A nice surprise during January was receiving our former fellow Piotr Gwiazda’s new book: Messages: Poems & Interview. This slim beautiful volume published by Pond Road Press is part poetry and part inteview. In the interview section Piotr discusses literary influence, empire, “the right to illusion,” politics, contemporary poets, poetry and pedagogy, exophonic writing, and his residency at the James Merrill apartment in the fall of 2008. The poems are spare and eloquent. The interview section is background.
Piotr speaks of “a whole little genre of poems written by former fellows about the experience of living and working in Merrill’s apartment” and he has called this book his “Stonington book” which is a lovely tribute to those of us who keep the Merrill Apartment, it’s vibe, and the residency program alive. Of course, we love poems about ourselves and that would be Daylight Saving – a poem about Stonington.
Messages is, in fact, a book that is about much more than our little town. Though a number of the poems began in some form during Piotr’s residency here, the book is not about Stonington. It is about politics, modern life and how we are affected or disaffected by what is around us. Life in Stonington is, if anything, a refuge from many of the experiences and emotions Messages addresses, but Piotr reminds us that nowhere are we immune to it all: removeable tattoos, life after people, ether.
Piotr was the Merrill House Writer-in-Residence in the Fall of 2008. He is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where he teaches courses in modern and contemporary poetry, American literature, and world literature. You can read more about him in his own blog PIOTR GWIAZDA.