Wislawa Szymborska and new Stockholm Disasters

 

 

evil poetry

 

 

“I don’t believe that poetry can change the world. Those who create real evil do not read poems.”

 

Wislawa Szymborska

 

 

A few days ago, one of our poets Irit Amiel posted the above photo quote on her Facebook wall.

 

I reposted the picture, and it garnered a good few likes. And approving comments.

 

Which got me thinking.

 

Is Szymborska’s bon mot true? Is poetry useless when it comes to influencing the course of world history? Does it not impact on tangible reality at all? 

 

I am not a poet. I quit publishing it years ago. I only now and again dabble in its translation. And yet something in me, something absolutely unstoppable, rages against such thinking.

 

Facts?

 

Obama. Many people, some I know personally, think he is evil (for Guantanamo, for Syria, for TTIP, and so on). Not many people know, however, that each year he held a special reading from the US’ best poets at the White House. If in doubt, YouTube it. Incredible stuff.

 

What about the Bible he was sworn in on and its inherent poetics? No world leader, good or evil, ever read that?

 

And good old David Cameron? Evil as hell in my book, and yet he publicly names Dylan, Radiohead and The Smiths as his fave songsmiths. If their work is not poetry set to music, I don’t know what is.

 

Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature long before Wisława, and you’re telling me he never did nothing evil nor touched poetry? Google “The Complete Poems of Sir Winston Churchill” for more correction…

 

William Blake. Charles Baudelaire. Alexandr Pushkin… You’re telling me not a single tyrant or warlord ever read them?

 

Szymborska’s statement has that glorious ring of original truth to it, even if so much evidence points to it being false. And yet, for all of the above, who will history side with? 

 

I do love much of her work, but I worry when I think of her legacy. She called winning the Nobel Prize for Literature her “Stockholm Disaster”*, and yet her name is now attached to the most lucrative prize in world poetry. Is this right? The sums? The banquets, the applause, the trees cut down to print more pages, if poetry changes NOTHING?

 

I detest most modern verse, and always say – I have to read 99 forgettable poems in order to find one which is worth living for. And yet that maths is misleading – that single golden nugget is worth a thousand worthless pebbles, publications, prizes. 

 

And so I must ask the metaphorical question – so what, if poetry like some beat up old timer, polishing tarnished medals, barely able to recall any real glory days? Or is there still any fight left in the old pen?

 

Something is ending in the world. The 21st century will be make or break for our species. Quantum technologies, nano machinery, ecological disasters all loom loud and clear. These are new phenomena. Poetry has to evolve with them, if it is to have any further right to exist. Some will yet write fine verses. Few, as ever, will challenge reality at any sort of profound level.

 

To those that use fine words to take on the might of corporations, of tyrants, of dead gods, I say – write and prove false prophets wrong. Write and stop us being damned. Write, and write hard.

 

 

Marek Kazmierski, founding editor

 

 

* http://morose-mary.blogspot.com/2016/02/remembering-wisawa-szymborska.html

ICEBREAKER FIREBIRD / GINCZANKA AT 99 to 100

 

This time last year, I was living in London, looking for a new home, a new source of energy, a new direction for OFF_PRESS.

 

Started in 2010 as a publishing experiment, it evolved into something which was something OTHER than a publishing house. Five years on from its founding, just before moving to Warsaw last year, I had the wonderful fortune of meeting Zuzanna Lipinska, the daughter of Eryk Lipinski and Ha-Ga, in London and a whole new universe opened up.
As well as inspiring me to translate dozens of children’s poems, Ms Lipinska introduced me to her namesake – Ginczanka.
I knew I had been looking for someone, some “thing” to break the frozen seas of world poetry publishing and drag others in their “wake”. Some force which would allow me to reach far more readers than I could with poetry books which are usually printed in negligible numbers, have little or no distribution and then receive pretty negative publicity.
Today is the 99th anniversary of the birth of Ginczanka, a poetess I believe could not only be her own firebird icon, but could help many other unknown poets reach readers around the world.

 

Inspired and rejuvenated myself, I am now pre-launching the Firebird 100 project. It will take us another 12 months to properly get off the ground, but her poems – the most important part of it all – are now, for the first time in history, translated into English.
Considering Ginczanka was betrayed by humanity and history, on her 99th birthday, a gift from me – the complete set of her first poems (O Centaurach) in PDF format, translated into English, free to download and print. Just click the cover image below…
So, no more Death of a Bookman posts.
The Firebird Riseth…

 

 

 

 

SIMPLY CLICK ON THE IMAGE OF THE BOOK COVER ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF FILE – PRINT ODD PAGES ON THE REVERSE OF THE EVEN ONES TO END UP WITH 16 A4 PAGES, TOTALLING 64 SIDES OF A5 PRINT IN FOLDABLE BOOKLET FORMAT.

 

A note on this translation

 

Ginczanka’s work has never previously been published in English.

 

This “pamphlet”, produced to coincide with the 2015/16 exhibition devoted to Ginczanka at Warsaw’s Museum of Literature, is an attempt to begin making up for lost time now.

It contains all 17 of the poems published in the 1936 edition, along with Non Omnis Moriar, her final masterpiece.

 

The design of the book is much like the 1936 original.

 

The translations represent a very raw and very emotional response to the discovery of Ginczanka and her legacy. Produced over a period of several weeks, in my little studio in Muranów, the former Jewish district of Warsaw, they are not yet intended for official publication – I hope you enjoy them in the wild and pioneering spirit in which they were produced.

