“In Gagarin Street we encounter a poetic mind engaged in the long process of coming to terms with the after-shock of a collapsed world. It gives us a sense of what it might have felt for those around the Italian peninsula after the sack of Rome. There is a mental agility that comes with the despair of losing the known and the twinge of hope in looking ahead.”
“There is much ‘angst’ driven poetry about at the moment, largely led by the events of 9/11. What makes Gwiazda’s collection different is that it stretches the ‘angst’ back further in time. It stretches to World War II, to pre-history, to birth. This is a collection that urges us to look beyond recent events, to put all in perspective and not allow other conflicts to be forgotten.”
“Through rich imagery, complex metaphors, and vigorous wording, Gwiazda achieves a striking lyrical force and comes close to creating a vital language of his own.”
“Bridging the hypothetical and the mythical into a word where secrets are revealed piece by piece, Gagarin Street provokes deep thought at the changing nuances of personality and environment with the passage of time.”
“Poland is the land of poets: Milosz, Herbert, Szymborska. Gwiazda is a worthy successor to his Nobel-winning predecessors. Like theirs, his poetry is a passport to our understanding of an alien world much like ours.”
“Gwiazda demonstrates a mythopoetic instinct capable of shattering isolation, and an ability to play with language that may create worlds as yet unimagined.”
|Piotr Gwiazda was born in Olsztyn, Poland, in 1973 and came to the United States in 1991. His published works include Gagarin Street(WWPH, 2005) and James Merrill and W.H. Auden: Homosexuality and Poetic Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). His poems have appeared in many journals, including Barrow Street, Columbia, Drunken Boat, Hotel Amerika, Margie, Rattle, The Southern Review, Talisman, and Washington Square. He has published book reviews in Chicago Review, PN Review, Postmodern Culture, the Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he teaches courses in modern and contemporary poetry.For interviews, review copies, or to arrange a reading, contact the author directly:
Phone: (410) 455-2052
Excerpt from Gagarin Street
When I was a child I lived on Gagarin Street.
Days were predictable, times uncertain.
Praise for Gagarin Street
Piotr Gwiazda’s Gagarin Street summons not a Kierkegaardian either/or, but the subtly complex both/and of Eastern European masters Tadeusz Rozewicz and Vladimir Holan. “A scoreless song; just deepening uncertainty and silence”—few can tell this tale as Gwiazda can, a tale of “clouds . . . dense like Philosophical Investigations,” a tale and a teller strong enough to question whether “the man I am should cease to be?” These poems remind us how easily the Gagarin Streets of our youth may disappear, and of the poet’s vital task to re-inscribe them for the future’s fellow travelers.
—Mark Nowak, author of Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004)
The personae of these wry, arresting poems yield their secrets slowly, when they choose to at all. Piotr Gwiazda’s world is one without certainties, where men and women communicate mainly by accident, where the streets of one’s hometown have all been renamed—a world both hypothetical and futuristic yet very much of this moment, home and exile no longer distinguishable. Beneath these compelling, elusive surfaces moves a penetrating and skeptical intelligence, like his characters “simultaneously a refugee and a refuge.”
—Peter Schmitt, author of Hazard Duty (Copper Beech Press, 1995)
From the title poem of Piotr Gwiazda’s impressive debut collection, a recurring theme announces itself: altered history and the poet’s qualified attempts at recognition, if not full reclamation. Over and over, we follow along haunted streets real and imagined, sharing our guide’s disorientation as the excavated past offers little clue to the future. Names have been changed, but not to protect the innocent. This book is full of terrific, lively poems I wish I had written: “Private Conversation,” “Avenue of the Conquered,” “Dispatch,” “The Refugee,” and many others.
–Gaylord Brewer, author of Exit Pursued by a Bear (Cherry Grove Collections, 2004)
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