Guttenberg selected for poetry reading on 48-state tour

Michael Czarnecki autographed copies of his published poems and shared stories with community members during his poetry reading last week. From left are Kathy Lake, Czarnecki, and Dr. Janette Simon. (Press photo by Molly Moser)


By Molly Moser

Buffalo, N.Y., native Michael Czarnecki gave a reading of his poetry last week at the Riverside Grind in Guttenberg. Czarnecki is embarking on a "Poems Across America Tour," featuring one reading in each of the lower 48 states. The 14-week tour began in Maine on Aug. 13, and the final reading will be near his home in upstate New York on Nov. 17, his 63rd birthday. The reading in Guttenberg was his only stop in Iowa, and was the 16th engagement on his journey. 

“This is the biggest tour I’ve ever taken,” Czarnecki told his audience last week. “It’s been amazing so far.” Czarnecki began writing poetry at age 17 with an assignment from his high school English teacher, Mr. Kerr. “I haven’t stopped since,” Czarnecki said. He spoke with reverence about his first poetry teacher, even including him in the line of a poem that reads, “Mr. Kerr, if only you could know how as a teacher you changed my life.” 

Twenty years ago, Czarnecki gave up his job with a local winery to pursue poetry full-time. With bushy silver hair and beard, he looks the part of a dedicated poet. His words are inspired by nature, the simple comforts of home, and his many travels. During one three-year period of his life, said Czarnecki, he hitchhiked 30,000 miles. After he began touring his poems, he learned that words could be bartered for lodging. 

In 1996, while on a journey across Route 20 (the country’s longest road, spanning the full width of the U.S. from Boston, Mass., to Newport, Ore.), Czarnecki found himself in need of a room for the night. In exchange for a room, he offered to list the hotel on the acknowledgements page of the book he intended to publish following the trip, and promised to return with enough printed copies of the book to cover the cost of the room. Many hotels took him up on this offer. The Canfield Hotel in Dubuque is among those acknowledged in the resulting book, Twenty Days on Highway Twenty.

Continued in the pages of The Guttenberg Press

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