 

Marek Kazmierski / marek@of-press.org

 

firebird 100 APP 2016 OUTLINE V1

 

 

OFF_PRESS 2015 / Much ado about much?

 

… or the start of something big?  

 

 

 

 

The image above represents our past.
 
5 years of activity. 15+ books. Several festivals, films and competitions. Our own London-based arts centre. This year, we have worked in collaboration with several charities, in UK and Poland, to produce books of prison poetry, visual art and translated verse. 
 
Is any of that enough, though? Is the sun setting on our non-profit org? Much ado about much?
 
It is New Year’s Eve tonight. So let’s be sparkly and spunky and bright.
 
The image below represents a shedload of possibility.
 
There is no doubt producing any more books makes no sense. We lack the skills, resources and people to then distribute and publicise them.
 
So what are the options? Individual projects? Apps? Digital publishing? Kids toys? Educational materials?
 
Warsaw In Writing? Ha-Ga Academy? Ginczanka Project? Young Poland 2.0? Tessen?
 
Or perhaps all of the above? Just not all at once? In good time?
 
Or maybe OFF_ should become something else altogether – not another “publisher” (I am told there are 66,000 of those registered with the tax office in Poland, my new home), but a think tank set up to consider how best to help books in the future – translations, engagement, multimedia – all the things we have been striving to make happen since 2010.
 
Or maybe we should keep doing nothing at all. Waiting for opportunities to come to us. For the brainstorm to pass, silence to reign and new options to present themselves?
 
What’s the hurry, folks? The world is only in trouble culturally, ecologically, politically, economically, religiously…

 

England seems to have come up with its own solution – What Next? Culture – and considering the political turmoil both countries are experiencing at present, wouldn’t it be nice to transpose and share some of that?

 

Think tank… holds fuel, holds water, then goes on the intellectual off_ensive.
 
I like the sound of that.
 
Marek Kazmierski, OFF_TT founder editor
 

 
 

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Death of a Bookman / Poland needs another history lesson…

 

…like it needs another hole in the head

 

 

56220015

 
 
 

Well, it’s another election gone in another European country which is going through all sorts of social, economic, ecological and other upheavals.
 

And again, while the south of Europe and the US and Canada and numerous smaller states around the globe are realising socialism is the only sustainable way for a civilisations to survive, Northern Europe seems to have its fingers stuck in its ears, screaming “Austerity, conservatism, austerity, blah blah” to the tune of whatever song Auntie Merkel wants to play.
 

Well, if it is therefore necessary to drill another hole in the heads of those who are not listening, in order for fresh air and good news to flow in, let me offer up a wee drill.
 

And it will not be aimed at the heads of the sorts of people who vote for the likes of Cameron or Kaczynski, but those who scream and fret and weep all over Facebook at what voting has/hasn’t done for our nations.
 

Since I moved to Poland a few months ago, I have been translating all sorts of texts. About the Holocaust, about gender discrimination in the theatre, about the relationship between medicine and literature, about wars. More wars than I can now care to count.
 

And what we seem to have forgotten is what we are still up against – a war none of us can call by its proper name.
 

Somehow, two generations back, our grandfathers faced the mighty evil that was the nations led by Hitler and Stalin. Millions swarming upon millions, killing the innocent, starving human beings like cattle, worse than cattle, cattle are not dragged through the streets of ghettos naked and weeping and have their gold teeth wrenched from their mouths while still alive and are not shorn of hair and stomped by kapos and filmed for nationalistic newsreels and buried alive alongside babies who got to see nothing and grandmothers who got to see it all through tears of senseless despair.
 

At a recent public chat between Timothy Snyder, Adam Michnik and Slawek Sierakowski, the question once again came up – how did the Holocaust happen? Was Hitler a nationalist or a psychopath or a racist or a globalist or something else altogether? Now that the collected works of Primo Levi are being launched, alongside Snyder’s new book on the Shoah, are we any closer to an answer?
 

Maybe.
 

What is known is that the regimes which wreaked murderous destruction across our continent in the days of our grandparents were not only insane, they were determinedly so. Both German and Russian armies did not kill just anyone – they killed the best of Central European society – doctors, teachers, officers – and of course those who stood up to the regime, the free thinkers, the freedom fighters, the best women and men each nations across the Bloodlands (see Snyder’s last book) had.
 

And so what are we left with today? The offspring of the timid, the middling and the mad.
 

You, me, all of us, dear Friends.
 

As All Saint’s Day approaches and I plan to visit my grandfathers’ graves, I think of their War experience. One spent six years in a Nazi Oflag (officer’s prisoner of war camp), came back to a Warsaw which no longer existed and devoted himself to importing and exporting books. He died a quiet, exhausted man. The other grandfather survived three death camps, towards the end of the War, and no one will ever know if this was because he was some kind of one-in-a-million hero or some kind of collaborator, a kapo, one of the countless inhumane humans of Primo Levi wrote about. No one will ever know because he was hunted after the War, as well as haunted, so he never talked about his experiences and died of a bungled operation when still young, maybe because of a medical mistake, maybe incompetence, or maybe because back then the secret police did that sort of thing – told doctors operating on former freedom fighters to make sure they never left the operating table alive, or else…
 

And so who am I? A grandson of what sorts of men? And did I “do the right thing” – vote in the elections in England? In Poland?
 

No. Although I understand much of my families’ history, and think I get much of what went so very badly wrong to have both families today almost gone to the wall, I did not vote and will not vote. Not the way the current system is set up.
 

