“The Blizzard”

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My father Bohdan Kurowski left memoirs that I’ve been editing for the past 16 months or so.  Some of those recollections depict  father’s childhood, including his forced exile, at the age of six, to Kazakhstan—as part of the Soviet deportations of Poles during the war. The Column presents excerpts from those memoirs, translated into English. Thank you for reading.

 

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Abusing the Most Vulnerable

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So sad and disappointing.  Bernie Sanders ties gun violence with mental illness, IGNORING the fact that such violence is FAR MORE FREQUENT among the so-called NORMAL people.  Mentally ill people are repeatedly (and habitually) scapegoated by politicians to detract attention from systemic flaws that make average—or “normal”—Americans angry and afraid.   STOP ABUSING ILL PEOPLE, BERNIE  SANDERS AND OTHERS! They need your help, not libeling!

Proportionally, the mentally ill are FAR LESS AGGRESSIVE than the people not diagnosed with mental illness.  And yet almost every commentator in the USA labels them as culprits after a major gun-violence incident.

What is it, stupidity, laziness, or ill will?

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Talented Daughter, Brave Mother

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Cover_Final_7.1_Ansicht.inddIn the most recent interview in The Column I present two extraordinary persons.  One of them is a young artist Justyna Palka, the other her mother Malgorzata Palka, the author of a biographical album about Justyna, titled She Simply Disappeared.  Sadly, Justyna Palka died tragically a few years ago.  Recalling her daughter’s life and accomplishments, Malgorzata recounts a story of pain but also of a life that keeps shining beyond death.  It is a story of beauty, courage, and endurance.

Please take a few moments to read my conversation with Malgorzata Palka.

 

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“You Who Wronged” by Czesław Miłosz

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It may be helpful to remember in this difficult time the powerful poem “You Who Wronged” by Czesław Miłosz (in Richard Lourie’s translation):

 

You who wronged a simple man
Bursting into laughter at the crime,
And kept a pack of fools around you
To mix good and evil, to blur the line,

Though everyone bowed down before you,
Saying virtue and wisdom lit your way,
Striking gold medals in your honor,
Glad to have survived another day,

Do not feel safe.
(…)

 

The entire poem can be found at the Poetry Foundation

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Interview with Naomi Gladish Smith

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V as in Victor

Naomi Gladish Smith was born in England of American parents who returned to the U.S. with their family at the beginning of World War II. Three of her novels, The Arrivals, The Wanderers, and The Searchers use Swedenborgian beliefs to explore what the afterlife might be like. The Searchers was a finalist in USA Best Books 2011 – Visionary Fiction category. Naomi’s most recent book, V as in Victor, is a memoir about her father. Her essays and short stories appeared in JAMA, The Christian Science Monitor, Soundings Review, and elsewhere; she also read her essays on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station.
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V as in Victor by Naomi Gladish Smith
eLectio Publishing 2014

read the interview

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Contained

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Contained:

Accumulation (a gentle word for organized hoarding) breeds containers. I am in a container that contains containers.

Plastic containers containing plastic goods, all made of petroleum for which we have been waging wars. A collection of containers for food, contained in my closets and the refrigerator. A container for CDs with contents. Negatives kept in plastic roll-containers kept in a plastic box kept in a drawer kept in a desk kept in a room kept in an apartment kept in a building. A container for garbage.

A container that will contain whatever is left of my body after I die. I do hope my relatives empty the container – so that my remnants are free. But there is a problem, the container will stay with my relatives. Please, put my ashes in a brown paper-bag and burn the bag after you scatter my ashes. Then scatter the ashes of the container.

©JK

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Posted in Musings. 1 Comment »

Pilsen Snow

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418Kolin_Philip_COVIn mid-2015 Philip C. Kolin, the editor of the Southern Quarterly and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi, published his seventh collection of poems Pilsen Snow: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Kolin’s poems emerge “from a personal and collective history” of Pilsen, a large Czech neighborhood on the near west side of Chicago which in the early part of the 20th Century “boasted having the second largest Czech population in the world.” In The Column, Kolin talks about the complexities of maintaining a Czech identity in America, evoking the people, places, and historical events, and even the language of his childhood. These Czech immigrants and their descendants had to “live in two worlds at once.”

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To read the conversation with Philip C. Kolin, about Pilsen Snow, click here or on the book’s cover

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“Romeo & Juliet”

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INTRIIn response to the many enthusiastic comments I have received regarding the cover of Intricacies, I would like to disclose that the cover art is a reproduction of the oil canvas Romeo and Juliet (1959) by Stefan Papp, who has dedicated the painting to the memory of my father Bohdan Kurowski. The cover was designed by my son Paweł Młynarczyk, who also have restored, in Photoshop, the image’s original color.

 

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“Snow” sung by Ivaana Muse

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Ivaana Muse

Ivaana Muse

I felt very happy and honored when, several months ago, artist Ivaana Muse asked me whether she could use one of my poems as the lyrics for a song she intended to compose. Ivaana chose “Snow”—the very first poem from the series Conversations With The Ashes I wrote after my father Bohdan Kurowski passed away. Ivaana and I corresponded about the sounds I would associate with the poem; about our fathers, and our memories of them… It has been such an enriching exchange.

