On April 16, 2011, at the Ruskin Art Club (800 S. Plymouth Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90005) the Modjeska Club will celebrate the Milosz Year, declared by the Polish Parliament in honor of the centennial of the great poet and essayist, one of the most penetrating and insightful minds of the 20th century. Our guests will include two eminent Polish-American poets, Dr. John Z. Guzlowski and Cecilia Woloch, and a talented actor, Marek Probosz who will recite Milosz in English and Polish.
CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ (Česlovas Milošas in Lithuanian) was born on June 30, 1911 in a little Lithuanian village and lived in Poland and Berkeley, California (where from 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley), and back in Krakow, Poland where he died on August 14, 2004. Milosz was a celebrated poet, prose writer and translator who defected to the West in 1951; in 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
JOHN GUZLOWSKI is the author of Lightning and Ashes, a book of poems about his parents’ experiences in Nazi concentration camps; a portion of which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His stories and poems appear in such national journals as Ontario Review, Chattahoochee Review, Atlanta Review, Nimrod, Crab Orchard Review, and Marge, and in the anthology Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust. Garrison Keillor read Guzlowski’s poem “What My Father Believed” on his program, The Writers’ Almanac. Czeslaw Milosz said that Guzlowski’s poems about his parents are “astonishing.” He blogs about his parents at http://lightning-and-ashes.blogspot.com/
Asked about a personal statement about his poetry, John sent the following:
"I was born in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II, and came with my parents Jan and Tekla and my sister Donna to the United States as Displaced Persons in 1951. My Polish Catholic parents had been slave laborers in Nazi Germany. Growing up in the immigrant and DP neighborhoods around Humboldt Park in Chicago, I met Jewish hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead horses, and women who walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians. My poems try to remember them and their voices."
Here's what Czesław Miłosz had to say about Guzlowski's book:
"In [Guzlowski’s] poems the land of his parents and the work camps are always present, although at the same time they are only part of his poetic repertoire. In the volume which I have at hand, there are a lot of completely different poems, completely free of the burden of the past. This slim volume even astonished me with its doubleness. The first part summons precisely the camp images from the life of the author’s parents, who were treated by the Nazis like beasts of burden. Their awkward language, because they were both half-literate, was for the Nazis a language of mules. The second part reveals an enormous ability for grasping reality with some distance." — Czesław Miłosz
CECILIA WOLOCH is the author of five collections of poems, most recently Carpathia, from BOA Editions Ltd. She is the recipient of a NEA Fellowship and is currently a lecturer in the creative writing program at the University of Southern California, as well as the founding director of The Paris Poetry Workshop. She spends a part of each year traveling, and in recent years has divided her time between Los Angeles, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Shepherdsville, Kentucky; Paris, France; and a small village in the Carpathian mountains of southeastern Poland. Cecilia also runs private workshops for writers in the U.S. and Europe. For more information, visit www.ceciliawoloch.com.
CECLILIA WOLOCH’s “Anti-Bio” (in the first person) is a poem of its own:
“I drive a pick-up truck and can climb into and out of it in a cocktail dress and high heels. I can dance salsa and cha cha cha and speak fairly decent French. I’m currently learning Polish and can fake it in a couple of other languages. I know maybe more than is healthy to know about eastern European history, the Bolsheviks, WWII and Hitler and Stalin, and the history of the Roma (gypsy) people in Europe, but way less than any academic specializing in those things would (I hope) know. I’m an excellent parallel parker. Good navigator and map-reader. I have expertise in making complicated travel arrangements and in getting small children to laugh, if not getting them to go to sleep. I can ride a horse with a Western or English saddle. I can do splits, but not cartwheels. Double pirouettes but not triple. My grammar skills have advanced to the point that I know how and when to use the subjunctive. I can braid my hair with my eyes closed. I can explain the history of English prosody with a couple of coconuts. I make a perfect cup of coffee and a mean omelette, but that’s the full extent of my culinary skills."
"I know the names of many wildflowers. Can still do “figures in my head” and balance my checkbook to the penny. I’m addicted to novels. I’ve never owned a television. I’ve taught creative writing to the criminally insane and line dancing to the elderly. I’ve crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border on foot in the company of smugglers and journalists. Have been robbed by a Russian gang in Warsaw and rescued by off-duty police in Paris. I’m not talking about Havana. I prefer to live out of a suitcase. Once gave myself a haircut with a breadknife. Can build a fire and bathe in a bucket. Can apply lipstick in a rearview mirror.”