What I will do is join political parties. Pay my dues. I already do so with trade unions, but never before the likes of Sanders, Corbyn, Black, Zandberg, Sturgeon, Varoufakis and Trudeau entered the equations have I been tempted to get involved in party politics. But I will now. All my life, I have worked for charities, given most of my income away, used my talents to promote skills and understanding that was meant to benefit the most needy (refugees, prisoners, the psycho-emotionally ill).
 

But now I am ready for politics. To be counted, not just once every four years, the way I watch my football tournaments, but all day every day – be engaged, be aware, be LIABLE.
 

How little do I know about the workings of politics? Of electoral representation? About the various levels of government, the complexities of electoral bandwagons, the darkness in the corridors of power?
 

Little. But Hunter S Thompson said “politics is the art of controlling your environment” and goddamn was he right. Darkness is falling across Europe once again, and once again it is our fault. We the educated, the privileged, the well read, the enlightened consumers, the cyclist re-cyclists, the ones who know they should know better yet never move until someone moves first to say:
 

The king or the president or the prime minister are all naked. They are meant to serve us, the electorate, but the power we have naively handed them has corrupted the fabric of our societies. The poor are dying by the thousands all across Europe. Women are excluded and made to suffer far more than men. Whites are inheritors of historical privilege they must acknowledge and surrender. Religion is the enemy of reason, but the only way to silence it is through discourse based on education. We must demean moneymakers and celebrate healers and teachers. And we must get busy. Before the cloud descends upon us all. We have four more years, in which to learn to care about the planet, about each other, about our own selves. Else we’ll go down, and down hard. With new holes in our bodies we never asked for…
 
Marek Kazmierski, editor
 
 

Dawid Kujawa / Open Anthology / Twelve of Twelve

 

 

Me is someone swift

 

suggestions will mature, bring out from pockets frozen hands
and we all will see side-long turn of action, the march of massive arrangements,
phehe. Like it’s possible to warn normally: step back for a little moment,
because I’ll be waving ambitions. it could be accepted,
understood, even liked, but not when intentions boorishly look through
that fucking bold font, overcoat of mission, assecuration of style,
the genitive case of embarrassment.

 

you have flowers at your place? I have. so water them.

 

serious matter

 

for those doubts you really have to
get some european dotations,
that you feel like it. I tell you, in my whole life
I never saw that something so shaky stands so stably
and even bragg about it so ostentatiously.
proud like a car turned upside down,
or some guy of lacking metaphysics.
saturday night as a pile of unwashed dishes from friday?
“maybe I am something more but I have no occasion for that”.
you pull down my glasses and thousands of little refugees
emigrates from me away from starvation and massacres,
trying to reach asylum under your gown.

 

snort

 

consolidation of beautiful mistakes. and it gets dense
from derailed wagons, up to summits stuffed with
good intentions, whose sharp vectors always
point decisively on common interest and famous ideas of progress.
I ask: who sharped the vectors? I ask: who told you to wear dark ray-bans in winter,
boy with the nose white from illegitimate aspirations,
prepared by our consultants
exclusively for you. exclusively for you.

 

poems translated by Seweryn Górczak

 

 

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 fot. by Michał Dolny

 

 

 

Dawid Kujawa – born in 1989, literary critic and poet, author of “Wideopoezja. Szkice” (Videopoetry. Sketches), his texts were published in literary magazines and anthologies. Right now he works on his debut poetry book and dissertation on subject of resurgent avant-guarde tendencies in polish poetry post 2000. He lives in Katowice.

 

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Dawid Kujawa / Open Anthology / Nine of Twelve

 

 

carefully

 

for monisators

 

If this all is supposed to look like this, then I don’t
sign up for it, but how do you sign it? I mean: it looks like
I don’t agree and already it grew inside me,
the looking at all this, agreed?
I think, that all is pointing towards this.
I’m pointing towards this, because it already grew in me,
the looking at this, how does it look like,
and it looks carefully, I mean: pays attention.

 

der expressionistische film

 

I scream,
but sounds lose their way
in sharp shadows of two characters
and few pretentious requisites.
you nervous? wave your hands,
taper will adjust – politely explains
the in-narrative text – and shorter phrases!
in German they don’t fit the screen.

 

loading words for young poetry. joint of inspiration

 

Young poetry is supposed to be filled with words designed for writing.
We suggest to put expressions for writing into young poetry turned
on the other side. One should pay attention so that no art of word
will get locked up in language of young poetry.

 

Young poetry should be connected to the source of cold inspiration
(connecting to the source of warm inspiration can cause a
malfunction) with a help from special hose included in equipment
of a device. Gaskets, that are situated on the both ends of a affluent
hose secure against the leak of inspiration, while turning up the hose
by hand already. Turning it too strong might damaged them. Young
poetry works effectively in pressure of inspiration equal to 1 bar. In
practice pressure of 1 bar means flow of 8 liters of inspiration by the
minute, assuming valve of inspiration is fully open.

 

poems translated by Seweryn Górczak

 

 

11171551_834963603251609_1553955184_o

 fot. by Michał Dolny

 

 

 

Dawid Kujawa – born in 1989, literary critic and poet, author of “Wideopoezja. Szkice” (Videopoetry. Sketches), his texts were published in literary magazines and anthologies. Right now he works on his debut poetry book and dissertation on subject of resurgent avant-guarde tendencies in polish poetry post 2000. He lives in Katowice.

