click for e-poets network homepage:click for Plain Text homepage


The 2005 Festival voix d’ameriques

part 3 of a 3-part review filed 15 March 2005 | Montreal
by Fortner Anderson

Wilson’s cultural politics are woven into her poems and to me this is successful. More problematic is the work of Norman Nawrocki. Nawrocki performed on night five of the festival, the bi-lingual night. He played with have-a-dozen artists who all performed in both English and French. A difficult feat for both the performer and the audience. Few, even in Montreal, have the language skills to capture a full evening of poetry in both languages.


Norman Nawrocki
Norman Nawrocki mingles storytelling, family histories, and music. (photo: Luc Vallières)

Throughout his career Norman Nawrocki has situated his work within anarchist politics. For many years he worked with Sylvain Coté in the now defunct "Rhythm Activism", a punk-influenced duo that performed Norman’s songs, rants and poems celebrating revolutions, worker struggles, and decrying the endless rampant abuse of power.

At the festival, he performed solo, playing his violin, looping segments and over-dubbing to create evocative soundscapes over which he recited his texts. He read excerpts from his book "The Anarchist and the Devil Do Cabaret", which contains selected letters written to his father in Canada from his Uncle Frank in Poland. This correspondence spanned the mid-1930’s, the date of his father’s emigration to Canada, up to the mid-nineties when his Uncle disappeared.

In the first letters, Uncle Frank describes the rise of Polish fascism before the war, his fear of the Nazi toughs roaming the streets of Warsaw. He writes of Hitler’s threats to crush the Polish people and the world’s indifference. After the German invasion, he joins the resistance and writes from the forests and then from a mountain wilderness where he has sought safety from the Nazi’s. A simple and peaceful man he is drawn into a murderous and solitary life, killing German soldiers by night and communing with the spirits of the mountains by day.

In a poignant last letter, written forty years after the war, Uncle Harry has become a vagabond living on the generosity of the people of Italy. He has wandered across Europe and he sleeps in their parks and on their beaches. His return address is a toy store in Trieste. The puppet-maker there can always find him.

Nawrocki’s work calls explicitly for a resistance to power, a dismantling of the corporate state. This piece is well suited for a condemnation of fascism and a portrayal of the brutality of the Nazi state. Nawrocki’s text evokes the love of home, family and hearth of the two brothers, separated in the cataclysm of central European collapse. His musical accompaniment takes us from fighting fascist gangs in the streets of Warsaw to mountain idylls.

Uncle Frank’s journey follows an arc from naive young man making periogis at home with mother to super-human hero of the resistance to a solitary anarchist hobo who communes with the birds and butterflies. His story depicts a romantic ideal of the struggle against tyranny. After such a great conflict, many did not return. Nawrocki has written a paean to the sacrifice and the heroism of those who resisted and who continue to resist the predations of a society whose engine is the massive exploitation human beings for the benefit of a few

But, we can’t take Uncle Frank’s path, neither the Manichean struggle nor the turning away. If we did, our lives would immediately decompose into a popular cliché of anarchist society,
Now, the anarchist must take on the responsibility to initiate change in that great lumbering beast, liberal democracy. In our current context, resistance becomes more problematic, the divisions less clear, the need to compromise evident.
violent and chaotic. Now, the anarchist must take on the responsibility to initiate change in that great lumbering beast, liberal democracy. In our current context, resistance becomes more problematic, the divisions less clear, the need to compromise evident. In this age of the Patriot Act, global branding, free-trade zones, and CNN we require another set of conceptual tools to tease out "the enemy" knotted within ourselves.

The work of Motion, Wilson, Allen and Nawrocki is essential to the formulation of these tools; in particular the elaboration of an ethics which accepts difference, which finds beauty rather than terror in an ineffable otherness. With their performances, we start a communication that will begin to dissolve the ideas that keep us and our brethren held fixed by ideals of the world that are the foundation of our misery, physical and spiritual. These are certainly small steps, but essential ones.

Go to Norman’s website to see more of his work including his new CD "DuckWork" and descriptions of his anti-sexist sex-positive shows, "Lessons from a 7ft Penis".

The festival is back next year, sure to be bigger again. For more information, its website is

article home

review - Festival voix d’ameriques: 1 | 2 | 3 copyright © 1999-2016 e-poets network
all rights reserved
get in touch with us | tech info | legal | founder