Part travelogue, part memoir, part dreambook, the poems in "Dervish," lead the reader on a skittish sojourn where familiar borders blur and redemption seems to always be the elusive destination. A record of a bohemian odyssey traversing the edges of memory, desire, and faith in the unseen.

Winner of the 2000 Gival Press Poetry Prize

Nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, 2001

Finalist for the 2002 Violet Crown Book Award sponsored by the Writer's League of Texas and Barnes and Noble Booksellers

 

 

Michael Lassell - author of "A Flame for the Touch That Matters" 
"The farflung geography of Gerard Wozek's Dervish suggests a journey, but the real landscape here is the untamed territory of the open heart. This restless gay man's garden of verses is as innocent and worldly as a dried bouquet hanging behind the counter of a café in Prague. Heartfelt, graceful, eloquent and erudite, Gerard Wozek's poems are compelling and moving---redolent, perhaps, of some future nostalgia for lessons learned long ago, in youth.
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Gerry Gomez Pearlberg - author of "Mr. Bluebird"
"In his debut collection, Dervish, Gerard Wozek shares generously of an open, attentive heart and a wide-ranging vision. In these pages, find potent spells, incantations, recitations, and prayers that summon forth the poet's sharp determination to move beyond mere survival into a fiery thriving, even--perhaps, especially--in the midst of loss and devastation. By Jove, these poems shimmer."

 

Karen Lee Osborne - author of the novels "Carlyle Simpson" and "Hawkwings"
"Gerard Wozek looks for miracles in everyday moments, chance encounters, trysts, and rituals. Whether set in Paris, Vienna, LaSpezia, Mexico City, or Saugatuck, these poems written 'in remembrance of seraphs' celebrate a gritty reverence for the body as they draw on pagan and Christian influences. In Wozek's poems, gay sensibility and spiritual longing are one and the same."

 

Jeff Mann - author of "Bones Washed with Wine"
"'Hunger is instrumental', says Gerard Wozek, and in Dervish that same hunger makes the world luminous. Whether describing a Viennese coffeehouse, a beach by Lake Michigan, an erotic bookstore, or a Parisian cemetery, Wozek captures the unceasing, insatiable whirl of the boy's appetites and the music Eros lends to existence. Reading Dervish, we join the speaker's attempts to 'trust this pulse, this sweat,' to 'keep [touch] holy,' to carve out a 'destiny / that matters.'"

 

Review of Dervish at it appears online at Booksurge:
"The prevalent themes in this ambitious first book by Chicago, Illinois native Wozek are travel and identity. For some, traveling means leaping to the unknown where we're somehow freer to embrace whatever or whomever all in the name of revelation. The result of this treatment of travel is poetry written not in the spirit of expression, but in the spirit of discovery. With lines like 'until I shimmer like polished ivory,/ stir and thrash like a new god' and 'your eyes give back/ my whole desire' we see the speaker's internal struggle in virtually every poem. As truth unravels for the speaker, it's revealing itself to the readers as well. It is this feeling of collectivism that makes reading and re-reading 'Dervish' a cardinal experience. The logistical progression of these poems, though, is difficult to comment on. The readers wander through Italy and France, to India and Germany, to the USA and then back to France, then to Algeria, Poland, Italy and Mexico. On one hand, the sundry locations are jarring and scattered, but on the other hand they speak to that sense of dervish - how the soul simultaneously exists in many geographies, yet no one particular place. Thus, this structure is one of restlessness. Through this capricious physical setting, the poet twirls the readers. We whirl and whirl, unable to discern ground from sky. Wozek's consistently descriptive language, where precision is the primary concern, involves the readers. Textured diction such as 'until they suffocated in their long manly moans' and 'we swallow silk' shows Wozek's ability to accurately depict a moment. Not only this, but his poems evoke great writers such as Diane Ackerman ('I sing praises to my destroyer') and Jane Hirshfield (seen in his stellar use of directives in poems 'Spell for Changing Bodies' and 'Ritual for Letting Go'). However, at times the uses of language both push and pull the reader. Private and referential lines such as 'not a jolt/ from a melange at the Hawelka' have a distancing effect. Yet, at the same time, Wozek's words (for example: 'and let the damp gardenia air swell our lungs') convey a certain intimacy, like inviting a known voyeur into one's home. What's most remarkable about this collection is its adoration: love of language, man, travel, and love of self. So, for all who are unafraid to journey from the self and to the self by way of sex and beauty, then close the blinds, smash the television, pour a glass of Merlot, pull up a sofa, and indulge in 'Dervish.' Fear not, for this won't be the last of Gerard Wozek. The book's final sentiment rightfully forecasts Wozek's position on our national poetry scene: 'I persist.'"

--Janee Baugher  

 

Review of Dervish in Windy City Times, April 24, 2002:
Dervish is a poetic travelogue that takes the readers on a journey through time and across various landscapes. Wozek, who is an educator, as well as a writer, uses sensual language to convey the dizzying highs of gay youth and love. The poems in Dervish create a sense of nostalgia and a quest for home. Dervish is a well-traveled passage.
--Gregg Shapiro, Copyright © 2002 Windy City Times

 

Review of Dervish as it appears in The Midwest Book Review, Volume 12, Number 3, March 2002:
Dervish is an impressive and memorable compendium showcasing the poetry of Gerard Wozek. A master wordsmith, Wozek's poetry is eloquent, moving, and leaves behind an intellectual and emotional impact that hallmarks him as a truly gifted poet. 'A Calendar from Krakow' / with unpronounceable days. / Printed with glossy photos / of floodlit church steeples / and crenellated towers. / Exotica to pitch / a tourist's imagination elsewhere. / The camera lens keeps / less affluent residents / out of the frame. / Perhaps they're behind / the old cloth hall / or in the pee-rancid train depot / where the old communist songs / still raise the rafters. / Wood shavings on the waiting room / floor make soft nests / at the shoeless feet of comrades, / where their carved birds / wait to fly overseas / for only two zloty.
--The Poetry Shelf

 

Review of Dervish as it appears in The Lambda Book Review, March 2002:
Paris as a pilgrimage, truck stops for release, a ritual for letting go, waking with another man's breath on his body, travel once shared with a lover, playing Peter Pan with cousin Ellis ('even at nine I am the older man'): in his debut collection, Wozek ranges widely, and wisely, his words and their images caressing with a gentle, firm spirituality and invoking a grounded gay sensibility. These are poems as a stream of dreams--cool, clear-flowing, calming, cleansing, beckoning, refreshing, vital.
--Richard Labonté

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