 

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Dawid Kujawa / Open Anthology / Six of Twelve

 

 

#2

 

before the tread of the right tire of ours red
renault mégane (we move like cagey tigers) sculpted
refined patternette on its back, cat appeared
from nowhere. (we slip through the streets), what interval it is:
dead of the cat and pop music? (throw all the songs we know)
now cat defends from rain the thirty square
centimeters of uneven concrete (we bite and scratch
and scream all night
) somewhere under dark, baritone-like
Włocławek, which on the map looks to the point of illusion like
refined patternette on the back of the cat, sculpted
by the tread of the right tire of ours red renault mégane

 

(((

 

dear with the material, since impulse didn’t come,
will you adjourn? Maybe you’ll grab the hook of interrogation point
and you’ll stare how your machinations contribute
to production of empty, foundry box,
which you will later painstakinglyknock around
without losing hope, that something will eventually tickle it from within.

 

you imagine all impulses are brought in the one room
that looks like neglected two square meters of retired woman,
but you know, that no impulse comes from the place:
impulses rise in infinitely small spaces between the places,
it is impossible then to state,
if impulse didn’t rise
or it didn’t arrive.

 

you lie down and with unashamed satisfaction you think about impulse
who got lost and served something more important.

 

#5

 

soprano of light cripples our conjuctivas
ornette coleman reflects from the walls
and resonates in our conscious. in apartment
we have shit all over like in poems before editing;
it’s some sort of a day, it appears to be noon,
allegedly there are some us.
ornette coleman cripples our conscious,
soprano of light reflects from the walls
and resonates in our conjuctivas

 

poems translated by Seweryn Górczak

 

 

11171551_834963603251609_1553955184_o

 fot. by Michał Dolny

 

 

 

Dawid Kujawa – born in 1989, literary critic and poet, author of “Wideopoezja. Szkice” (Videopoetry. Sketches), his texts were published in literary magazines and anthologies. Right now he works on his debut poetry book and dissertation on subject of resurgent avant-guarde tendencies in polish poetry post 2000. He lives in Katowice.

 

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Death of a Bookman Special / Poland Vs The Rest… Literally, a shocker

 

 

A while back, prior to the Found in Translation Festival in Gdansk, I was interviewed for the Dwutygodnik online journal about the state of Polish translations (link).

 

At the time it was published, I received a bit of criticisms for painting a dark picture of how Polish writing was perceived in the English language world. I claimed English language readers, barring a few experts like Boyd Tonkin, didn’t know any Polish writers, that Polish books in translation were not distributed ably, and that Polish writers didn’t aspire to a readership beyond their own borders.

 

Those was just my opinions, collected over five years of busting my gut translating, publishing and promoting poems and stories from my places of birth – still, nothing, nothing could have prepared me for what happened a week after I came back from Gdansk.

 

Literature Across Frontiers has just published the first ever detailed study into literary translations from other languages into British English. The results can be read here in full (link), but the stats below tell a staggering story.

 

As a translator, I think I can not only do justice to converting words, but also numbers…

 

 

Translated Stats image table 2015

 

 

 

Poland found itself just outside the Top Ten countries, in terms of the last 15 years of book publishing. Not bad for a list of 30?

 

The table shows all the translated books, by year, published in the UK. But the stats, when analysed just that bit more carefully, reveal some staggering disparities:

 

Poland has half the population of France, the top placed country, yet we managed to publish 20 TIMES LESS translated books (1215 vs 65) over a decade and a half.

 

The country just ahead of us on the table, Denmark, has 7 TIMES FEWER people living in it, yet produced TWICE AS MANY translated books than Poland (118 vs 65).

 

Iceland, 13th on the list, managed to produce ALMOST AS MANY translated books as Poland with 130 TIMES FEWER people to write and translate them.

 

Overall, looking at the figures below, Poland loses out to all the countries in the table just around it put together – translators representing 38 million Polish writers managed 65 books, while translators representing 32 million Dutch, Portuguese, Icelandic, Danish, and Hungarian writers managed 525 in total – 8 TIMES MORE.

 

8 / Dutch 185 books (6 million people)
9 / Portuguese 121 books (10 million people)
10 / Danish 118 books (5.5 million people)
11 / Polish 65 books (38 million people)
12 / Hungarian 51 books (10 million people)
13 / Icelandic 50 books  (0.3 million people)

 

Cultured Poles supposedly think of themselves as a nation of writers (link), but we know book sales in Poland are a problem and these statistics provide a deeply disconcerting picture. Statistics can of course lie, or at least tell half-truths, but whatever the story here, it needs much further thought and profound interrogation…

 

And if anyone out there thinks I am not accepting the blame for these figures, let me be the first to say – Mother Tongue, I have let you down

 

Marek Kazmierski, Founding Editor

 

 

 

Dawid Kujawa / Open Anthology / Three of Twelve

 

 

#1

 

because of those heat waves August falls out of key, broken down
TV sets, buses and marriages. my sanity distunes
for good, between us nothing but free jazz on
barbiturates. without thinking, we fall into dissonances of
meet-ups, will you turn down those lurid sounds within you.
the margins of mistake are narrow, but if they want to look for us

 

we’re within them

counterirritant

 

if my diagnoses stopped starting from particles
I would be really happy. hey, don’t start so shyly,
because you’ll make an even bigger pussy out of yourself –
weak whimper from left, discrete, but to the point – seems
like it will break off here.

 

or:

the day before the marathon you beat your knee with hammer,
simply preventatively, so you won’t get too high on splendor.
and maybe it’s time to stop to point at happiness?
conflicts are waged, wars are warred,
agreements lower their eyelids minimally
and look after each other.

 

***

 

of late, I’ve been sleeping with my head on the other side,
and it’s cool, only later do I wake up with my head on the other side.

