Andrena Zawinski, born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, lives on the city island of Alameda, CA and teaches writing in Oakland, CA  She has authored several collections of poetry including Something About (2009, Blue Light Press, San Francisco) Traveling in Reflected Light  (1995, Pig Iron Press, Youngstown as a Kenneth Patchen Prize,  Greatest Hits 1991-2001 (2002, Pudding House),  Taking the Road Where It Leads (2008, Poets Corner Press ).
Something About has won the 2010 Josephine Miles PEN Oakland award winner for literary excellence.

Her individual poems have appeared in Quarterly West, Gulf Coast,  Slipstream, Rattle, Many Mountains Moving, Pacific Review, The Progressive Magazine with several Pushcart Prize nominations. Zawinski has been Features Editor at since 2000. She is also the founder and organizer of a Women’s Poetry Potluck and Salon in the San FranciscoBay Area.

For those of you who have my latest collection, SOMETHING ABOUT,
here is a review for you weigh your own takes against. 
I like that the reviewer paid attention to Jane Hyland's cover art and its 
connection to the poems. For those of you who do not yet 
have the book, I hope this will make you want to get a copy. 
it's from Pedestal online. Have a look:

Excerpt from The Pedestal Magazine review, 2010:..
.Zawinski loves words, loves their complexity...encouraging 
her readers to turn them over and over like stones until they 
have mapped and memorized their power and the pictures 
they can evoke...Something About is a solid collection that 
does not shy away from length and weight, or from the idea 
that more is, in fact, more...  Reviewer JoSelle Vanderhooft

Zawinski Poetry Sampler

What They Told Us, What We Believed
...No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.  
--Gregory Orr, from “This is what was bequeathed us”


This is how they told us it would be: 
hard work
hard as digging up clods of earth
parched by sun,

an inheritance
to make something of nothing, 
no purpose but what we make,

the natural phenomena
of hummingbird defying gravity
or the return of the eagle,

all the gloriously hard wing beats 
a chorus of courage,
no meaning but what we find here. 

This is what they said it would be: 
the calloused hands
that shovel shale,
that stoke the furnace,

the steady work 
of molten ash, 
a gift of steel, 

the nails chewed to the quick
with layoffs threatening
the next paycheck,

the face muffled in winter
to hide the shame of the food line,
its dehydrated cheese and powdered milk.

This is what they told us:
about the jewels
that fired furnaces,
the glow of slag smelting,




Chiaroscuro for Reflected Light

--inspired by Louis MacNeice's “Snow”


Sometimes the way the light moves in and spins

the chime of porcelain gulls to streak across

the drawn and muted shade, I'm taken back

beneath a tinsel rain on waves that ebb out

to the sea.  Sometimes the way the light slips

through a crack inside the frame before a freeze,

all arms and legs, I forage angels in the snow

and laugh out loud at winter running wild again. 


Sometimes when light ruffles edges of paper slips,

notices of  half-done things, it travels dream in all

things touched and yet to be.  Sometimes so dazzling

brilliant resplendent, the mere delight in light will

swell the room, and I can see there is more than this

squint of  glass between the sun and the shade.






Taking the Road Where It Leads


The city is banging around again inside my head,

skyline a glare of lights in a blare of amped-up speakers.

And the news is so noisy--there is a war going on

somewhere, over there, this time in Fallujah,

bodies hung like charred rag dolls above the Euphrates.

And that is why I am speeding onto the freeway ramp,

and turning all my thoughts to you: 


Let’s take the road where it leads

out to the blonde grasses and wind bent cyprus,

gulls a blur in blossoms of gossamer clouds,

egrets padding along ice flowers at water’s edge,

lighthouse steady in its quiet coastal warning,

everything bowing down to an order of things.


Let’s make promises, as if we can keep them,

string them like beads into a necklace windswept

by sunset, as shadows grow long and light cuts short.

Let’s reach up, see if we can touch that sky so close,

or spark a wildfire on a lightning burst,

or on a wind shift kick up a storm,

or like some comet, let’s really light up this sky.






You Get the Picture, America

I have a sorrow not wholly mine but another’s.

--Hayden Carruth, “On a Certain Engagement South of Seoul.”


In this movie, you’ll revel in the opening effect--

            the good soldier genuflects at the Wall,

            his reflection cast brighter than he is

            before it, focus blurred in a glint off

            medals of merit of honor of valor washed

            in upon the narcotic Memorial Day sun.


