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John Guzlowski

John’s primary subject is the experience of his parents before, during, and after the Second World War. Both were taken into Nazi Germany as slave laborers. His father was captured in 1940 outside of Poznan, Poland. His mother was captured near her home west of Lvov, Poland, and transported in 1942. They worked in concentration camps and the associated factories and farms until the end of the war. Afterwards, they lived in refugee camps in Germany until 1951 when they came to the United States with their two children as Displaced Persons (DP’s).

“My poems give my parents and their experiences a voice. They had very little education. My father never went to school and could barely write his name. My mother had two years of formal education. I felt that I had to tell the stories they would have written if they could. For the last twenty-five years I have been writing poems about their lives, and I sometimes think that I am not only writing about their lives, but also about the lives of all those forgotten–voiceless refugees, DP’s, and survivors that the last century produced. These are the sorts of poems that I write and that I have published in Language of Mules.

“In terms of my treatment of their lives, I’ve tried to use language free of emotions. When my parents told me many of the stories that became my poems, they spoke in plain, straightforward language. They didn’t try to emphasize the emotional aspect of their experience; rather, they told their stories in a matter-of-fact way. This happened, they’d say, and then this happened: The soldier kicked her, and then he shot her, and we moved on to the next room. I’ve also tried to make the poems story-like, strong in narrative drive to convey the way they were first told to me.”

The title Language of Mules comes from something John's father used to say about the Nazis, that they treated the slave laborers and concentration camp inmates as if they spoke the language of mules and not the language of people.

From the Language of Mules:

Cattle Train to Magdeburg

My Father’s Teeth

His Mother Asks Him to Forget the War

How Early Fall Came This Year

Caesarian

What the War Taught My Mother



A Story My Father Told

Donna



The photo of young John on the book cover was taken in 1951
when he was inoculated to emigrate to the United States.
The family photo above, with John’s parents, his sister
and her children, was taken in Chicago in 1979.

All material ©1999, 2001 John Guzlowski.
Reprinted with permission of the author.

Other books by John:
Third Winter of War, from  Finishing Line Press
Lightning and Ashes from Steel Toe Books

John's Lightning and Ashes blog

John Guzlowski can be reached at
jzguzlowski[AT]gmail.com (replace [AT] with @).

Readers interested in the DP experiences John Guzlowski writes about
can find more information at the Polish Diaspora website.

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