 

 

liquid for radiator,
gas for lighters

 

hannah would say that I shouldn’t worry so much,
but I do worry a bit, because I know no hannah

 

glue for shoes,
paint for wood

 

the name for a girl in light turtle-neck,
no? the one with labrador.

 

varnish for hair,
polish remover for nails

 

the one who picks you up with light turtle-car
(I’m just teasing – pull the string)
of dad’s and even if you puke she doesn’t shout:

 

dawid for fuck’s sake,
dawid for fuck’s sake

 

 

poems translated by Seweryn Górczak

 

 

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 fot. by Michał Dolny

 

 

 

Dawid Kujawa – born in 1989, literary critic and poet, author of “Wideopoezja. Szkice” (Videopoetry. Sketches), his texts were published in literary magazines and anthologies. Right now he works on his debut poetry book and dissertation on subject of resurgent avant-guarde tendencies in polish poetry post 2000. He lives in Katowice.

 

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The unbearable presence of absence – on Martyna’s Tomczyk poems / Open Anthology /

Cold nights spent on night buses returning home or rather “home”, affairs and relationships which are ultimately pointless and a reminder of longing they were supposed to combat in the first place, empty drinking as refuge – this is the environment of voice speaking through Tomczyk’s poems. At first glance it might seem banal – I can imagine you, my imagined reader, thinking: “Who gives a shit? There are thousands, if not millions, of folk who live like that”. But they don’t have the honesty, shy courage and talent to describe the experience. Tomczyk has it in spades.

 

What endears me to her poems is the affinity towards complex similes (“just like one covers rain against the rain – needlessly” or the whole first stanza of fashion victim) and her sensitivity towards images – after all, they says more than a thousand words. Tomczyk has the ability to create such pictures in a few strokes of pen, which lends frugality to her work and spares the need for the afore-mentioned thousands. Not only that – it makes what’s left out of the text more important than what is explicitly written; her verses are the symptoms, a delicate sketch of issues she describes. This shyness of poetic language is balanced with openness about circumstances they tell us about. And what they are telling us?

 

The tone of silent resignation guides us through unsettling, uncomfortable images of our contemporary world where loneliness is a default state, the new normal, and every attempt of overcoming it ends in failure – like that of a married woman who decided to divorce “and doesn’t have a clue what next”. Or that of the girl waiting to be seduced only to be treated with “emotionless Hey”. Men in these poems are defined by their inability to address the need for intimacy, they are present only in most literally meaning and their presence leads only to disappointment and further confirmation that meaningful contact is impossible, with the exception of white balance. So what’s left? After all, it’s easy to strip off in front of someone you don’t know, but when you dress up he still will be stranger and you still will be alone.

 

But that’s not the whole story – it would be unfair to limit those poems only to disappointment with men. It’s just that the most striking symptom of broader issue, central to these poems is the lack of warmth in contemporary reality. Like in “a long time, I was only a child”, where in a simple talk about future plans children become “a part of a set”, alongside furniture. Or like I’ll be back, but…, where the changes in a childhood landscape signify alienation from a place so dear and bring back the painful memories (the poem even ends with mention of “warm nights you can count on the fingers of one hand”). The promise of a “sorted life”, the lady smiling with “foolproof cream against wrinkles and ends of the world”, sleeping together out of habit – it all points the subject of these poems to the wish of “something more”. That absence is ever present, inescapable and manifests itself in all walks of life. The longing cannot be silenced or forgotten, cannot be negotiated or placated, no matter how hard one might try. The storks might fly away to warmer places, but can we? Where are those places? In it’s unfortunate that the reader encounters the answer – in “relations other than yours, in places you’re not present”. The warmth sought badly so becomes then a myth – something the subject wishes it existed, without having any kind of proof, and can only suspect it dwells somewhere out of its sight with a bitter hope.

 

Good poetry doesn’t always have to be innovative or skillful, but it does have to be true. Honesty and femininity in the best sense of the word of Martyna Tomczyk’s poetry fulfills this condition to the core. Thousands, if not millions, of young women right now live in post-patriarchal (even if only in name) world of XXI century, where they are told they be anything they want, be it lawyers, doctors, politicians, singers, but none can be happy. They live trying to achieve the goals this epoch set them – that is, to be independent and self-reliant and they achieve it, but it doesn’t solve all their problems and something is still missed in a world where “homes come from credits”. Poetry which tell us about their pain is true, in the rawest sense of the word.

 

Seweryn Gorczak

Kamil Brewinski / Open Anthology / Twelve of Twelve

 
 
 

Amnesty International
 
 

who’s last in the mirror wins a second shadow
who won’t see it will shine with his eyes
who will burn himself with light – will wear a trench coat
and thighs of the last will hide a head in a sleeve
 

who doesn’t want to play in playroom has a console
who doesn’t know how to play should play within himself
who wants to play and doesn’t know in which sleeve
I repeat for the sake of order: there the magic lamp is lit

 
 
 

Ctrl +

 
 

there’s no Palestine there’s a clavichord – Tracer
scythe pregnant with knocks a nest of dull scythes
under the airplane scythe – high voltage
without USB portent like a head burner
 

women similar to me entrust fingers
men similar to them entrust hearts
and children are born within us – spaces spaces spaces
cold like Firefox committed like Opera
 
 
 

To largely unknown

 

 

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(Dirk van der Molde accused of having
Scandinavian roots one of the ugliest phenomena in any city
ran into bathroom in the direction of front door of his
apartment inherited from largely unknown lady cousin:

 

a rain of Chupacabras a rain of Chupacabras – still warm
a corridor full of buttons a packet
from an ashtray a suitcase from an ashtray world)

 
 
 

poems translated by Seweryn Gorczak

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Kamil Brewińśki – born and based in Lublin, Poland. His debut poetry collection “Clubbing” was nominated for the prestigious Silesius Poetry Prize in 2013.
 
