New Arrivals: Review
of Oxygen by Julia Fiedorczuk
Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Zephyr Press (2017), 134 pages Polish & English
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.