Thursday, July 30, 2015

Proof by Karina Borowicz





















All poets are teachers, and the best poets are the ones who have learned to teach in such a way that we learn from them with joy and ease and certainty.

Karina Borowicz is this kind of teacher.

Reading her poems I feel that I am learning about the world, both the little things and the big things, in such a way that I will be transformed by her lessons and that I will carry these lessons to others, and they will feel the joy I felt.  

Here are a couple of her poems, so that you'll be able to see what I mean.  


Tools 

Hammer and hacksaw, vise and screwdriver have the hard gaze
and slow heartbeat of reptiles.  I am visiting the hardware store

with my father.  In a wooden drawer stained by dirty fingers
a sea of nails rolls back and forth.  The bare light bulb

burning in the middle of the ceiling cuts deep shadows
in the men's faces, silent men that smell of sawdust and kerosene,

boiled cabbage and cigarettes.  When I furtively pick up a crested little tool
its claws bite my palm.  The neighborhood's only color TV glows neon

in the dark room behind the register.  Cowboys are fighting at the bar,
chairs are crashing, the soundtrack builds ominously.



School for the Blind 
Photo Exhibit at the Central House of Artists, Moscow

A boy, his scalp covered
with white stubble, his face up close,
all sharp bone, all light
and shadow.  In the hollows 
of his eyes, darkness runs
too deep to give anything back.

Is it right to gaze so freely
at the blind?  My shame
and my tenderness are beating 
together.  I look away,
then step closer.

Back in the street I'm greedy
for faces.  Only these carry with them
a different ligh, not time-stopped.
These mouths move, these eyes
gaze back, these faces
flicker in the human breeze
as we stream over the sidewalk.
The cobalt beginnings of hair barely visible
on a man's shaven chin.  An old woman
whose eyebrows have worn down
to puckered skin.  Ears, some red,
some folded, or wing-like.  Beneath this angry
winter sky, there's nothing as beautiful
as our bare, imperfect faces.

Yet the photograph stays with me
like the tightened, white line
of a scar.  A negative after-image
that glows with otherworldly perfection.  
























Karina Borowicz's book Proof is available at Amazon.  

____________________________________

Karina Borowicz was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She earned a BA in history and Russian from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Borowicz spent five years teaching English in Russia and Lithuania, and has translated poetry from Russian and French. Her first collection of poetry, The Bees Are Waiting (2012), won the Marick Press Poetry Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry, the First Horizon Award, and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her second book, Proof (2014), won the Codhill Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Nightboat Press Poetry Prize. Borowicz lives with her family in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

London Manuscript by Anna Maria Mickiewicz

London manuscript cover for shop













The following is Tomas Niedokos' review of London Manuscript by Anna Maria Mickiewicz. The review originally appeared in Nowy Czas:

This is a new volume of verse by Anna Maria Mickiewicz, a Polish-English poet writing in Polish and English and living and publishing in England. Based in London, she is a keen observer of the natural (parks and gardens) and cultural life of the Metropolis, aware of centuries of history behind her and the cultural landscape around her.
Her poems are epiphanies in which an instant observation, always rooted in a particular locality, may lead to other worlds: to Ancient Greece, Middle Ages or to thePolandof the poet’s youth. Socrates can be spotted in a quietLondongarden and “What if the woman on the beach was a cousin of Virginia Woolf’s?” The Dead are always with us in the communion of culture.
Being a Pole, and a distant relative of the great Polish romantic poet, Mickiewicz cannot leave behind the turbulent history of her country and Eastern Europe (transportations toSiberia, Marshal Law), which was also the history of her family and herself. The memories of “a crumbling world order”, generations “tainted by the pain of parting with the unsettled soil” add certain sadness and discord to the tone of this poetry, which seems to be in quiet and resigned harmony with its space and time.
Other poems, by contrast, are “impressionist” pieces (“Summer inSeaford”), evoking a passing moment, mood or sight, which allow the reader to see things from an unexpected perspective, to discover the unfamiliar in the familiar thanks to a well-crafted and perceptive metaphor. The poet has a special penchant for capturing watery phenomena: fogs, mists, puddles, “droplets of water”, so typical of English landscape and cityscape, but in the end they are always seen through the filter of culture; nature and culture coalesce.
A love of England, its nature and culture transpire from these poems, the poet seems to be very well rooted in her adopted country, but the outlook, metaphors, similes are her own and refreshing, drawing from the experience of living in two cultures, two histories and, last but not least, two languages. And for the reader it is an interesting and pleasing journey through this very sensual, but also marked by history and culture, poetic world.
Tomasz Niedokos
Tomasz Niedokos is a Lublin-based academic. He  works on English literature. His PhD was on "The Concept of English Culture in the Cultural Biographies of Peter Ackroyd”
___________________________________________________________


A London dream

Her mother’s voice:
Where will they send us?
We should pack the things we need.
Remember about the family silver, table cloths.
Quick!
Now!
What else will we need?
What else will we need?
                                                           
The Departure
The cattle train moves
The world has changed.

