Non-Fiction, Reviews

New Arrivals: Review on Oxygen – Julia Fiedorczuk

New Arrivals: Review
of Oxygen by Julia Fiedorczuk

Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Zephyr Press (2017), 134 pages Polish & English

 

oxygen_cover

From the title Oxygen, one can intimate that Julia Fiedorczuk’s new book of poems, her first book-length bilingual poetry collection, is all about what is essential. As a Polish poet and scholar, Fiedorczuk writes ecopoetry with a “personism” pulse, centering her work around a trust and a celebration of our inherent relationship to nature. Before we even pick up a copy of her beautiful new book translated by Bill Johnston, Oxygen indicates that the main concern of her poetry will be about what is necessary to life. And unfortunately for you, dear reader, that may not be you.

Fiedorczuk’s poetry reveals that that which is crucial to life is not humanity or its existence, but the forces of nature omnipresent: the earth, sea, stars, minerals, and other microscopic bodies. Whether these aspects are “Electricity,” the “Weather,” or the “Evening,” the non-human perspectives take primacy, and in doing so, Fiedorczuk attempts to dismantle mankind’s favorite point of view—the anthropocentric universe.

Although she stated in Asymptote’s review that she would like to be understood as “simply a poet,” and therefore does not necessarily identify as an ecopoet (one that writes in relation to their ecology or ecological surroundings), an ecopoetic approach is at the foreground of her content. She utilizes nature’s chemistry, its movements between light and dark, and its transformative qualities to explore life.

The term “ecopoetry” can often be misunderstood as it has less to do with the content and more to do with the process of the poet in finding connection with the non-human world. “Nature is energy and struggle,” John Berger says and, “Art is not imitating nature, it is imitating creation,” which is exactly what Fiedorczuk does through her language—creating a world full of sound and beauty that relishes “in the outbreath of the world.”

She brings awareness to the natural world by inhabiting non-human perspectives through persona poems such as “Beetle” and “Photosynthesis,” where she uncovers the extreme joy or “dull lament” of being a part of the cosmos. In the “Beetle,” the “tiny heart” has “so much time. Sunday! Like a length of silk” and has “such hunger, such desire / That the day must turn into an endless stream / Of richest yellow,” connecting us to the vastness of the universe and its light. She will attempt to speak for the incredibly, almost invisibly, small creatures or natural processes to appease the ontological questions that she will never disclose.

The book opens with “Lands and Oceans” which begins: “It is literally fire that is dear to us,” signifying that both death and creation—the transformative process—is the one act shared by humans and nature that is revered as sacred. This revelation is grasped . . . Read full article on The Mantle –> HERE.

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Poetry

“A Blessing” – James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

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Poetry

“The Portrait” – Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.

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Poetry

“Cross” – Langston Hughes

My old man’s a white old man
And my old mother’s black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I’m sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I’m gonna die,
Being neither white nor black?

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Poetry

“jasper texas 1998” – Lucille Clifton

for j. byrd

i am a man’s head hunched in the road.
i was chosen to speak by the members
of my body. the arm as it pulled away
pointed toward me, the hand opened once
and was gone.

why and why and why
should i call a white man brother?
who is the human in this place,
the thing that is dragged or the dragger?
what does my daughter say?

the sun is a blister overhead.
if i were alive i could not bear it.
the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth
into the dirt that covers us all.
i am done with this dust. i am done.

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Poetry

“Appetite” – Maxine Kumin

I eat these
wild red raspberries
still warm from the sun
and smelling faintly of jewelweed
in memory of my father

tucking the napkin
under his chin and bending
over an ironstone bowl
of the bright drupelets
awash in cream

my father with the sigh of a man
who has seen all and been redeemed
said time after time
as he lifted his spoon

men kill for this.

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