This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.
[English version by Robert Hass]
Forget the suffering
You caused others.
Forget the suffering
Others caused you.
The waters run and run,
Springs sparkle and are done,
You walk the earth you are forgetting.
Sometimes you hear a distant refrain.
What does it mean, you ask, who is singing?
A childlike sun grows warm.
A grandson and a great-grandson are born.
You are led by the hand once again.
The names of the rivers remain with you.
How endless those rivers seem!
Your fields lie fallow,
The city towers are not as they were.
You stand at the threshold mute.
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.
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.
You survived because you were first.
You survived because you were last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.
Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.
Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
one step, a hair away?
So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net’s mesh was tight, but you– through the mesh?
I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.
how quickly your heart is beating in me.
– Translated from the Polish by Grazyna Drabik & Sharon Olds