A Review from Polish American Journal:
With an unapologetic rawness, John Guzlowski gives us his family’s memoirs in a mix of poetry and prose in Echoes of Tattered Tongues. In Echoes we are shown the stark experiences of his family in three different time periods: his parents’ retirement, after the war, and during World War II.
In Book I: Half a Century Later, Guzlowski opens with a short story about a wooden steamer trunk that his family carried with them from the refugee camp to the United States. For decades, that trunk traveled with the family until finally after his mother’s death, John decided to let the trunk go, the trunk that his father made with his two hands. In his words, he “wanted that trunk to slip away into memory the way my mother slipped away, become a part of my past, always there but not there.” This sets the tone for the rest of the section which is focused on his parents’ retirement in Arizona and their deaths.
In Book II, Guzlowski examines his and his family members’ lives as refugees in America. The following excerpt from the poem, “Lessons” is about their arrival in Ellis Island and typifies his style. “[T]he docked ship / rusting rising / falling as we wait / for my father / lost somewhere / in the crowd of DPs / in cast-off babushkas / black-market khaki / the gray wool / that froze / before Moscow / and cracked / he left to buy / sausage and bread.”
The third section of Echoes, Guzlowski unflinchingly examines his parents’ survival against the odds during the Nazi regime. His mother, Tekla, underwent unspeakable loss when she came home to find her mother, sister, and her sister’s baby, brutally murdered by German soldiers. Tekla and Jan, Guzlowski’s father, both endured the horrors of concentration camps in Germany, slave labor, starvation, and other abuses at the hands of Nazis. The poem, “The Germans Who Owned Them” speaks of the dehumanization of those imprisoned by the Nazis. “[A]nd the Germans stood watching / their hunger and then their deaths, / watched them as if they were dead trees / in the wind, and waited for them to fall.”
Written over the course of thirty years, Guzlowski’s collection of around one hundred poems and works of prose is a testament to his dedication to tell his family’s story. Echoes of Tattered Tongues is now available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble at BN.com.