I first read Margaret Szumowski’s poetry years ago in Concert at Chopin’s House, a gathering of creative works by Polish Americans. What I admired in those poems and what continues to bring me back to her poetry is her sure gift for bringing joy and sorrow together.

Margaret’s poems speak of some of the sad truths of life: brothers dying, lovers parting, fathers and mothers saying goodbye to their children for what they know is the last time—but always she reminds us of the joy that was and the joy that may be again. She does this not, of course, in any easy way, but rather in a way that suggests how rich and mysterious our lives truly are.

I see this in her wonderful poem “Bronislaw.” The people in the poem talk about their experiences during World War II. We hear about the mud huts they built with their hands, the parents who died in the prison camps, the children who were almost lost in the snow, but these sorrows are part of lives so complex and real that they can hold joy as well as agony.

This is why Margaret’s poems mean so much to me.

—John Guzlowski, Poetry Editor, TheScreamOnline

Margaret Szumowski grew up in Winterset, Iowa, the oldest of seven children. She learned to tap dance and twirl a fire baton — an experience that required wrapping the end of the baton in asbestos, dipping it in kerosene, then lighting it and hoping for the best. Twirling with fire and breathing the freezing air at football games led her to poetry.

She graduated from the University of Iowa and shortly thereafter took off for the Peace Corps and served in the Congo and Ethiopia. As a hostage in Uganda, she had the distinction of having her photo taken by Idi Amin — a sort of keepsake for him.

Szumowski received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, and at the end of her orals with Jim Tate, she commented on how much she enjoyed the program. Tate's response: "Even more than being a hostage of Idi Amin?" accompanied by that great laugh of his. Szumowski is currently Associate Professor of English at Springfield Technical Community College.

Her work has appeared in Calyx, Willow Springs, American Poetry Review, Poetry East, The Agni Review, River Styx, as well as in a chapbook, Ruby's Cafe. She is the winner of the 2002 Peace Corps Writers prize for poetry.

Her first book-length collection of poetry, I Want This World, was published by Jeffrey Levine of Tupelo Press.

Contact: szumowski[AT]stcc.edu
(replace the [AT] with @)

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