Postcards from Poland

Non-Fiction - Travel
94 Pages
Reviewed on 10/26/2015
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Author Biography

Joseph Kuhn Carey's collection of poems entitled "Postcards From Poland" was selected as the third Journal of Modern Poetry Book Award Winner in the fall of 2013 and the book was subsequently published by Chicago Poetry Press in February, 2014. "Postcards From Poland" was also awarded a Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award in November 2015, and has received fourteen other awards from the Readers' Favorite Book Awards, the Pacific Book Awards, the Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards, the New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing, the Beverly Hills Book Awards, the Midwest Book Awards, the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards and the London, Paris, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Southern California and Great Midwest Book Festivals in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Mr. Carey is also the recipient of an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)/Deems Taylor Award for music-related writing (for articles written about jazz artist/composers Carla Bley, Charlie Haden and Anthony Braxton) and a Grammy-voting member of The Recording Academy. He’s published a chapbook of poetry (“Bulk-Rate”) and a book on jazz (“Big Noise From Notre Dame: A History of The Collegiate Jazz Festival,” University of Notre Dame Press) and has released two “Loose Caboose Band” CDs of original children’s songs with his brother, Bill, entitled “The Caboose is Loose” and “Mighty Big Broom,” the latter of which garnered two first-round Grammy ballot nominations in 2008 (both recordings, and all of the individual songs, are available on iTunes, and He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Notre Dame, a Master of Fine Arts (in Creative Writing) degree from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Master of Science in Mass Communication degree from Boston University. He’s traveled the country interviewing bakers for Bakery Magazine, written about jazz & blues artists for Down Beat, JazzTimes and The Boston Globe, and his poems have been selected in the Journal of Modern Poetry’s JOMP 15 and JOMP 16 Poetry Contests, the Writer’s Digest 7th Annual Poetry Awards Contest & 80th Annual Writing Competition, Highland Park Poetry’s 2013 “Poetry That Moves” & 2013 “Poetry Challenge” contests and the Evanston Public Library’s 2013 35th Annual Jo-Anne Hirschfield Memorial Poetry Awards. When not scribbling poems, stories and songs on all available scraps of paper to read to his wife and sons over dinner, he runs a successful multi-state property management business.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers' Favorite

Postcards from Poland, by Joseph Kuhn Carey is the author's graceful description of the Polish cities of Krakow and Zakopane through poems. The poems describe the history, sights and life in these cities in a brilliant writing style. From people, buildings, art, culture, food, social life and everything in between, Joseph Kuhn Carey uses his words to paint vivid pictures of these two cities - the life that was and the life that is. With each new poem, he finds something fresh about his visit to these two beautiful cities.

Postcards from Poland by Joseph Kuhn Carey is a collection of deeply descriptive poems about the cities of Krakow and Zakopane, their history, set up and life in general as seen through the eyes of an avid poet. If you have been to Krakow and Zakopane, these poems will rouse fond memories and if you haven't been there yet, you will be left with a deep longing to visit. With each new poem, something new and exciting about these cities is revealed, and page by page, Krakow and Zakopane unfold right before your eyes.

And it is not just about the brilliantly described sights and history of the cities; these poems evoked a serene feeling in me. Reading Joseph Kuhn Carey's poems felt like sitting by the fire reading postcards from a dear friend who cannot wait to share beautiful memories of their travel. Postcards from Poland by Joseph Kuhn Carey is a well-crafted traveler's journal with a poetic twist; a unique way to document a traveler's memories.

Jack Magnus

Postcards from Poland is a collection of poetry, written by Joseph Kuhn Carey, that chronicles his family’s trip to Krakow and Zakopane during the summer of 2011. This was a special trip in many ways. His mother-in-law was sharing her homeland with her two adult children and her grandchildren. Her early family life in Skalat had been brutally shattered during World War II when Russian secret service agents raided the family home and sent her mother, her and her younger sisters on a train to Kazakhstan where they lived in the harshest of conditions. She was the only survivor of that ordeal, and she ended up in an orphanage until her father, who had been imprisoned in Siberia, was able to locate her. So going home surrounded by family was a poignant and memorable experience for her. As three members of the family were fluent in Polish, they were able to immerse themselves in the culture more fully than most travelers. Carey celebrates each experience they had in a series of poems that are meant to serve as postcards, bright and filled with color, and designed to make the recipient wish he were there.

Joseph Kuhn Carey’s poetry collection, Postcards from Poland, did make me wish I were there. I was enraptured by the images, sounds, colors and beauty that is Krakow and the surrounding countryside. Carey’s poetry is elegant and playful all at once. He masterfully uses personification, alliteration and sound/sense merging techniques, and the results are breathtaking. I found myself searching on the internet for many of the places he shares in his poems, including a McDonalds that is palatial -- literally. Many of these poems beg to be read aloud, the tongue enjoying the interplay of sounds as images are created, reveled in and then flash by to be succeeded by others. I especially appreciated his nature poems and those poems which describe the family’s visits to the local salt mines and caves. These poems are steeped in mystery, romance and wonder; however, the magic is present in so many of these ‘postcards’ that I’d be really hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Postcards from Poland is most highly recommended.

Lit Amri

Joseph Kuhn Carey shares his travelling experiences through Postcards from Poland, a collection of poems inspired by his two and a half week trip to the Polish cities of Krakow and Zakopane with his family in the summer of 2011. “There was something mystical and moving in the people, buildings, landscape, churches and faith that filled me with so many wonderful and unforgettable images, I knew I had to start capturing things in words... like imaginary postcards.”