The camera’s long shot will pull you in

            on a close-up, as he runs fingers along

            the trail light of inscripted names.

            In a black and white still, he will read one

            as if touching blind in brail.


There will be this slight diversion in the roll

            of muffled drums and bleat of mournful horns,

            other monuments sprawling off in the backdrop.


You’ll watch him stroke in stroboscope the name

            with charcoal onto onionskin.  He’ll lay

            down at the base a wreath of sweet gardenia

            tinted orange from where hollow-eyed

            a pinned bronzed eagle stares.


In this part you will get to think, to invent

heroes big-as-life on the screen’s theater of war.


But just then in comes an ill-played comic relief,

            a post-revolutionary hipster hawking from his

            banner buttons to the tourist trade that read,

            I’m not Fonda Jane.  The audience will nervously

            chuckle, but this won’t do just about when

            you’re supposed to be getting serious.


Enter the special effects.  You’ll need 3-D glasses

            for flashbacks. The good soldier will take an

            about-face into a trench showered by mortar fire,

            dreaming a firecracker sky,

            peachy curtains flirting the frame.


This is the point where you will expect the plot to unfurl,

            but this screenplay is designed with Cannes in mind,

            so the good soldier delivers only a fractured line:

            Did anyone ever ask me, America?


Here you will be directed to think.  You will think

you’ll catch on as the montage reels by for

the unknown soldiers:                                                            


            One wheels marbled lobbies, legal briefs flagging

            his cut off knees.  One free-bastes cities

            with a thumb stump hand taken by a bad grenade.

            Some bagman, the can-you-spare-a-dime-man,

            catwalks New York alleys, boxes in the

            up and coming doorways.  Grabbing his dick

            hard on a Telegraph corner in Berkeley,

            another swears in living color the name

            “America” as pussy, whore, cunt beneath

            the tie-dyed sunset.  Christ-plain and simple

            one more forges survival crossbows and missals

            of catechismal poetry from Oregon wilderness

            trails.  One more takes the Pulitzer, then

            blows his brains out across the stage.


Here comes the sun in a hazy freeze-frame,

holding back its light, everything inside out.


            You’ll watch surf side in Malibu, as high tide smacks

up against Ha Noi, Da Nang, My Lai, onto the sea wall

liberty fashioned without foundation.


            You will be returned to the black and white,

to the good soldier.  He will neither rally nor protest.


            You will think you are really getting it. You will

predict the others will burn, in a theater absurd

on the stage their collective draft cards.  You will

eat your popcorn with a fervor, draw in

the last sips of your Coke through a noisy straw,

ready for an upright conflict and a slowly satisfying

denouement, when suddenly,


            you will be fed this French existential finale,

left there a little dumbfounded, bushwhacked by

all the warriors lined up at the wall,

only some of them graffiti in

the art of memoria, only some of them

raised in credits at the end.



From SOMETHING ABOUT: Selected Ars Poetica & Ekphrasis


Something About

A Winged Sonnet


Something about these little song sparrows,

their avian tongues and throaty chortles,

the buzzy twittering floundering air

just outside the steamy bedroom window.                


Something about the rain, the way it clucks

its testy tongue against the glass a blur

with the setting sun’s seductive passion.

Something about these sprightly singers.


Something about the way they tuck themselves

inside their wing bars devoted to feathers.

Something about the heart here pinned inside,

the tick of it, sky so blue, nimbus moon. 


Something about this perch beside the pane

to watch day nestle in a moody moonlight.


Available from the author:
All of Ms. Zawinski's books are also vailable through Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.


“Traveling these emotional and actual landscapes, in
the poet’s presence and with her guidance, we’re destined 
to places of beauty, textual importance and riches, in the 
best possible company.”
--Grace Cavalieri Producer/host: The Poet and the Poem 
Library Of Congress

“The palimpsest theme and quality of these poems is beautiful. 
The poet is a conduit. She enters time - the child she once was, 
the father, the mother, the house in her heart, the trees and 
fields and cities we are now, the workers...even in grief and 
horror there is tenderness...and all the way she keeps defining 
what poetry is. Her poems are like tender kisses at our necks.
--Sharon Doubiago: author of Love on the Streets, Selected
& New Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press)

“Zawinski’s strong descriptive powers evoke places with
energy and precision. These are serious, richly metaphorical
poems. Take them where they lead you!”
-- Maggie Anderson: author of Windfall, New & Selected
Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)