Born Under the Influence
by Andrena Zawinski
75 Poems ~ 130 pages
Price: $20.00
Publisher: Word Poetry
ISBN: 9781625494160 To Order: For a signed copy and a lovely handmade bookmark order direct from the author:
or from


Born Under the Influence, through the beauty in its poignant and passionate poems, carries the reader on the journey poetry should. The journey often takes shape through narrative free verse, in European and Asian forms as well as invented forms with subject matter that is both compassionate yet resolute. The poetry embraces with deep-rooted emotional power the worldwide condition of women, immigrants, and the working class alongside a reverence for the natural world. These are brave works that come from a keen internal eye as well as a steadfast attention to craft.


“Andrena Zawinski's powerful fourth collection is dynamic in the way musicians use that word, artful in its mood shifts-loud in anger at what women are given to endure and quiet in appreciation of the pleasures they can find. With great skill and feeling, she depicts women's lives across a variety of times and places. Everywhere, Zawinski pays attention, whether to the miners' wives in a company coal town who were used by bosses '… in fields,/across floorboards, mouths silenced with gags/of grief …' or to a vase with three lilies in a seaside room: '… their musky heads/tilted the way women stop to talk on coastal trails/ears of the cove listening in.' Born Under the Influence speaks up beautifully for women and also for life.”
–Susan Cohen, Democracy of Fire, Broadstone Books

“Andrena Zawinski is an activist poet whose works intensely open up paths of struggle, celebration, and revolutionary victories. Her work will convince any reader of her importance as a major American poet. In these poems, she names all the things of youth and then arrives at womanhood and attacks all forms of contemporary femicide amid lyrical affirmations of love attained in a brilliant book of poems.”
–Jack Hirschman, All That’s Left, San Francisco Poet Laureate Series, City Lights Books

“Andrena Zawinski is a poet of rare talent and radical empathy who combines the straightforward, take-no-prisoners, blue collar directness of a steelworker's daughter in her narratives along with the rules of formal verse creating lines which blossom into poems of memory, rebellion, longing, righteous anger, and-above all-survival. These poems are tough, smart, and beautifully crafted.”
–Mary Mackey, The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams, Marsh Hawk Press Eric Hoffer Prize

“Andrena Zawinski records details of memory and songs of longing. She describes growing up as a Catholic girl in a working-class neighborhood as a cascade of childhood toys and games, a flood of adolescent loves, a parade of bad boys and charmers. Innocence dissolves into sexual awakening merging with grief and loss. Once we know who the poet is, she's free to paint landscapes, cityscapes, portraits of women-the murdered ones, the forgotten ones, the ones who died alone. The poet celebrates working men and women: waitresses, immigrants, farm workers, ironworkers. A versatile master of fixed forms, Zawinski employs pantoum, rondel, haibun, landay, and others to counterpoint descriptions of the horror of rape, the agony of rage, and the triumph, however tentative, of recovery. These are poems of wide range, expert craft, and deep feeling. We are lucky to have this poet among us.”
–Michael Simms, Meadowlark, Ragged Sky Press


Andrena Zawinski is the author of three other poetry books, several chapbooks, and has edited two anthologies. Her poetry has received accolades for free verse, form, lyricism, spirituality, social concern and include a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, Kenneth Patchen Poetry Prize, Emily Stauffer Poetry Prize, Tiferet Carriage House Poetry Prize, Pittsburgh Magazine Harry Schwalb inaugural Excellence in the Arts Award, Akron Art Museum Prize, Paterson Literary Review Allen Ginsberg Honors, and many more with several Pushcart Prize nominations. Her poems have received praise from Lynn Emanuel, Jim Daniels, Len Roberts, Carolyn Wright, Lynne Knight, Jan Beatty, Rebecca Foust, and others for their embrace of the human condition with compassion and intelligence with an unflinching attention to craft.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA as the daughter and granddaughter of steelworkers and coalminers, she earned degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to become a teacher of writing in public school, university, and community college systems as well as a poet-in-residence for educational, arts, and community organizations in Pennsylvania and California. Those included Pittsburgh Public Schools, West Mifflin Schools, Gilmary Therapeutic Treatment Center for Adjudicated Delinquents, Allegheny Community College, University of Pittsburgh, St. Mary’s College of California, Peralta Community Colleges, Pittsburgh Council for the Arts, Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, International Poetry Forum, and others. She has also done government, legal, retail, and restaurant work, much of it as a single parent. Zawinski lives in the San Francisco Bay area where as an activist poet and feminist she founded and runs a popular Women’s Poetry Salon. She was also longstanding Features Editor at


Living Dolls

by Andrena Zawinski

A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.
Sylvia Plath

As a little girl, I never wanted any creepy
doll. No haunted puppet or voodoo doll.
Not Twilight Zone’s sinister Talking Tina.
No Chucky of horror fame. Not even
a sideways glancing Kewpie doll waif
won tossing balls in a carny booth.

Yet they continued to arrive
on holidays and on birthdays.
Betsy Wetsy drink-and-pee in diaper.
Walking Baby in gingham and Mary Janes.
Stiff dollies with oddly cheery countenances.
I wanted none of them.

Not the rosy-cheeked Southern belle
with golden ringlets and starched ruffles.
Not the newest bride doll propped up
on the bed, collections of them crammed
on a bookshelf or hung high on the wall
in out-of-hand displays of crinoline and satin.

I favored the comfort of a monkey sock doll
my mother clipped, stitched, and stuffed
from Rockford Reds. As a little girl I wanted
my brother’s Lionel train remote to make
the trail of cars speed, smoke, and toot
along figure eight tracks through a tiny toy town.

As a little girl what I wanted
was an Erector Set to assemble bridges.
Lego bricks and beams for cityscapes.
Lincoln Logs for cabins and barns.
Appliance box toss aways turned clubhouse
with Crayolas, scissors, and tape.

I chose, over dressy dolls, to strap on
a cowgirl holster and gun with chaps and hat
to cruise the block on a cherry Schwinn.
Or to whiz around on slick metal skates,
key dangling like a fancy locket
from a string at my neck. I really loved

smacking the Wiffle Ball with a bat.
Firing glass cat eyes against a wall.
Crawling around on monkey bars.
Pumping the air on a wooden swing,
its rattle of chains in my hands. As a little girl,
what I really wanted was to fly–
wind in my hair, imagination rocketing.


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