Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mirosława Kruszewska: Trapped in Freedom in Exile

Mirosława Maria Kruszewska's W pułapce wolności/Trapped in Freedom is a bi-lingual book of poems that tells the story of her generation. Born in Gdansk, Poland, in 1950 and now living and working as a journalist in Seattle, she grew up in Communist Poland, lived to see the rise of Solidarity in the early 80s, and went into exile with her family in 1981.

In her poems we return to the world of the Cold War. We read about Poland's long queues and hunger, the dehumanizing refugee camps in Austria, and finally an America that offers a frightening freedom that at times overwhelms the immigrant, the person who has no home in this world.

Here's a poem that for me captures that sense of estrangement:

Notification of Death

away travel our loved ones one by one
on a day of autumn on a day of spring
suddenly retreating into shadows
from Poland someone sends a newspaper
from last month
to be found within is an obituary
and in the letter a few words of cheer
so as not to grieve too deeply
that the same awaits us all
sooner or later
but now most important are the children

give it a rest with your consolation
I don't cry for the dead now anyway
I was blown out into the world so far
that I no longer know
who here is alive or dead.

(Trans. by Waclaw Iwaniuk)


You can read more about Ms. Kruszewska and other Polish language poets living in the US at the Polish American Poetry website:

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