Where are we going?
Where are we going?

Arkhangelsk was just nearby.

This was not Siberia.
In Siberia
People were able to exchange clothes
For food.
In Arkhangelsk
It was not possible.


A frozen childhood picture
Is kept like in a crystal ball:
Muddy fields, a big forest
Someone is singing  
Somewhere in Belarus.

I am only dreaming at night
I worry, if I will visit the place now

The dream will disappear                            

__________________

Summer in Seaford

The sun sheds its golden drops.
The sea devours them instantly. 
The sky shimmers. 

The day is snatched from another story. 
We’re arriving, here at the end of the line. 
We convince ourselves that infinite space is an illusion…

We walk through the small English town.
A tiny station, plaster falling unevenly off the wooden beams.
Before us the Channel gleams threateningly. 

In the distance a cliff plunges sharply into the sea.
No chips, no ice cream, no candy floss. 
Dead jellyfish glitter on the pebbles. 
The day passes lazily by 
A ship silhouetted in grey against its face.

On the beach a couple unfold deckchairs
Wrinkled skin 
They read the papers. 
They seem unreal 
Postimpressionist faces
All nonchalant 

We’re heading back. 
The cafes and restaurants are closed. 
Who lives here at the end of the world?

Looking through photographs of the scandalous Bloomsbury set, 
An old snapshot. 
A gaunt young woman and a man in deckchairs.
They are reading the papers. 

What if the woman on the beach was a cousin of Virginia Woolf's? 
Who was the man? 
A poet? 
Or one of her scandalous friends?

Anna Maria Mickiewicz
London

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

With Blood and Scars by B. E. Andre

A note by Danusha Goska from Bieganski the Blog


"With Blood and Scars" by BE Andre


"With Blood and Scars" is a new Polish-themed book by B. E. Andre.

The book has two plotlines. One involves children, and is from the past. One involves a Polish father dying of cancer in modern day England, and his adult child hoping to learn the full facts of his life before he dies.

The book's intriguing title comes from a passage written for Polish children about their own country. How was Poland born? "With blood and scars." 

Here's the book description from Amazon:

"Time is running out for Ania. She needs to ask her dying father a vital question; his answer is the key to how she will lead the rest of her life. She must force him to revisit his childhood in Poland in 1944, a time when decisions about survival were made on the spur of the moment, a place where chaos undermined all previous morality. Who is her father really? Can she bear to find out? 

Another secret also torments her: an incident she filed in her memory store. Now the police have found the remains of a child in Whalley Range. Should she try to find the gang of friends from her own childhood days? Or should she keep the secret of what happened then? This coming-of-age novel is a tale of heroic survival against all odds: a life-affirming story of courage and hope set against harrowing circumstances. It celebrates the goodness that can be found in all nations." 


_______________

The book is available from Amazon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Arpil Snow by Oriana Ivy


Oriana Ivy’s book of poems April Snow won the New Women’s Voices Prize in Poetry in 2011.

She deserved that prize, and plenty of others as well. 

Re-reading it the book this morning, I was again touched by her gifts.

Here’s the blurb I wrote for her book when it first came out:

Oriana Ivy is the best kind of poet.  She writes about things that matter – family and work, love and the past, nature and history – in a way that always sounds honest, never tired or familiar.  Read her.  She’s got an ear for language and an eye for image that make her poems as irresistible as joy and kindness.

Every word is still true.  Maybe truer.

Here are a couple of the poems from her book that I especially liked.


GRANDMOTHER’S LAUGHTER


One day in the street my grandmother
stops before another grandmother.
Both stammer: “It’s you –
you – in Auschwitz – ”

Turning to me: “She and I shared
the same blanket. Every night she said,
‘You’ve got more than I’
and pulled, and I pulled back,

and so we’d tug across the bunk – ”
And the two grandmothers laugh.
In the middle of a crowded
sidewalk, in old women’s dusk,

widows’ browns and grays,
they are laughing like two schoolgirls –
tears rain down the cracked
winter of their cheeks.

