By Lauren Dunn, AP Literature, B1
Biography: She was born in Pennsylvania, however grew up in Kentucky as a sibling to six other kids. She first attended Translyvania University in Kentucky, then moved to LA to attend Antioch University L.A.. She got degrees in English, Theater arts, and creative writing. She has used her gift of writing to help many others discover their own talent. She founded "Summer Poetry in Idyllwild, The Istanbul Poetry Workshop and The Paris Poetry Workshop". She also put together workshops for schools, other writers, thee elderly, criminally insane inmates, as well as at a shelter for homeless women and children. "From 2006 to 2014, she was a member of the faculty in creative writing at the University of Southern California". Her work has reached many people by being translated in a variety of languages and available all over the world.
From Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem
“Oh Europe is so many borders
on every border, murderers”
— Attila Josef, Hungarian Poet
1 All night crossing the Tatra,
2 Krakow to Budapest, the train
3 only three cars long — where is my friend?
4 Ken, who calls me Regina Cecylia,
5 Queen of the Gypsies, Carpathia.
6 We’ve travelled together from Berlin
7 but now the dining car between our cars
8 is locked — I can’t get through.
9 In these couchettes, only one other woman,
10 the small boy who clings to her, hiding his face,
11 and the porter who’s taken my ticket,
12 refuses in Polish to give it back.
13 Lie down then, let this pass:
14 the window a square of black glass
15 in which bare trees, fields appear;
16 forests where I could be left,
17 this car uncoupled —who would know?
18 (500,000 gypsies burned in the crematoria)
19 At each border (which country now?)
20 a clapboard shack with its plume of smoke
21 and the guards in their high boots,
22 their stink of cigar, who throw back
23 the door of my compartment, flick
24 on the lights, demand documents.
25 What if I had no passport, no papers
26 to prove I’m American?
27 What if I’d been born
28 in the tiny village my grandmother fled?
30 What if I had no country —
31 would I be no one, then, to them?
32 Would they drag me into the woods;
33 would the quiet woman hold her child
34 a little closer, cover his ears?
35 Sleeping and waking and sleeping again;
36 disappearing into the dream, waking into the dream
37 of Budapest: it’s snowing so softly
38 the golden domes that crown the city seem to float.
39 At dawn, the grim porter reappears
40 with black coffee, sugar, two hard rolls,
41 my ticket, crumpled, on the tray.
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In the poem The Gyspsy Poem Woloch writes about a gypsy on a train contemplating the freedom and treatment of her people. From the diction and tone in this poem I can imagine she feels quit ostracized. An immediate example of cruelty is when the Porter refuses to give her ticket back, she then brings up that “500,000 gypsies were burned in a crematoria” (11-18). Naturally after that history it would be difficult to feel safe, later she describes her paranoia. She wonders if she will be kicked off the train or worse if people found out if she was a gypsy, or even to “drag me into the woods” (24-32).
This poem gives a lot of imagery of the train as well as Woloch’s personal thoughts mixed in. She describes the train as a lively but lonely place since she is not with her friend or even another female (besides the mother). Although the train is unfavorable, she ends up relaxing and sleeping and accepts this treatment probably since she gets worse in other places. She also uses rhetorical questions that she asks herself in her stages of paranoia, this is a good depiction of paranoia.
Personally I am a privileged person and I also cannot relate totally to this poem. I like the environment that Woloch created on the train. It helped me see from her perspective and why she may be hesitant about certain things. I enjoy standing up for others and this poem made me want to stand up for her.

The Pick

1 I watched him swinging the pick in the sun,
2 breaking the concrete steps into chunks of rock,
3 and the rocks into dust,
4 and the dust into earth again.
5 I must have sat for a very long time on the split rail fence,
6 just watching him.
7 My father’s body glistened with sweat,
8 his arms flew like dark wings over his head.
9 He was turning the backyard into terraces,
10 breaking the hill into two flat plains.
11 I took for granted the power of him,
12 though it frightened me, too.
13 I watched as he swung the pick into the air
14 and brought it down hard
15 and changed the shape of the world,
16 and changed the shape of the world again.