 

 

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Kamil Brewinski / Open Anthology / Nine of Twelve

 
 
 

Gas stove canso
 
 

move your finger away from water where the rose flows
or open a window before you forget about your hands
don’t dare look in the hot eye where the rose blossomed
before it thickened in ash lighter than air
move your eye away from the water where the rose flows
or open a window before you forget about eyelashes
remember before you sing – it’s a scentless rose
that will raise your body up to ceiling like soil
 

move your song away from the water where you were a siren
mirrored rose petals you carried on your thighs
or open a window before you forget you were
a shapeless thorn of the rose for the cold eye
 

remember before you sing – where the rose blossoms
there with bitten lip fisherman mowed down a moon
a web of liquid ash gathers in your mouth
on the dark side of the water opens an eyelid
 

don’t look in the hot eye where the rose blossomed
before she carried shady bud of boat around the waves
like an empty glance at foggy horizons where
you became a siren without paying for the cloakroom
 

mirrored rose petals you carried on your thighs
and dj brevynsky scratched that tune
with a bitten lip fisherman who mowed down a moon
and dj brevynsky scratched that tune

 
 
 

Art Institute

 
 

a chair is a paysage too we’re standing in such a chair
from the chair’s perspective it’s hard to describe a chair
hence a friend wants to bring the chairs out from the chairs
the other friend shyly proposing we look down
the third one states: this chair is too small for the three of us
while at the other end of the studio a fly opens up
 
 
 
 

Aphasia

 

 

we couldn’t care less formally speaking
so I’ll ask about aliens (please, give me a green

 

light) long couplets of lights to clear up
Kamil’s memory so sir you saw a ship

 

or did you simply smear on the doors of my garage
(mine – understand?) with wax crayon of word

 

of a type: to kidnap a moon invasion angel?
truth – smoking bullshit – we’re still sitting

 

silence won’t achieve anything silence – a dark tunnel
and we just want to talk a little bit in a garage

 

y’know sir I keep a phoenix he has a feathers like a smile
wings like a kiss and he flies like a tongue

 

of Chinese woman who again signs the national anthem
because of birth of the meager boy

 

outside the protocol I’ll add that on the other hand life’s not worth the price
of a bunny

 
 
 

poems translated by Seweryn Gorczak

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Kamil Brewińśki – born and based in Lublin, Poland. His debut poetry collection “Clubbing” was nominated for the prestigious Silesius Poetry Prize in 2013.
 
 

 

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Kamil Brewinski / Open Anthology / Six of Twelve

 
 
 

Dirka van der Molde
 
 

the shrinking clock which he uses to hassle

he comes and nags that a furrowed wrist

that when he wakes up he has a furrowed wrist

and it’s a wall clock so what the fuck is going on here

that the furrows disappear independently after a while

not much to be honest but he did take pictures

showed it to his female colleague so he won’t show it to us

we have to believe him like in a green night

that when he wakes up he has a furrowed wrist

and it’s a wall clock with wooden cuckoo

 
 

 

Karaoke

 

 

since you repeat yourself repeating others

those already translated into alien languages

those untranslatable the most widely read

those who interpret themselves through props

concepts travestations tropes logarithms

and those who try to explain themselves

from silence in pits multiplying banana rhymes

because they would like to go mushroom picking

even if the forest rolled back leaving only stumps

but better nothing than nothing but better than nothing

 
 
 

Alba

 
 

I wanted a monkey wrench but got a scooter

I wanted to push away to get closer to you
 

I even thought about a rose but a torrent leaked

I went to the bottom to smoke a pipe of seaweed
 

I was a troubadour in suburban nightclub

I was a troubadour I spat out a lighter
 
 
 
 
poems translated by Seweryn Gorczak

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Kamil Brewińśki – born and based in Lublin, Poland. His debut poetry collection “Clubbing” was nominated for the prestigious Silesius Poetry Prize in 2013.
 
 

 

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Kamil Brewinski / Open Anthology / Three of Twelve

 
 
 

Dolling up
 
 

today I am blue that’s how you can imagine me
with sea with sky or with water you can call the law
and report the doubts we’ve been trying so long
to say something about ourselves – the idea ends here
and poetry starts a verse of silence please
 

thank you today I am blue why how come?
sleep is chased off of eyelids fawns to the mirror
when with dull razor I scratch off this colour
from nonexistent objects – something like pitch
to go play polo of course or maybe to go to hell?
here ends the idea dream turned into July
so I born anew stand in the shower
water washes away dregs – a pitch and a horse
a whole stand of VIPs looking like the devil?
you want to fire-up your car but the key is made of ice
water sky and sea in one tiny fragile icicle
several dozen ways of saying – I am
 

thank you
 
 

 

Planct

 

discotheques for mimes in venetian basements

portable players professional headphones

 

contact permitted smoking impossible

the choice of music your own signing discouraged

 

discotheques for mimes in venetian basements

complimentary alcohol in a teeming vessel

 

volatile depth of colours in an unwound ball

inflated anchors (condoms – adornments)

 

discotheques for mimes in venetian basements

powder installations sniffed through wires

 

in double-jointed bathrooms rotating mirrors

fuse babes from Narnia with dudes from Navarone

 
 
 

Revision

 
 

I repeat: we’re clean like the tears of others’

in our defence we have washbasins roses

when we try to fall asleep through tight windows

a hand as rough and dense as a forest fuses our joints

together in the ruts of bed crams a liquid moon

 

I repeat: this pipe is our held breath

so don’t you bullshit sir that it was scorched

so don’t you search for reasons in the basin of rose

this sediment might as well be the tip of a mountain

this sediment might as well be a spike of air
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Kamil Brewińśki – born and based in Lublin, Poland. His debut poetry collection “Clubbing” was nominated for the prestigious Silesius Poetry Prize in 2013.
 
