27
III. A Sonnet About Dying • 28
At the End: My Mother • 29
I. My Mother Prays for Death • 29
II. How Can I Ask My Mother • 30
III. Dying in a Blue Room in Arizona • 31
Souls Migrating in the Rain • 32

Refugees • 36
The Happy Times and Places • 37
First Snow • 39
Mother Tells Me How She Met My Father • 41
The Day I Was Born in the Refugee Camp • 42
Lessons • 44
My Father’s First Day in America • 46
Promised Land • 47
I. Coming to America, 1951 • 47
II. The Farms of Buffalo, New York • 48
III. Winter in America • 49
Looking for Work in America • 50
I. What My Father Brought With Him • 50
II. I Dream of My Father as He Was When He First Came Here Looking for Work • 51
III. His First Job in America • 52
Polish Triangle, Chicago • 53
All the Clichés about Poverty are True • 54
Friends in America: A Sonnet about Charity • 55
A Letter to My Mother from Poland, October 4, 1952 • 56
My Mother’s Sister After the War • 57
Later in the Promised Land • 61
Me in America, 1952 • 62
Stories My Sister Danusia Told Me • 64
I. Poor Adaś • 64
II. Sweet Little Birds • 65
III. The Storm • 65
Friends in America: Polack Joe’s Story • 66
The Stories My Grandmother Told My Mother • 68
Family Life After the War • 70
Fussy Eaters • 71
Whistling • 72
A Young Soldier from Częstochowa • 73
Here’s What My Mother Won’t Talk About • 74
Chores • 75
Friends in America: The Polish Captain of Lancers • 76
Danusia • 78
Friends in America: Murdertown • 80
The Evil that Men Do • 84
My Father’s Prayer • 86
Two Worlds of Language • 88
I. Missing Pieces • 88
II. Dumb Polacks • 89
III. Kitchen Polish • 90
IV. My Grandparents • 91
The Old Country • 94

Landscape with Dead Horses, 1939 • 96
September 1, 1939: The Day World War II Began • 97
Fear (A Poem Based on a Story by Tadeusz Borowski) • 99
My Mother Before the War • 101
My Father Before the War • 102
There Were No Miracles • 104
The German Soldiers • 105
I. German Soldiers Moving East • 105
II. German Soldiers Come to a Polish Village • 106
III. German Soldiers Stealing from the Dead • 107
IV. What the German Soldiers Left Behind • 108
My Mother Was 19 • 110
Cattle Train to Magdeburg • 112
My Father Talks about the Boxcars • 113
Grief • 114
A Cross of Polish Wood • 115
My Mother’s First Winter in Germany • 116
Sisters in the Labor Camps • 117
Hunger in the Labor Camps • 118
I. What My Father Ate • 118
II. What a Starving Man Has • 119
III. Among Sleeping Strangers • 120
IV. The Germans Who Owned Them • 122
A Story My Mother Heard in the Slave Labor Camp • 123
The Work My Father Did in Germany • 124
A Life Story • 125
My Father Tells a Story • 126
Brief History of a Mother’s Sorrow • 127
My Father’s Teeth • 128
The Forests of Katyń • 129
Third Winter of War: Buchenwald • 130
My Mother’s Dreams in Wartime • 142
What My Father Knows About Killing • 143
Today the Gypsies Are Burning • 144
Temptation in the Desert • 145
Photos of Dead Mothers • 146
The Bombing of Magdeburg • 147
Pietà in a Bombed Church, Magdeburg • 148
His Dead Eye • 150
Worthless • 151
War and Peace • 152
In the Spring the War Ended • 153

The Story Behind the Poems • 155
In Heaven • 159

”Red Poppies on Monte Cassino” • 161



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