In the poem The Pick, Woloch is watching her father do yardwork and reflects on his abilities. The pick represents the power he has to alter the world around him. This is best said in the last couple lines “…and changed the shape of the world again (16). Fathers are often a very important figure in a female’s life, especially a daughter’s. I imagine she views her father very highly and admires his skills. In one line she mentioned she is in fact scared of her father’s strength but at the same time she could feel protected since her father most likely does not have the intention of hurting her (12).
This poem uses a lot of imagery and detail to accurately show the father’s strength. The diction indicates the same and some examples of strong words are like swinging, breaking, and changing. The contrast is what the father produced, she uses two words to describe the earth, rock and dust. This lets us see the father changing his environment in real time. Lastly, Woloch uses one similie saying “his arms flew like dark wings over his head (8), this is really interesting and makes the father seems stronger than the other diction in the poem suggests, probably showing how much Woloch looks up to her father.
In my life I have had weak examples of male figures and cannot relate to this poem unfortunately. I admire the relationship that Woloch has with her father which made this poem feel intimate. One of my favorite things is to be around my friend’s families to feel a part of something, this poem makes me feel the same way as if I were watching her father too.

Postcard to I. Kaminsky from a Dream at the Edge of the Sea

I was leaving a country of rain for a country of apples. I hadn’t much time. I told my beloved to wear his bathrobe, his cowboy boots, a black patch like a pirate might wear over his sharpest eye. My own bags were full of salt, which made them shifty, hard to lift. Houses had fallen, face first, into the mud at the edge of the sea. Hurry, I thought, and my hands were like birds. They could hold nothing. A feathery breeze. Then a white tree blossomed over the bed, all white blossoms, a painted tree. "Oh," I said, or my love said to me. We want to be human, always, again, so we knelt like children at prayer while our lost mothers hushed us. A halo of bees. I was dreaming as hard as I could dream. It was fast—how the apples fattened and fell. The country that rose up to meet me was steep as a mirror; the gold hook gleamed.
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Woloch writes either in lines or in free verse, the latter is often more intense and cryptic. In this selection especially there are many similes, metaphors, and symbols. My impression of this poem is that Woloch is in a dream, letting her brain analyze feelings of a longing for sudden change and her relationship with her husband. However instead of a literal dream it could represent her desire to be in a new phase of life. It also seems like she incorporated memories that may have been exaggerated to make them piece flow together. Her diction is also peculiar because it gives the piece a bizarre and dream-like effect but a sense of intimate detail.
At face value this poem is very difficult to evaluate Woloch’s true meaning. However once I entertained the idea of Woloch intending the piece to be a literal dream, it became a little easier. Everything in dreams are symbols for things going on in the dreamer’s life. Woloch uses particular words and images to represent the lifestyle she wants. For instance when she mentions a painting of white blossoms above her bed, this represents purity, growth and new beginnings. She then says “We want to be human, always, again, so we knelt like children at prayer
…” this further backs up the idea of lusting after a way to be pure again. Finally she mentions her lover and a “halo of bees”, in dreams bees represent fertility. These emphasize her connection to her sexuality, partner, and commitment to a new life.
The dream has a hastened then hopeful tone however the idea of it being only a loose analysis of her waking life is an upsetting thought. However since dreams usually directly parallel the waking life, it is bound to be close. I admire this poem for making me critically think, and how the words she chose make the piece into an article of art.


I shut that black wing from my heart. That bad bad bird. I slam the light. Wrong love, it flaps, wrong love. I slit the curtains of my eyes. If one more death makes room for one more death, I’ve died enough. I’ve died in rooms that bird screeched through, the blood-tipped feathers in my hands. The years of longing in its craw. The little claws like dangling hooks that ruined my nakedness for good. Wrong love, it flaps, wrong love. I wave my arms to make it go. As if the sky could take it back. As if my heart, that box of shadows, could be locked against itself.

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When I read this poem my brain went many different directions to interpret what Woloch was trying to portray. As I continued to read her work, it grew darker and made less sense unless you spent time picking it apart. Although this piece is short, it had the most emotion and I felt like I was a part of Woloch’s thought pattern. My first impression of this piece was that it was not literal and the phrases “wrong love” and “ruined my nakedness for good” references falling in love with the wrong person. Each time this happens a piece of her is gone and loving is a scarier thing when one is in fear of being rejected. I asked my friend to interpret what she thought and she said Woloch is saying the people she gets close to end up dying. This could be strengthened by the fact that the bird in the piece is most likely a crow and the phrase “blood-tipped feathers” however most poems are not literal. It is obvious the tone of this poem is woeful and dark, but this creates an environment of vulnerability and therefore intimacy. The repetition from the bird repeating “wrong love” could represent the voice in one’s mind reminding her about all her failed loves/ all her deceased loved ones who continue to flood through her mind. However Woloch uses phrases that hint that she does not want to keep remembering and wants to make the sky “take it back”, making me think this piece is more about past lovers. Also the last line when it says “As if my heart, that box of shadows, could be locked against itself”, it could mean the desire she has to stop letting her heart easily fall in love with the wrong person. Woloch uses a lot of interesting symbols in her work and this was a great example of her style.


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