Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays, 2011

Dear All,

It’s been a great year for Linda and me. 

In May, I passed the first anniversary of my open heart surgery, and I was happy to hear that after all the tests and consultations and examinations everything was fine.  My heart and all of its associative parts were clicking and clacking just the way they were supposed to.   This is great because we’ve been super busy this year.

A lot of our time has been spent with Lillian and Luciana, and we’ve all enjoyed watching Luciana grow and start talking more and more.  Lillian is keeping a running account on her Facebook page of the great things she and Luciana are doing.  If you aren’t a Facebook friend of Lillian’s you’re missing some wonderful stuff. 


Let me just give you one recent example.  When Lillian asked Luciana yesterday what she’s going to say to Santa when he asks her if she’s been a good girl, Luciana without hesitation said, “Ho, ho, ho.”




We’ve had two great vacations with Lillian and Luciana this year, one at Williamsburg and one Hilton Head.  The second was really super.  We spent a week there on the beach.  Luciana wasn’t sure what to make of it as first, but she soon figured it out.


Another highlight of the year was all the visitors we had in Danville.  There were visits from Linda’s parents Tony and Mabel, her sister Laura and her husband Bill, Linda’s cousin Nancy and her husband Naumann, and our nephew and niece Anthony and Kate Calendrillo and their kids Anna, David, and John.  Luciana was meeting some of them for the first time but they quickly became her favorite people.  As Christmas cards with photos come in, she loves the ones with photos of our visitors.  She’s got a terrific memory and is always pointing out her nanny and poppy, her uncles and aunts, and her cousins.


We hope this coming year we have even more guests, and I think we will.  I’ve already heard from Carol and Joe Glaser and Carol and David Stevens, telling us that they will be stopping by.

We’ve also done a lot of traveling this year, mainly cruises.  One of the highlights was the cruise Linda and her mom took to Canada in October.  They got to see whales! 


The other highlight was our Mediterranean cruise and transatlantic crossing. We both loved visiting Florence’s Uffizi museum and the volcanic mountains of Ponte Delgado in the Azores, but the absolute best was visiting Gaudi's Cathedral Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  It fills the eye and the soul.  

I've also had the pleasure of being asked to do a number of presentations about my parents and their experiences in World War II.  I've spoken to grade school students and college students, and just people curious about what happened to Poles like my parents.  The presentation I gave at St. Francis College was filmed, and you can watch it here.




It's been a great year, and we hope that all our friends and family members find as much happiness in the coming years as we've found this last year.
______________________

Wait!  Wait!  I forgot to mention that Linda won the Danville, VA, St. Patrick's Day race in her age group!


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Happy Pumpkin

Here are some pictures from Luciana's Halloween.
















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Monday, October 31, 2011

Ode to 7 Billion Human Beings


MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER MOVE OVER

Excuse me, Madam, I think you're standing on my baby.

Please move over.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peace


I came across a document today that I hadn't heard about. It's called the Assisi Decalogue for Peace. Back in 2002, Pope John Paul II and about 200 religious leaders got together in Assisi, Italy, to renew their efforts to promote peace. At this conference, there were Catholics and Jews and Buddhists and Mennonites and Quakers and Muslims and Zoroastrians and on and on.

After 10 days of talking and praying, they drew up a document and called it "The Assisi Decalogue for Peace." It was a 10-point program based on the conviction, as Pope John Paul II said, that "humanity must choose between love and hate."

That strikes me as a good conviction.

The document was sent to all the world's leaders. I'm not sure they all got it, but I hope they did, and I hope they read it again.

Here's "The Assisi Decalogue for Peace":

1. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are opposed to all true religious spirit and we condemn all recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion. We undertake to do everything possible to eradicate the causes of terrorism.

2. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to educate people about respect and mutual esteem in order to achieve peaceful coexistence and solidarity among members of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions.

3. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to promote the culture of dialogue so that understanding and trust may develop among individuals and peoples as these are the conditions of authentic peace.

4. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to defend the right of all human beings to lead a dignified life, in accordance with their cultural identity, and to start their own family freely.

5. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to engage in dialogue with sincerity and patience, without considering what separates us as an insurmountable wall, on the contrary, recognizing that facing our differences can become an occasion for greater reciprocal understanding.

6. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to pardon each other's errors and prejudices of the past and present, and to support one another in the common struggle against egoism and abuses, hatred and violence, and in order to learn from the past that peace without justice is not true peace.

7. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to stand at the side of those who suffer poverty and abandonment, speaking out for those who have no voice and taking concrete action to overcome such situations, in the conviction that no one can be happy alone.
8. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to make our own the cry of those who do not surrender to violence and evil, and we wish to contribute with all our strength to give a real hope of justice and peace to the humanity of our time.

9. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to encourage all initiatives that promote friendship between peoples, in the conviction that, if a solid understanding between peoples is lacking, technological progress exposes the world to increasing dangers of destruction and death.

