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Cecilia Woloch was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up there and in rural Kentucky, one of seven children of a homemaker and an airplane mechanic. She is the recipient of a 2011 NEA fellowship and the author of five award-winning collections of poems: Sacrifice, a BookSense 76 Selection in 2001; Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem; Late, for which she was named Georgia Author of the Year in 2004; Narcissus, winner of the Tupelo Press Snowbound Prize for the chapbook in 2006; and Carpathia, a finalist for the Milton Kessler Award, in 2009.  She 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. A celebrated teacher, Ms. Woloch has conducted poetry workshops for thousands of children and young people throughout the United States and around the world, as well as workshops for professional writers, educators and many others.Ms. Woloch has collaborated with visual artists, musicians and dancers. Her poems have been translated into French, German and Polish, and recent prose has been published in Ukrainian. 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.  Maxine Kumin says of Cecilia Woloch’s poetry: To write movingly about love in an era infused with hate requires a special gift: nostalgia hard-edged with realism. She has that gift.

Three poems from Carpathia (BOA Editions, Ltd. 2009)


What you wanted from salt was salt.
What you wanted from each of the bones of my hand was touch like a
      river, smoke.
What you wanted from smoke was the holy body ghostly to the mind.
What you wanted from the body was a body that would not die.
What you wanted from fire was heat and light, but also char, the flare
      of sparks.
What you wanted I had to give but to make it small enough to crush.
What you wanted to crush was the quick hand, river, birds, the field in
And then what you wanted was salt, a woman weeping at your back,
but you could not turn to look.


~after Baudelaire

One should always be late. One should always be running/half-running
in high-heeled boots through the streets with the church bells ringing the
hour one should have already arrived. And be still en route, still a bridge
away, still a sliver of silvery river to go. One should have clouds at one's
shoulders like breath, panting clouds and a gasp of wind at the nape of
the neck to keep one cool. The heart should be clicking against the ribs:
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. One should be turning just then past the church,
past evening beginning in every cafe, past the poor little park with its
late little flowers, disheveled little flames. Because somewhere someone
waits. Because somewhere one has already arrived and will never rush
past this again. One's self with one's coat like a black sky flung; one's own
shadow flaring out behind. And the sound of those bells in one's hair, in
one's bones. Now and ever. Not never: late.


Sometimes when I wipe the bowl with my bread
when I scramble one egg, two eggs, with milk

when I stir the kasha until it's thick
when I sit at the table and bow my head

I think of how my father ate
how he bowed his head---though he didn't pray

at least not in the usual way of grace
but always that posture over his plate

of supplication, gratitude--
the hungry shoulders of the boy

who'd stuffed his mouth with pulled grass once
who never got over that there was enough

Sometimes I wipe the bowl with my bread
Sometimes I feed his ghost this prayer

Cecilia Woloch
2011 Cecilia Woloch

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