On Piotrkowska Avenue,
on the busiest street,
they are tugging that thin blanket.
They are pulling back.


WARSAW POPLARS


It’s not the country I miss.
I miss the poplars
lining the long avenue,
leafy perspective I loved to trace

from my fourth-story window,
past Cemetery of the Russian Soldiers
all the way to the airport.
The avenue was named

after the first aviators.
uncle Gienio, killed in air battle
over france, was an aviator,
smiling from his biplane,

fading in a sepia photograph.
To his little sister, my mother,
he said, “We’ll fly around the world.”
I stood in each window,

walked out every door –
daydreamed on all bridges, dazed
with departure’s nets of light. I too
wanted to fly around the world.

At seventeen, you don’t ask
the price. In a sepia October,
I left. Behind me swayed
Warsaw poplars,

tree by tree bowing back.
Shadows laced my hands,
the passing leaves
rustled warnings I didn’t hear –

long perspective of poplars,
upward arms burned to gold –
behind me an endless
avenue of gold wind. 

___________________________________

The book is available from Amazon.  

She blogs about art, writing, psychology, God, myth, and poetry at her blog Oriana-Poetry.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Interview with Leszek Szymanski

This posting of Writing the Polish Diaspora features Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak’s interview with Polish writer leszek szymanski*:















leszek szymanski

Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak: I would like to present to our readers an unusual figure in leszek szymanski* (aka Dr. Leslie Shyman), a writer, journalist, historian, traveler, politolog, philosopher, and a leading figure among  Polish Emigre writers.  He is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, mostly in English, and has his place in the literatures of Poland, Australia and the USA.  He is also a recipient of the Joseph Conrad (Korzeniowski) Award of Miasto Literatow (City of Writers).  In Poland he is known in literary circles as the legendary founder of "wspolczesnosc" (the Contemporary), an amazing small magazine with a circulation of 55,000!  In 1956, that was the only private and independent publication behind the Iron Curtain.

The Interview

Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak: Why did you leave Poland, I believe, in 1959, and what was your first destination abroad?

leszek.szymanski. To answer this question, I must move backward to 1956---the year of the so called "Polish October (peaceful) Revolution."  The birth of Wspolczesnosc was possible only because of pre- revolutionary ferment which started after Stalin's death, and it reached its apogee in Poland in October 1956.

 We were reasonably independent in literary matters and completely independent in financial matters.  But once Comrade Wieslaw (Wladyslaw Gomulka) was established in power, even quasi literary  autonomy could not be tolerated by the monopolistic Party.  Only the Roman Catholic Church was allowed semi-independence. 

Thus, we were soon taken by the government conglomerate of RSWP.  No personnel changes were made to the editorial board, but I was given a deputy chief editor named JOZEF LENART.

Lenart was a youth activist of the Union of Polish Youth (ZMP), an ex co-editor of its daily Banner of Youth (Sztandar Mlodych), and a trusted party man.  He was also antagonistic towards us, a group of independent young writers.

 I remember once, when I was waiting in the corridors of power of the Central Committee of Z.M.P., Lenart approached me.  Smiling, with one hand pointed toward the palm of his other hand, he said, "Sooner the hair will grow on the palm of my hand, than you will publish ''wspolczesnosc.''  Now, still with a bold palm, he became my deputy.

 I never had any illusions about Gomulka's liberalism and it was obvious to me that the days of our semi-independence were ending and we would have to follow the Party line through all its zigzags, while it pretending to be following a straight line. That Party line was the equivalent of today's political correctness---no matter how stupid and contradictory it was, you had to follow it.

Those in our group who were not submissive enough would be eliminated.  I was right, though not about the timing.  It took much longer to dissolve our group than I thought it would.  Jan Zbigniew Slojewski was treated especially badly---for a long time, he was not allowed to print anything.  Andrzej Chacinski was moved from the secretary of the editorial board to an equivalent position in some small cooperative magazine.  Zbigniew Irzyk found shelter in Pax press.  

 In 1959, Teodor Parnicki (then still in Mexico), the author of  End of the Peace of Nation, granted me an award for continuing his novel.  And off I went with my then first wife Jadwiga de domo Ornowska to India, to do historic research for that book.  While in India, I was wondering why my "reportages" from that country were not printed.  Then I heard that I was to be arrested and that the Polish embassy wanted me to return.  At the time I was in Himalayas, at Rishikes  xxx    with Shri Shivananda Guru, thanks to Wanda Dynowska, in his ashram. (The words "guru" and "ashram" did not have the present currency---again, I happened to be a pioneer.)