10. WE COMMIT OURSELVES to ask the leaders of nations to make every possible effort so as to build, at both national and international level, a world of solidarity and peace founded on justice.We, as persons of different religious traditions, will tirelessly proclaim that peace and justice are inseparable, and that peace in justice is the only path which humanity can take towards a future of hope. In a world with ever more open borders, shrinking distances and better relations as a result of a broad network of communications, we are convinced that security, freedom and peace will never be guaranteed by force but by mutual trust.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philip Levine--Our New Poet Laureate


One of my favorite poets, Philip Levine, has just been made Poet Laureate of the United States. This makes me happy because I like him a lot.

When I first started reading poems, his stuck out from a lot of the other poems I was reading. They seemed to be written by guys and gals with upper-class backgrounds who went to high-class schools and seemed to write about stuff that really didn't enter into my world. We were working-class. My dad worked in a factory, and my mom cleaned offices in a skyscraper. When we got together over dinner, we didn't talk about Monet or Harvard or John Updike or Martha's Vineyard. We talked about how hot it was in the factory or about what kind of stuff the guys with Harvard educations were throwing into their office trashcans.

Philip Levine seemed to come from that world too. He was a working-class guy, and I always felt that his poems were about the world I lived in, a world of hard jobs, tough luck, dreams that kept us going, and families that fought to stay together but sometimes couldn't. I also liked his clarity. He was like all my favorite poets Whitman, Frost, Williams). He talked so that my mother and father, people with hardly any education at all, could understand.

He's written a lot of really good poems, and here are three of them that I like: "Detroit Grease Shop Poem," "The Simple Truth," and "Gospel."


Detroit Grease Shop Poem

Four bright steel crosses,
universal joints, plucked
out of the burlap sack --
"the heart of the drive train,"
the book says. Stars
on Lemon's wooden palm,
stars that must be capped,
rolled, and anointed,
that have their orders
and their commands as he
has his.

Under the blue
hesitant light another day
at Automotive
in the city of dreams.
We're all here to count
and be counted, Lemon,
Rosie, Eugene, Luis,
and me, too young to know
this is for keeps, pinning
on my apron, rolling up
my sleeves.

The roof leaks
from yesterday's rain,
the waters gather above us
waiting for one mistake.
When a drop falls on Lemon's
corded arm, he looks at it
as though it were something
rare or mysterious
like a drop of water or
a single lucid meteor
fallen slowly from
nowhere and burning on
his skin like a tear.


The Simple Truth

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."

Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love. Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.


Gospel

The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there's
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don't
ask myself what I'm looking for.
I didn't come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I've said to myself,
although it greets me with last year's
dead thistles and this year's
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider's cloth. What did I bring
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I've never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before
first light. "Soughing" we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.


______________________________

You can find out more about Philip Levine and read some of his poems at the Poets.Org site. Just click here.

The best source for his poetry online is the Contemporary American Poetry Archive. Just click here and you will be amazed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

War is a Racket



A couple of weeks ago I heard about how it was costing us 20 billion dollars to aircondition Afghanistan.

That's cool.

But now I'm hearing that the wars there and in Iraq may cost as much as 5 trillion dollars.

And I'm thinking that's way too much given that we defeated the enemies in both about 8 years ago.

So why are we still fighting there? Why are our soldiers still filling those red, white, and blue coffins? And how many coffins will 5 trillion dollars buy?

Read this essay by Amy Goodman called "War is a Racket."

Here's the link: War is a Racket

One of the things that people always ask me is "What can we do in the face of so much war?"

Kurt Vonnegut said that trying to stop a war was like trying to stop a glacier. He said that and then he wrote a book that tried to stop a glacier, Slaughterhouse-Five.

It didn't stop the glacier of war, but he tried nevertheless.

It's what we all have to do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Call of The Wild: Call for Submissions


My friends at Editions Bibliotekos are putting together an anthology of short fiction about our relationship to nature and they are looking for submissions. Here's there call. You can also visit their website by clicking here:

We are ready to work on another anthology, which would be our fourth. The theme is “nature’s world.” (The book’s main title will be Human / Nature). The full Call and additional Guidelines can be found by clicking on the Guidelines button at the top of this page: if you are interested in submitting, please refer to the Guidelines and Call.

The so-called nature’s world anthology will be our most challenging: there have been many such anthologies – how do we make ours different? As in the past, we rely on the creative ingenuity of our contributors: we are not looking to duplicate what has already been done regarding the natural world; we are not looking for science fiction writing; we are not looking for apocalyptic writing. As with our first three anthologies, we are concerned with the human factor. So with this anthology, what does it mean to be a human being, individually and socially, in the natural world? How does the natural world affect us – how do we shape the natural world – what are the connections and consequences? We are alive in a natural world and cannot deny that fact, and simultaneously the natural world cannot escape our touch.