John Guzlowski's 2009 review of Cecilia's book of poems, Carpathia is on his blog Writing the Polish Diaspora
A preeminent figure in European Stage, television and film, MAREK PROBOSZ has starred in over 50 films competing at key international festivals including Cannes and Karlovy Vary (Jiri Svoboda’s award-winning Fall of the Lonely Castle) Venice (Jerzy Skolimowski’s 30 Door Key) San Sebastian (Frantisek Vlacil’s The Fern’s Shadow).
The grandson of Polish poet laureate Jerzy Probosz - a young writer whose career ended with his death in the Dachau concentration camp - and son of architect father and a schoolteacher mother, Probosz was awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting from the prestigious Polish National Film, TV and Theater School in Lódz in 1983. He first directed and starred at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles in AUM or Tormenting of Actors, an original theatrical production from his own script. After directing six short films based on his own scripts, Marek Probosz obtained his Certificate in Film Directing at the American Film Institute in 1993. In 1998 he received his MFA in Drama.
Since his time at AFI, he has directed a full-length documentary film Jan Kott: Still Alive and wrote six feature film screenplays. In a riveting performance that many thought would become Poland’s first Oscar for Best Actor, Probosz starred as the Polish WWII hero, Witold Pilecki, the only known person in history to volunteer to become imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp so he could liberate its prisoners from within, in the feature film, The Death of Captain Pilecki. Many have likened his performance to that of Liam Neeson’s Schindler. The film, extraordinarily controversial within Poland, garnered The Special Jury REMI Award at IFF, Houston ‘07.
Probosz is a regular on the longest-running Polish TV series Clan and the most successful Polish TV series of all time, L Like Love, in which he plays the first homosexual character ever featured on Polish National TV. Aside from its controversy, it has made him a film idol in his homeland where he is mobbed for autographs wherever he goes. His most recent credits are 8 Horizontal, winner of the Grand Prix, Gdynia FF’09 in which he portrays a Polish Arab Mustafa, Revers, Golden Lion Award, Gdynia ’09; FIPRESCI Award, Warsaw FF; and the Polish nominee for the 2010 Oscars.
Most recently, he plays the role of Satora in the new epic film by world acclaimed film director Agnieszka Holland, The True Story of Janosik.His role of Odysseus with illustrious British star Henry Goodman in the Getty Villa theater production, Philoktetes, brought him into directing a Greek play Socrates Now scheduled for the Getty Villa in Malibu, Los Angeles in 2011.
Probosz’s first book Eldorado, was published with a great success by Stentor Publishing House in Poland last year. His second book of short stories Call Me When They Kill You, is due to be published in Poland in May 2011.
The cosmic adventure of the Modjeska and PIE Clubs accompanied on March 26, 2011 by a full contingent of their friends and relations was very successful. The highly entertaining and educational lectures by five scientists, engineers and managers at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory captivated the attention of the audience that filled over 200 seats at the JPL Von Karman Auditorium in Pasadena. Many thanks to JPL, the co-organizers Andrew Z. Dowen and Artur B. Chmielewski, and the five presenters: Andrew Z. Dowen, David Lehman, Artur B. Chmielewski, Marek Tuszynski and Witold Sokolowski. A longer report by Dr. Mira Mataric will follow.
For those of you who missed it, here's a link to the song that NASA sent into space to introduce aliens to our culture: Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode. A second link has some tribute commentary and a 1958 video of Chuck Berrydancing with his guitar. In the meantime, enjoy the Picasa Web Album of photos prepared by our club members.
Now, that we are talking about photo albums, photos from our meetings with Jan Kidawa Blonski (March 12) and with Leonard Kress, Roman Koropeckyj and Beata Pozniak (February 19) are already posted on the blog and the website. See the links on the right margin.
This year, we are celebrating our very own 40th anniversary! We will definitely throw us a birthday bash, possibly in the form of a New Year's Eve Ball. We will also publish a book about our history, including the second edition of the material gathered for the Club's 25th anniversary, not so long ago. We hope to receive additional reports, reminiscences, and ruminations by anyone who writes well and has the time to do it for free. The editors will accept whatever they feel like, but it is always worth a try!