 

 
poems translated by Seweryn Gorczak

 
 
 
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Martyna Tomczyk / Open Anthology / Twelve of Twelve

 
 
 

storks fly towards warmer climes
 
 

something more something more
 

more of something – you repeat like a mantra during yoga classes
you signed up yesterday because you want it all the same or actually
the opposite – for mother church and all those
who said you are fat
 

you poke your underbelly with your own hand – it is in place you feel only
the coming frosts and more and more often
thoughts of nests
 
 

 

fashion victim
 
 

I heard already all about a sorted life and moments out for yourself
when you led me to all those ugly town houses
full of your promises and even fuller of your disappointment
it was then I realized I myself am such a house
 

I won’t accomplish much shredding paper in a chase or maybe if I was as if praying
because maybe tomorrow will fall into place in red high heels beating out rhythm
of the as yet undefined because what can be defined if not even you
 

the natural environment suffers with colour slides on following pages
and see see how little we care – a pretty lady is smiling anyway
because she has foolproof cream against wrinkles and the ends of the world
when all I wanted was a new pair of jeans
 
 
 

white balance
 
 

I don’t possess myself within the dream you try to wake me up from
or at least that is the pious wish I arrived at during the period spared all
holidays along the way and without god those lights running towards a goal
which has no coordinates
 

let us lie a bit for a moment let us give ourselves five minutes for this warm
drink with ice and with juice intercity coaches have leaked away anyway
you haven’t even got a clue about how I want you to stay when again
 

I come to run away because I never learnt to lead in a dance
but please lie like me saying I don’t want it because I will miss you
when you will finally decide to pull a dead rabbit out of a hat
 
 
 
translated by Seweryn Gorczak
 
 
 

 

other

 

 

 

Martyna Tomczyk – born in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, she is studying for a degree in literature, writing poetry and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Biuro Literackie Połów 2014 project. Her work has been published in Topos, Wakat and Odra. In her spare time, she watches films and takes long coach rides in and out of Gdynia, which is where she currently resides.
 
 
 

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Martyna Tomczyk / Open Anthology / Nine of Twelve

 
 
 

the fable and the balloon
 
 

we are banal to a fault I think like that about us sometimes
when we revel in the fumes of nocturnal animals impervious
to hoots of bottles and crickets (does anyone today remember
about the crickets?)
 

a familiar melody to the count of three whistles in my ears
 

nothing will happen today and tomorrow – only shame
 
 

 

a long time ago I was still a child
 
 

open a bank account for me, darling, and then the blinds,
roll-down curtains (cheap and yet certain!), worktops, tiles
of spilt milk – Anne once confessed to her friends
 

that she’s thinking about having kids, she would then have a complete set.
 

I learned something during this time though: homes come from loans,
while flats inflate ever higher
 
 
 

a B movie
 
 

we lost the plot the actors refused to cooperate any further
probably the fault of a limp script and limited quality of the booze
served at a banquet after the first shout of action (which in truth wasn’t really there)
but then again we have a nice pic we can show to our friends
 

and when you talk to me about all those altitudes and cohabitations
not necessarily marital I think about all those naïve kids which
still believe in Santa and that he won’t come their parents won’t get their salaries
or end-of-year bonuses and it seems that we’ve drank through it all
 

we wait for miracles in our cramped streets things might be different to last christmas
but I think I heard this melody before – we don’t know how to part in style
and the night buses drifted away in different directions so my place or yours?
 
 
 
translated by Seweryn Gorczak
 
 
 

 

other

 

 

 

Martyna Tomczyk – born in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, she is studying for a degree in literature, writing poetry and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Biuro Literackie Połów 2014 project. Her work has been published in Topos, Wakat and Odra. In her spare time, she watches films and takes long coach rides in and out of Gdynia, which is where she currently resides.
 
 
 

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Martyna Tomczyk / Open Anthology / Six of Twelve

 
 
 

let’s not talk too loud about it
 
 

smoke from yesterday’s cigarettes spills across my horizon
ash rubbed in a dirty rag starts to fade and I’ll spend
eternity here I think before I have the courage (courage is this tiny animal
people write whole dissertations about)
 
I am unable to take away all those colourful typographies from my mouth
those horrible words – for it to hurt it has to be spot on, not only pissed off
I was taught like that by all those boys and girls met outdoors with faces empty
like tears – sweat drops dribble down the window, the kettle finishes its song and I think I am starting to feel afraid
but still don’t know how to tell you about the hunted down animals
 
I think about gouging out the eyes of the terrorists and about our enslavement
 
 

 

starting notebooks
 
 

I have a tongue bent today like cats stretching myself along ancient walls
along familiar and alien sounding typographies of colour – I’ll buy you a drink
come on it’ll be fun when we’ll finish I’ll cover you with my body
just like one covers grass against the rain – needlessly
but don’t talk so much too little is done in too many directions
I don’t want to come back home it’s warmest there unbearably so
 
we will bring our prayers there one day but that day is not yet
 
 
 

I’ll be back, but
 
 

concrete tiles on wet sand and from them copper rods
climb towards the sky like meagre birches which once grew under our windows
you don’t remember and I fantasize about asphalt again
they painted it yellow crossed out all old paths and good riddance dear child
as if it wasn’t hard enough already to take steps no matter if concrete or blanket
from duck feathers yes I still remember the odour
and grandma’s frail fingers toying with cigarette
 

I’ll be back but it doesn’t mean anything
a handful of words warm like those few nights
which I can count on the fingers of one hand
 
 
 
translated by Seweryn Gorczak
 
 
 

 

other

 

 

 

Martyna Tomczyk – born in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, she is studying for a degree in literature, writing poetry and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Biuro Literackie Połów 2014 project. Her work has been published in Topos, Wakat and Odra. In her spare time, she watches films and takes long coach rides in and out of Gdynia, which is where she currently resides.
 