As we say in the Call: There is a fine line to be drawn here: we do not need Emerson or Thoreau redux. We are not interested in so-called nature writing per se – that has been done and re-done. We are primarily interested in stories that deal with the changing climate in terms of how these changes affect people, families, communities (environmentally, ecologically, politically, historically, socially). We can imagine a story about a farmer: in Nebraska, in Vermont, in China, in South Africa. What’s happening to that farmer who sees her sheep starving, dying of thirst, or suffering from interminable illnesses? Climate is as much a metaphor as a social condition: what is the temperature in the atmosphere of our natural humanity? Some current terms that might set off ideas: Deep ecology; Evolution; Waste; Biosphere; Sustainability. We are looking for writing that goes beyond pollution reports, beyond news-writing about the ravages of mining – focus on the changing character of humankind (internally and externally) in relation to the environment.

The deadline (subject to change) is 1 September 2011, and of course, whether or not we complete an anthology on this theme depends on the quality of the material we receive. To complicate matters more: we want fiction only. Query us first: publisher@ebibliotekos.com - a few lines about you and your idea, and if we are interested, then we will ask you to send in the story.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tornado

Like everybody else, I've been watching the news from Joplin about the tornado that hit there. My hopes and prayers go out to those folks. I know the kind of fear that takes hold of you when a tornado appears.

Years ago, we were living in Charleston, Il, when a tornado hit the southeast edge of town. It set down near where we were living. Here's a poem I wrote about the time before the tornado and the time just after.


My Daughter Lillian is Outside Playing

In the quiet space of the dining room
My wife and I lay out the place settings

The forks beside the Wedgwood plates
The spoons and knives in their places.

A napkin in her hand, she pauses
And tells me again of how her mother

Would starch and iron the squares of cotton
Wash the plates by hand and again by machine.

I smile, nod my head and turn to the window
See the roof next door lift, shingles

Exploding like scattered sparrows, and there
It is—the howl of the locomotive wind

And then a pounding at the glass door
And a screaming that will not stop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poetry I Really Really Like: A MANIFESTO


Let me first say that there are poets and poems I really really like.

Here's a short list of poets who immediately and without prompting come to mind:

Whitman, Robert Lowell, Emily Dickinson, Randall Jarrell, Robert Frost, Ai, Wisława Szymborska, Homer, Francois Villon, Tadeusz Rozewicz, Elizabeth Bishop, Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert (we share a first name!), Auden, T. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Karl Shapiro, Philip Levine, Sharon Olds, Allen Ginsberg, Eavan Boland, Donald Hall, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Most of the poets on the list are dead, and the ones that aren't are getting along.

I'm not sure what that means except maybe it takes a while to figure out who you really like and who you really don't like. Poets and poems grow on you, or maybe you grow into them.

I've got an essay online about my relationship to the poetry of Emily Dickinson that talks about that. When I was a student I thought that what she was trying to tell me through her poems was pretty miserable, useless. I said, in fact, "They should feed this stuff [her poems] to the cows." I don't feel that way about her anymore. In fact, she's in the list above. Here's the link that will take you to my essay about what changed my mind. It's listed under essays in the menu on the left of the screen that will come up. Also, there's a poem there called "Midnight" about what I thought about her when I was a student: http://www.eiu.edu/~agora/May05/Guzall.htm

I've been thinking about and reading the poets in the above list for a while and I can say without equivocation that I really really like them.

I think that one of the other things my list of poets says about my taste in poetry is that I like serious poets, poets who tend to take a more or less gloomy view of things, see the dark side, the Darth Vader side of things.

So what's Whitman doing on the list?

Well, he's got that dark side too. It's there with his sunny side. He's a man who knows about the blues. You get this in a lot of his poems, but one I like a lot is one that's not read much. It's buried in the half a thousand pages that make up the later editions of Leaves of Grass. It's a poem called "This Compost." In it, Whitman talks about the wind that rises from the "sour dead" and licks his naked skin.

Yeah, Whitman has his gloomy side.

I like poets who talk about everyday things too, tools and hammers, car parts, branches and limbs of trees, the way a head turns when a person feels too much sun on the back of his neck.

I used to teach poetry writing, and I was always telling students to make sure that their poems had everyday things in them, things like hands and arms, feet and lips in them. I like poems that are crisp in that way. John Milton didn't make my list, but he was a guy who knew something about feet. You read Paradise Lost, and you hear him talk over and over about the sound feet make when they step on grass or what it's like to step on something you're not used to stepping on.

Someone asked me recently how I know what is good poetry and what isn't. There is the long story of what is good and the short story of what is good. The long story involves criteria and personal biography, the short story involves a simple statement. I'll give you the short story. What I feel is "good" is what touches me. All of the poets I mentioned above touched me. And that's why I read them and continue to read them.

This is getting too long so I'll just mention one other thing about the poets I like. I don't know if all of them are like this, but enough of them are so I'll mention it here. They write long sentences. I like the rhythm that you get when a sentence goes on and on and on, and you don't know when it will end but you're sure it will, and you're sure also that when you do get to the ending you'll feel exhausted but happy.

Whitman writes sentences like that, and Frost and Ai do too. Not always but enough of the time.

I'm sure that there are other things that make me like the poems I like (a sense of a personal "I" is one), but I think I'll save that for some other time.



___________________

This piece originally appeared in a blog called Poetry Worth Reading that my friend and terrific poet Marty Williams did. Here's a link to it: Click.