Praise for Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem:
Cecilia Woloch both eulogizes and celebrates the lives of Gypsies, a people who, through diasporas and a history of persecution, have endured centuries of dispossession, exile, poverty and extermination. What is extraordinary and profoundly compelling in this book-length poetic meditation is how skillfully Woloch intertwines her personal journey of identity with the larger forces in the world that have shaped the Roma people’s fate and fortunes.
— Maurya Simon
It has been said that poets write to give voice to those who do not speak for themselves. Cecilia Woloch does this in Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem, and more. She gives form to her own urge for historical and personal identity. Her voice sings through free verse, prose poems, and a relentless beating rhythm of primary accents that underscore the abuses of Gypsies throughout western civilization where the soul of the Gypsy has been pursued to near extinction. But through the words of Woloch, Gypsy lives are caught in burning imagery for longer than a flash on the page.
— Sylvia Melville
I can’t think of anyone who writes like Cecilia Woloch. As she says quoting Isabel Fonseca, “among gypsies, continual self-reinvention has been the primary tool of survival.” In Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem, Cecilia Woloch reinvents herself as a Gypsy fire of language, a “single word” set flaming as a daring, dancing lyric conflagration in the reader’s hand.
— Carol Muske-Dukes
Upon the blank page of her grandmother’s, and every Gypsy’s death, Cecilia Woloch writes her own story. Haunted. Unsettled. Gorgeously so.
— Ralph Angel
A lyrical journey through history and memory so beautiful that at times it belies the deep pain it represents. Woloch takes us through fragments of memory that give glimpses into a life-long struggle with a hidden identity. Before I read Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem, I knew what had happened to Gypsies across the ages — I knew the detail of their persecution under the Nazis; their gassing at Auschwitz — but now I understand it completely differently. Now I feel it as if I had lived it. Poetry so tender allows one to be led by the hand through an anguished and otherwise unapproachable world with dignity and love. Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem gives us time and space to breathe, to live the arc of history and be present in every age, and to take a personal journey into the deep struggle of memory and identity. It's difficult to say that reading about five hundred years of Gypsy persecution left me profoundly enriched, but there is no other way to describe how I feel. Woloch took me on a personal journey as seeker, historian, guide, storyteller. Touchingly authentic.
— Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation Institute
Oh little shadow. Little lurker into doorways. Little Gypsy
Gypsy Gypsy of a girl. Whose bird you were. Whose darkling
in the branches on the underside of morning thrashed them
shimmering with parting as I turned. Who disappeared. Each
bitter word or look dropped like a coin into your pocket, small
gold hidden in the blind folds of your skirt. Keep back. Come
close. In cities made of falling and not falling, smell of smoke.
Smell of wind and blood and ashes. Smell of dancing and of
soot. They say a Gypsy blacksmith forged the nails to kill their
Christ; that’s the reason someone set the church bells ringing,
sky in flames. And when you ran — burned from the clearing,
all those black wings beating, beating — who ran with you,
just behind you or before you, also flew? So spit your luck into
the embers. Flash your name, if that’s your jewel. What cannot
be torn away from you is deeper fire: sing.