 
 

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Martyna Tomczyk / Open Anthology / Three of Twelve

 
 
 

himalayas
 
 

hey babe he wanted to say to her
but hesitated, only the hey came out, emotionless, like any other gesture
 

they talked and he just couldn’t stop thinking about journeys inwards her soil
about conquering new horizons about her girlish motions
 

how to ascend the very peak when you can barely move your fingers? and yet
you so wish to have something to slip between the pages of this fairytale
 

summer is ending, leaving less and less time
for reflections
 
 
 

shoulder straps slide off fast
 
 

the story is straightforward like collar-bones sticking out of her summer blouse
 

arms parted like thighs foreshadow maybe something more than you would like to receive
so you just stare not much connects you except for the difference in age and sensitivity
as it leans out from behind a glass of beer – beer gardens and so many possibilities
 

yet you’d like something more – you were supposed to jog every day at dawn and that
concerns you more than conflicts on the borders of your twin imaginations
you still know little about the world and it troubles you sometimes
but you now fall asleep together and maybe you’d like to keep it that way
if you’d know
 
 
 

it’s unfortunate that
 
 

happiness is within the reach of your hand happiness awaits
 

in relations other than yours in places where you’re not present
but all it takes is not looking down all it takes is to open your insides
it’s so simple – bra-strap under the collar-bone press to the muscle
it’s so simple to strip down in front of someone you don’t know
 

this one image still touches me: curled up in a chair one hand turning pages
in the other cigarette and she seems focused reading about new positions
in her dried up marriage the opportunities for divorce are thousandfold
Sunday dinner was never this exciting she says and then gets up
and doesn’t have a clue what next
 
 
 
translated by Seweryn Gorczak
 
 
 

 

other

 

 

 

Martyna Tomczyk – born in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, she is studying for a degree in literature, writing poetry and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Biuro Literackie Połów 2014 project. Her work has been published in Topos, Wakat and Odra. In her spare time, she watches films and takes long coach rides in and out of Gdynia, which is where she currently resides.
 
 
 

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Welcome to Open Anthology, by Seweryn Gorczak

 

 
 

I am a young poet born and raised in city of Warsaw, with the humble ambition to show a much greater audience the microcosm of literature written by people like me – poets molded by XXI century experience, maturing in a time of unprecedent technological progress, accompanied by the epidemic of unprecedented loneliness, in a cold country recovering from various unpleasant historical events. Quite peculiar circumstances, must be said.
 
In clearer terms, I will translate and present to you, oh reader of poetry (a mythical creature whose existence is often doubted), twelve poems a month from twelve young Polish poets, alongside interviews and short essay exploring how their poetry got here in the first place.
 
First things first, however – what will Open Anthology cover, and what won’t it?
 
It certainly won’t be objective – I have no ambitions to show you the best of the best, and don’t feel like being some sort of a judge who from the giddy heights of his self-declared authority claims that THIS POET RIGHT HERE IS THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD. Nope, that won’t happen. It is merely my wish to explore poets who have a little flair, some spark within their work that makes their poems stand out in the Polish poetry landscape and who, in the future, will inherit a doubtful mantle from hands of older, more established authors.
 

But that’s just the beginning.
 

Open Anthology is called such because I don’t want to limit it to Polish authors. There is no place for young poets from various countries, limited by the language barrier, to discover and explore what others in their age group are writing, what people like them express in their works, what people like them feel, see, think. I don’t know what other twenty three year old poets in England write, and they know jack about me too. I don’t know what kind of literature twenty-somethings in France, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Russia or Greece are producing, and in an age when I can easily chat with strangers literally on the other side of the world, this is something which needs addressing. Like so many, I can’t afford to buy and ship books from all over the planet, or send mine out, but perhaps using this website is a good starting platform.
 

The ultimate goal of Open Anthology is to create a space and invite people from other literary scenes to co-create and help to gather interesting, promising authors from all over Europe in one place, to let them influence and impress each other with their wit, wisdom and literary flourish. We also want to nurture a new generation of translators to share their work and help the cultural and literary exchange between the generation brought up in the dawn of new century, which has already proven to be dramatic and turbulent.
 

But let’s get back to basics. For now, on the OFF_Press site, at the end of every month I will present you new poet and every week I will put three poems with little extra added, like interview or short essay about selected poems. And since it’s my personal fiefdom, from time to time you can expect an interview with literary critic or other person involved in literary life, some recording of recited poem, whatever I feel like and/or have occasion doing.
 
Our aim is to make it a continuous project, without a clear-cut end game – the journey is the goal itself.
 

So, if you know of any good translations of contemporary poetry into English, send it to us, will you? We are hungry for growth.
 
 
 

Seweryn Gorczak / seweryn@off-press.org
 
 
 

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