Carey “felt at home” in Krakow, as one of the reasons for the trip was to take his Poland-born mother-in-law to visit her homeland with her two adult children (Carey’s wife and brother-in-law). A brief history of WWII is told through his mother-in-law’s arduous journey to survive the war – making the trip to her birthplace after many years meaningful for everyone.

The poem “Luggage Lost” starts the collection: “Luggage lost/ somewhere between/ Chicago, Warsaw and Krakow/ all of the essential things/ gone, jettisoned into space.” This made me chuckle, as I, and of course a lot of people, been through the same situation. It never really crosses my mind that this kind of nuisance would inspire someone to write a poem about it.

Carey continues to reflect in his poems the fascinating atmosphere of Krakow Cloth Hall, Wawel Castle, Wieliczka Salt Mine and many more. People from every walk of life became his subjects – young talkative cab drivers, street performers, other travelers, just to name a few. On the whole, Carey’s vivid prose is easily imaginable; readers can definitely experience the journey through his perspective.

Viga Boland

I must confess I elected to review Postcards from Poland by Joseph Kuhn Carey for purely selfish reasons: my Polish parents were taken by the Nazis to work in the labour camps during World War 2, never to return to their birthplace. But I have fond memories of them telling me about so many of the places that Joseph Kuhn Carey mentions in this wonderful book. Krakow, Zakopane, Morskie Ocho, the Tatra Mountains: no longer just names of places I heard about at my father’s knee.

Postcards from Poland is actually a collection of marvellous poems, some short enough to fit onto a small postcard, others for the larger variety. But instead of photos, we are treated to what I’ll call photo-poems that, thanks to the superb writing skills of Joseph Kuhn Carey, become so much more than any photo could show. Photos cannot capture the sounds of a horse-drawn carriage clip-clopping along cobblestone streets. Nor can they help us taste a pizza with a large dollop of ketchup at its center. But this poet helps us hear and taste.

Postcards from Poland is full of sensuous details. How clearly we sense the fear of the passengers as a female bus driver sped along the road to Zakopane with her cell phone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other!

“clearly wasn’t going to let cars and pedestrians get in her
speed-demon way
she came so close to hitting so many cars,
people, and trucks, that it soon became a white-knuckle
roller-coaster ride”

So too we hear the “sizzling fiddlers sling out notes” while “fleet-fingered accordionists add crisp, crackling logs to the soaring gypsy bonfire.”

The poem “Magical Medieval McDonald’s” was a real eye-opener: imagine heading downstairs with your trays of food as you look for a table where you can eat your hamburgers and fries. Such an archaic setting to eat something so contemporary.

“descending instead back through time
a thousand years, as the walls turn
to brick and the vaulted curved ceilings
surround you…”

Postcards from Poland is a traveller’s delight and a poetry lover’s feast. As someone who may never have the chance to see, hear and experience Poland as her parents did, but also as they never could, I cannot thank Joseph Kuhn Carey enough for the interactive postcards he has sent me from Poland. I loved this book.

Roy T. James

Postcards from Poland by Joseph Kuhn Carey contains poetic impressions of the author. It begins on an elated note, having received the lost luggage, and goes on to produce some wonderful poems in ‘the language of rhythm and truth.’ First Night speaks of the arches of Krakow that will tell its history only to a select few. Whether while describing street performers – ‘..descending step after step down a wooden staircase,' or the brides of Krakow ‘...until it seems as if everyone is getting married,’ it is images of real life that emerge from these lines. The book concludes with a traveler ready to go home, ‘for the comfort now of your old pillow, sheets, bed and books.’

Postcards from Poland by Joseph Kuhn Carey is in fact a collection of picture postcards in the form of poetry. These lovely poems not only depict almost all that a postcard can show, like scenes, structures or other facets of nature, but also abstract thoughts. For example, the lines narrating the museum, talk of ‘big pictures hanging by the wall with hidden histories in each.’ Nothing is left untouched; like a bus driver, who spent most of the time talking on the cell phone with one hand, while steering with the other. The author gratefully remembers this particular driver; they had extra sightseeing time as she drove very fast! This is an enjoyable collection, it can leave one with images of Poland worthy to be remembered again and again for days to come.

Rich Follett

Postcards From Poland by Joseph Kuhn Carey is an absolutely delightful collection of ‘make you feel like you are there’ poems for the armchair traveler. In a colorful volume bound to resemble an old-fashioned postcard, Carey’s rich verse pours forth a bounty of sensory details guaranteed to make any reader feel as if he or she has visited Poland personally. From “A Cart Full of Matches”: “a woman stands next to the cart/dressed in an old-time peasant/dress, a colorful scarf wrapped/around her head/the matches are wooden and thick/ready for striking/like torpedoes packed away/in forgotten gray sheds.” Such imagery is fecund and rare - a true feast for the senses.

The postcard views expressed in Carey’s poems are a perfect mix of the exotic and the accessible: easy to read and yet peppered with scenes and references unique to Poland. The poems themselves are beautifully crafted, highly imaginative, and full to the brim with tenderness for what is clearly a beloved country for the poet. From “Krakow Sits Like a King”: “Krakow sits like a king/in all its old stone glory/cobblestones all aglow.” The poet’s love for his subject fairly radiates off the page as each new corner reveals a new beloved view.

It is exceedingly rare to find impeccably crafted poems in such a charming, understated package. Reading Joseph Kuhn Carey’s Postcards From Poland is a bit like finding a Fabergé egg at a jumble sale - one can hardly believe the object in hand is real. Postcards from Poland is a little gem of a poetic journey that will leave you longing to return.