 Previously, in New Delhi, I had met two people---an Indian writer and a member of the Congress from Cultural Freedom, Prabhagar Padhye, and Arthur Koestler, a then very well known  anti-communist writer.

In hindsight, the news about my imminent arrest was grossly exaggerated, or perhaps purposely made to push me to ask for asylum, which would have gotten rid of a now awkward person.  The Marek Hlasko incident was still fresh, and if I remember correctly, Jozef Lenart asked us to discuss "casus Hlasko", i.e. condemn him.

Anyway, my wife and I requested de facto asylum to the Australian High Commission, the British High Commission, and the US. Embassy.  The British and the Americans promised to consider the matter.  Sir Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia, granted us immigrant visas in I believe three days.  And with that, my wife and I flew to Sydney with a long layover in Manila.

BH:  Who paid the tickets?  And why the immigrant visas?

l.s: Congress for Cultural Freedom.  And immigrant, because I did not want to give my friends and colleagues any trouble, as well as my mother since my father had just died.  I did not want to make a political gesture as Marek Hlasko, Andrzej Brycht and many others did, regardless of the consequences for those left behind.

BH:  I have heard that you have already knew English. How was that?

l.s: In or about 1953, I met at the Warsaw Youth Festival an Indian Writer, KEDAR NATH, who became one of my best friends.  I invited him to Poland and he stayed with me till I left that country. 

From him, I learned how to speak English.  Previously, I had a passive knowledge of the language---

I could read and translate, but not talk.  I had English in school (gimnazium i liceum im, Stefana Batorego).  My father Kazimierz spoke and wrote English.  And Edward Simmons of the American Embassy (a mysterious figure) helped me with spoken English and invited me for movies and parties at the embassy.  Now that friendship could really be a pretext for an arrest.

BH:  Tell us about your connections with Jerzy Giedroyc, Mieczyslaw Grydzewski and Marek Hlasko.

l.s.In Poland i had a contract signed for the publication of the collection of my short stories ESCAPE TO THE TROPICS. It had a foreword by Stanislaw Rembek. The contract was signed with a quasi independent and quasi Roman Catholic organisation PAX. When the Party took us over, the Pax declined to honour the agreement (they [Pax] were after us, and displeased with me), but our new publisher RSW Prasa, did signed a new publishing contract.
I had a number of short stories published in the various magazines, and even won a III Prize in the competition by Union of Polish Writers  for a story about Adam Mickiewicz. But I was not as well known as Marek Hlasko, and maybe, a book publication would change the situation. I felt i was not worse writer than him.

BH:  Pardon me, but what it has to do with Giedroyc and  Grydzewski ? Also I'd like to know more about your connection with PAX. Did you know Boleslaw Piasecki?

leszek szymanski smiling: Yes, my book has a lot to do or rather not to do with Giedroyc,  while in Manila I sent MS to Giedroyc, who by now became the third prospective publisher and promised to print it. I think he sent  me $100. But for a budding author having his first book published was more important than that money, not too small in those times. Now, to answer your question I must move forward chronologically.

I met Giedroyc much later in the editorial office of Kultura in Paris. drunk tea though when I visited Poland first time after 50 years I saw over the roof of Muzeum Literatury an advertisement to the sense "DRINK GIEDROYC"S VODKA.

I met the really legendary founder of Wiadomosci Literackie, Mieczyslaw Grydzewski(Grydz) relatively often in his editorial office opposite to the British Museum. His unofficial office was in the Press reading room of that ancient and famous institution, the newspaper Reading Room being still at the old address. As to Marek Hlasko I met him much, much later in Los Angeles. 

We spent almost a year collaborating on a novel "Devils in the Rain or Rice Eaters" Danuta Blaszak writes about that, and times of 'wspolczesnosc". She intends to write the Doctorial Theses on the subject. How indeed! from the marginal literary magazine in the shadow of PO PROSTU, we landed in the history of the Polish Literature, and even perhaps became a footnote to the Political History of 1956.


BH:  But what about Pax?It played diversive role towards the Church being "rezymowi Katolicy", the government Catholics. Especially doubtful was the role of the "fuhrer" Boleslaw Piasecki.And his "State Instinct" in 1956. How close you were to him?

l.sNot close at all. I met him perhaps three times, for some short and non consequential  polite conversations. I met more often his deputy Mieczyslaw Kurzyna and the director of PAX Publishing House; Teresa Englert,Krzyszton, Dolecki, Lichanski, Dobraczynski? and some other literary people, Stanislaw Rembek included.

