Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Lucien Stryk was born in Kolo, Poland, to Emil Stryk and Celia (Meinstein) Stryk in early April of 1924. His family moved to the United States in 1928, settling in Chicago and narrowly escaping the horrors that would ravage Poland during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Although Stryk and his family were spared what undoubtedly would have been an appalling and inevitable march toward death, they still felt the aftermath of the events as members of their extended family remained in Poland, only to meet their untimely deaths at the hands of Nazis.
During the turbulence of the Depression and World War II, Stryk came of age on the South Side of Chicago. Many poems, including “A Sheaf for Chicago” (from Notes for a Guidebook) and “White City” (from Awakening), chronicle Stryk’s everyday life as a boy growing up in an urban landscape that was teeming with immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants. Although many reviewers of Stryk’s poetry note the influence of his study of Zen thought—a clear and strong force throughout his poems and translations—too few mention the impact of Stryk’s early years as the son of outsiders. As is common with young children and teenagers, the idea that one might be different from a given peer group presents a dilemma that at the time seems staggering, yet that may later offer a better vantage for the creation of art. In “White City,” Stryk describes the act of climbing on an abandoned...
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