Even though “Snow” was not written as a song lyrics, somehow I anticipated Ivaana would create a SONG—that is, a “traditional” piece that has rhythm, melody… So when Ivaana sent me her composition, I was quite surprised. Ivaana describes this piece as “sung poetry composed aleatorically.” Singing poetry has a very strong tradition in my native Poland, and of course a poem sung differs significantly from a song. It seems to me, Ivaana’s composition both draws from the tradition and stands out of it. I felt I needed to calm down to listen to her piece, in order to hear it fully, to let it speak to me—for it touches much more than just the surface-perception; it demands a response much deeper than the one a “regular” song would be likely to induce.

There is such a richness of sound in Ivaana’s rendition of “Snow”… the crying of the cello that, somehow, reminds me of the compositions of the great Karol Szymanowski… and silence… and the pulse like that of a heart… and human voices. Listening to this piece I feel like the past I have let go too quickly, catches up with me to tell me something important… All the same, this past is timeless—an ever-altering present that “breathes” in Ivaana’s music, with its amazing richness and complexity… I can listen to Ivaana’s piece over and over, always finding something new in it. It is so much more than the “song” I had anticipated! I am deeply grateful to Ivaana Muse for creating this beautiful piece.

Click to hear “Snow” in Sound Cloud
Click to learn more about the creation of “Snow” as the poem and the music
Click to read the poem: • in English in Polish

Additional links:
Inclusions (Cervena Barva Press, 2014)—poetry collection including the poem “Snow”
• Selections from Conversations With The Ashes (bi-lingual)
• Biography of Bohdan Kurowski (text in Polish)

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A wish for 2016

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So tomorrow a new year begins… A great year—as prophesied! A year of new reflection over our experiences and emotions. By the end of 2016, we will be less afraid, more imaginative and understanding; we will gain a greater distance—and hence comprehend better—the changes of the last thirty years, including technology and science (like the nature of matter, cosmos, even of “magic”). We will feel freer with regards to the powers that try to control and manipulate our lives, such as for example certain industries and political entities. Hard as they try, they can’t destroy our human freedom (sadly, only we can do it…)  We will gain a better understanding of our own time and history, which will allow us better to comprehend just how our identities have emerged. For example, we will see more clearly that belonging to a history, a nationality, or a race, even a gender, are simply attributes. We just HAPPENED to be born in this place, not another, to this family, not another, to this culture, and not another. We could have been born somewhere else!  Important they may be, such identities DO NOT define us ultimately—though there have always been individuals or groups trying to use such characteristics for their own benefit, often presenting them as finite or “absolute,” thus completely twisting their meaning. There have been even times where we allowed ourselves to be trapped in such horrific manipulations, when we let others to convince us that a nationality or a culture, or a skin color are “inferior” to ours. In 2016 we will gain more clarity about those dreadful errors—and hence will have more courage to stand against such manipulations. Everyone deserves—and is capable of—respect, understanding, and love. Such deeper understanding will allow us to reflect deeper on our own identities and the identities of our fellow human beings; to study them with love and respect, while being less emotional, hence less afraid. We will feel less threatened because we will understand better the nature of aggression, which is a most pitiful, debasing state for a human being. Because we will understand better that in order to be happy and creative we need much less than we thought we did; we will shop and celebrate less—but instead, reflect and love more. We will spend less time chasing material goods but more time with friends and loved ones—talking, singing, walking, sitting on grass… We will be less afraid of the challenge of thinking, hence we will read more, including poetry—discovering or rediscovering, how liberating reading is. We will be less afraid of those, who think differently from us. Instead, we will grow more interested in other cultures, customs, beliefs. We will understand that the fact that someone thinks or behaves differently in no way threatens us; that in fact we can learn from those “others,” while enriching what we hold dear by deeper reflection and knowledge. We will become more emphatic, and more willing to help others, especially those, who need our help. We will make the world a better place.

2016 will be a blessed year—and I wish you this with all my heart!

Joanna Kurowska

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Poems choose the language

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In my recent interview for the Polish Daily Dziennik Związkowy, I talk about my beginnings in the USA, and about writing poetry in two languages.

Many thanks to Krystyna Cygielska, who has conducted the interview.

(The interview is in Polish. An English language-version is available here.)

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a glass half…

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a glass half...
…full!

 

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The Day I Became An American

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TBCSince I am a bi-lingual poet, the topic of language, especially of writing in two languages, recurs during my poetry readings and following discussions. Here is the link to a poem that addresses this particular theme: “The Day I Became An American”—first published in my poetry collection The Butterfly’s Choice, Broadstone Books 2015 (click the book cover to learn more about this collection).

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Musings

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Thought-creators in action:

During my vacation in Wisconsin I saw cows pasturing on green fields, turning their heads after me, as I walked or biked on the road nearby.  They seemed interested.

Then, at another farm, I saw calves chained in minuscule tents of whitish color, kept in the heat of the day, day after day, never be able to leave their prisons. A live veal, softened this way for your palate.

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Happy 4th of July!

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…☆

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Happy 4th of July!

 

☆…

 

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On “Morality”:

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What to think of a society, whose mass media show an endless gamut of violence—from the most crude and brutal to the most sophisticated and intricate—but blur the sight of human buttocks, to protect the public morale? Is that not a sheer madness? And we ARE that society.

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On talking

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So-called crazy people TALK to me, a stranger.  So-called normal people never talk to strangers.

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Poetry

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Poetry is the one thing I can never lie to.

J.K.

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Posted in Musings. Tags: . Leave a Comment »

BlogTalk Radio Interview

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Podcast of John Byk‘s BlogTalk Radio interview with Joanna Kurowska. December 6, 2014.

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Combatting Greedonomics with Giftonomics

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Instead of buying, GIVE.  Giving feels good!
Just an idea.

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