I met all of them through Bohdan Slezkin. 

Slezkin after being released from prison (He was of course "political" ) found shelter in Pax who used his illustrations and graphic works in their publications.

Pax helped a number of ex political prisoners and also those writers who were not accepted by the monopolistic government publishers.

Also Pax openly allowed us not to love and admire, worship the elder brother Soviet Union, saying we have to tolerate them and make the best of the dependency situation as Margrabia Wielopolski did.

Well,they were oasis of common sense in the sands of idiotic boot lickers, pardon the awkwardness of this mixed metaphor.


BH: 
And how successful was that first book of yours, published by Jerzy Giedroyc?  I assume it was in Polish? He had ways to smuggle his books and the magazine into Poland.

l.s:   Of course, but it was never published by Giedroyc.It was printed about six years later as ESCAPE TO THE TROPICS with about half of the stories with the Australian background.Then, and NOW, looking retrospectively it was very bad thing this breaking contract. My book did not became known in Poland nor abroad on emigration, and when came the great return of Demiurges, emigre writers, I had been completely forgotten in Poland.


BH: What has happened?

l.s.:Jerzy Giedroyc who was financed for his work; grew into a saintly figure in Poland. In the counter distinction to Mieczyslaw Grydzewski who was paid by nobody but who tried to pay his authors though he himself, was wearing the same old pants and jacket all those times I met him.

BH: Do you mean Giedroyc did not pay?

Szymanski smiling again: No he paid and paid better than Grydz. He had his sources. Giedroyc did not print my book but deducted his advance from the royalties for the articles I had written  for KULTURA

BH: And why he did not publsh the book?

 l.s.
Giedroyc was more of the political figure than the literary one. He never wrote me so, neither told, but the reason was, I guess, that I did not make noise about choosing freedom, and he did not assisted me politically or otherwise, except that $100 or so, and he was not behind my decision. Just thinks about possible headlines:

The chief editor of only independent literary magazine in the Eastern Europe asks for Asylum says Jerzy Giedroyc, the editor of emigre KULTURA.

Such a head line or at least assumption at the proper places, would be a feather to his cup. as were Marek Hlasko and Andrzej Brycht. Forgive again the quality of the metaphor.
And perish the thought maybe he simply thought the stories were not good enough.

BH: So who and when published that book, if at all?

l.s.
I think I have approached all the British, Australian  publishers and gathered almost as many rejection slips, and a few nice letters of praise but no offers. Similarly to my novel "Drunken Maniana".

Sergio Angelo on his way back from Moscow with the manuscript of Doctor Zivago, stopped at my place and took in secret my novel too.

However, as long as I was in Poland I declined  Pellegrini's offer to publish and I guess, when I decided to stay quietly abroad he was not interested. Or again maybe he saw no market for a novel of the Polish October Revolution which faded quickly, especially if compared to the impact of the real Hungarian Revolution.

BH. That's interesting. May I know more? And what happened to ESCAPE?


l.s: About Boris Pasternak,that’s another story. I met him through Virgil, a Lithuanian whose surname I forgot,but there was much to it. I could not help him. But to answer your question about my book,,, that book was printed by the Polish publisher of  renown,  in London Boleslaw Swiderski. It had very good reviews and sold perhaps a hundred copies in Australia and fifty in England.


BH: Thank you very much, and I hope to finish our interview when we meet the next time.


 * Mr Szymanski insists on lower case letters in his name and in "wspolczesnosc"


________________________________________________



Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak has lived in the UK since 2004. She is a member of The Poetry Society of London, International English Association (IPPA) based in London, Union of Polish Writers Abroad based in London, Polish Authors' Association Branch II in Warsaw (Poland), Academy of American Poets (USA).

Verses authored and translated by herself into English, published in the U.S. Canada, India, Australia, Africa and the UK. They were read on Australian Radio. She was included in the poet issue of New Mirage Journal (USA). Her work has been presented in Writing the Polish Diaspora (USA), The Australia Times Poetry Magazine, ken*again, Mad Swirl.
 
The poet has released three volumes of poetry in Polish : "on the banks of the river called life" in 2011, "ticket to the Happiness station" in 2012, "on the departure bridge " in 2013, and two in English ; ''Whispered'' 2013 in UK and ''Blue Longing'' 2014 in Canada.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3USzXT8psXM&feature=youtu.be