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Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded Hardcover – March 7, 2016

4.9 out of 5 stars 37 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Guzlowski (Lightning and Ashes), a Polish-American writer born in a German refugee camp after WWII, recounts the horrible atrocities enacted upon his parents during the war in these straightforward, gut-wrenching narrative lyric poems. These snapshots of Nazi German rule illustrate that hardship didn't end with German surrender; the aftershocks radiated through successive generations. Guzlowski's simple language highlights the violence without offering any comment or consolation: "She finds her mother/ a bullet in her throat/ her sister's severed breasts/ in the dust by her feet/ the dead baby/ still in its blanket." The words fail to convey the sense of loss, but the tortured nature of the content is clear; each word means more in the sparse, unadorned language Guzlowski employs. In "What My Father Knows About Killing," he writes, "My father knows men and animals/ do not die in the same way." Similar sentiment appears in "What the War Taught Her": "My mother learned that sex is bad,/ Men are worthless, it is always cold/ And there is never enough to eat." Poems of this nature are not meant to alleviate the pain, but to help keep a record of it; to serve as a reminder that silence is not a crime, but forgetting is. (Mar.)\n


“Powerful...Deserves attention and high regard. To read these poems is to lift the lid on history and risk a step inside. One not only suffers the furnace but also endures, like the poet himself, the human will to counter history's inferno with an awful fire all its own. The poet's spare voice sings as austerely as his parents' trunk cobbled of Buchenwald wallboards. These poems do not flinch even as they take and give a punch: each note the pitch of absence given body, each silence a terrible waiting answered by singed arrival.” - See more at: http://www.polandww2.com/echoes-of-tattered-tongues/echoes-of-tattered-tongues-praise#sthash.2I3ItxwY.dpuf -- Kevin Stein, Poet Laureate of Illinois

"Deeply moving. John Guzlowski has written a powerful, lasting, and sometimes shocking book, one in which prose and poetry join hands to document a felt comprehension of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis in WWII. He tells the stories his parents would have told had they not been living them. Thus these pages honor his forebears and indeed all those who were in the camps. The stories will haunt you but we must read them or fail to grasp what humans can do to humans. Anyone who wishes to consider himself or herself knowledgeable about the world in which, for better or for worse, we live, will read this superb book." -- Kelly Cherry, Poet Laureate of Virginia (2010-2012)

"Remarkable blend of academic scrutiny with stark, uncompromising humanity. What I find fascinating is Guzlowski's ability to always say something new…balancing overarching social commentary with the smallest, heart-wrenching details." -- Michael Meyerhofer, Atticus Review, on Guzlowski's earlier work. Atticus Review, September 3, 2013, http://atticusreview.org/featured-poet-john-guzlowski/

The son of two Nazi concentration camp prisoners, John Guzlowski was born in a Displaced Persons camp and immigrated to Chicago with his little sister and Polish mother and father shortly after WWII. This devastating, one-of-a-kind collection uses poems and short essays to reveal unspeakable moments from his parents' wartime experiences, and the less-than-open arms America mostly extended to millions of families fleeing the ruins of Europe. -- Matt Sutherland, Foreword Reviews, Spring 2016; https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/echoes-of-tattered-tongues/

"A wonderful book and a very important one. Unwaveringly lucid and luminous poems...leave his readers with no safe perches yet show them how to mourn and praise. Extraordinary." -- Charles Ades Fishman, Editor of 'Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust" and Poetry Editor of "PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust"

Like most immigrant kids, John Guzlowski never wanted to write about his Polish parents and the world they left when they came to America.... Unlike most stories of this kind, however, Guzlowski's is told mostly in poems, which forces the author to wield formal control over a material that's painful and distressing. Luckily for us, in Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded (Aquila Polonica, 2016), Guzlowski writes taut poems―he cares about the narrative as much as the voice or the image....These beautifully realized lines not only showcase Guzlowski's poetic sensibility but also keep the poem from slipping into sentimentality.... Guzlowski aims to write not only about his parents' lives “but also about the lives of all those forgotten, voiceless refugees, DPs, and survivors that the last century produced, no matter where they came from.” In doing so, he appeals to our shared desire to understand how the present continues to be shaped by the past. http://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/blog/book-reviews/channeling-other-review-echoes-tattered-tongues-john-guzlowski, World Literature Today, April 13, 2016

Book Trailer of the Day: Echoes of Tattered Tongues. A searing memoir by the poet who, with his Polish parents--who worked as slave laborers in Nazi concentration camps--were refugees and settled in the U.S. in 1951.Book Trailer at https://youtu.be/eTCWlnyx8vw (http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=2664#m30988), Shelf Awareness

John Guzlowski’s rugged poems rise like a land-bridge emerging from would-be oblivion to connect continents, generations, and a deeply felt personal present with the tragic, implacable history of the twentieth century. -- Stuart Dybek

I could not praise it enough—masterfully done. Reads almost like a novel. -- Gregory F. Tague, Professor

It's hard to read this book. Not because the prose is in any way turgid or the poetry difficult in that pretentious way that once was the fashion. It's hard to read this book because it is so honest. So clear. Like a crystal clear day you get in the cold sunlight of winter...it shines…like seeing into people's souls… This is a book to hold and to hug, to stroke softly. -- Martin Stepek

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Top international reviews

Michael Bully
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and very moving poetry and short prose. Highly Recommended
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 4, 2017
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