My first chapbook of poems is out now with the Alfred Gustav Press (December 2021) as part of Series Twenty-six. After three years in the making, I am thrilled to see these poems in others’ hands. Thank you to all who subscribed to receive one of these handmade chapbooks where each copy is signed by yours truly. In a time when we can’t travel easily or at all, I hope these poems take you somewhere new, somewhere old, or maybe a bit of both. Let us go then.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
Charlene Kwiatkowski in ‘Let Us Go Then’ has a delightful voice, sounding fresh and open, and for those of us more jaded she reminds us of the utter thrill of encountering Europe the first time. I like how she’s chosen something specific for each city, using art and literature as a way of getting beyond the thousands of other writer-tourist poems. The poems aren’t ashamed of being new and letting us see the writer as a young spirit willing to just look and marvel. “Farewell Song” really works well with those T. S. Eliot echoes. I read “The Calling of St. Matthew” again and again, and then looked up the painting and oh yes wow, so thank you Charlene for giving us a poem that did exactly what a good poem can do…Leona Gom
The tired tourist excitement of visiting a new place, any new place, is captured perfectly. And the way we build things up in our minds, iconic buildings and paintings, long before we arrive: where “All comparisons / fall short. Still we try.” The way the painting is described in “Sunflowers in the Van Gogh Museum,” the process of it: added to, and built up incrementally, “layer upon layer” – and the way you see one more building, when you turn the corner (or, referring to the cover art, when you open to the first page) – that’s also the way these pieces build into a story. These poems make me want to go travelling again!Kelly Shepherd
From Paris, to Rome, to Venice, to Bavaria, to Amsterdam—from chiaroscuro to impressionism, from exhaustion to exhilaration—Charlene takes her reader on a journey, pointillistically glimpsed and rendered, of beauty, love, and irony. Like good high Renaissance art, it’s not overwhelmingly about the artist, nor mainly about the viewer, though both are drawn together by snatches of colour, light, perspective. There’s drama going on in the scenes one can make out—by turns faintly, subtly, vividly—and each is the more satisfying as one returns for another look, another listen. James Joyce and T. S. Eliot join in the repartee, as do (by implication) Adam and other cephalophores. As Charlene writes, “there is so much to hold.”Dennis Danielson
Charlene’s Kwiatkowski’s ‘Let Us Go Then’ with its ironic reference to T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” takes us on a couple’s journey through a European world with art, literature, architecture and their appreciation, during which another journey towards self-discovery and discovery of the other takes place. There is a virtuoso feel to these poems written in a variety of verse forms from elegant couplets to prose poems. I was particularly drawn by patterns of repetition that lead us home and to final insight in “Kingdom of One.”gillian harding-russell
The work is positively stunning, both in scope and in style. I especially love the way Charlene intertwines the languages.HEIDI GRECO