Vertical Takeoff

On 1st October 1972, having just left the Soviet Union, Joseph Brodsky wrote in the New York Times a five-thousand words article in which he condemned the political climate in Europe, and worldwide, evaluating its dangerous principles and hunger for domination and destruction. Brodsky expressed his scepticism in reference to all ‘political movements’ which he described as ‘structured methods used to avoid personal responsibility.’

Brodsky defended his belief in a different, and superior, system built on ‘personal movements – movements of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change.’ The article, translated from Russian by Carl Proffer, appeared tangled, verbose and aimless; it sounded like so many other disoriented voices coming from dissidents and defectors of the era but those who managed to read it in full recognised its unswerving accuracy in describing a failing world system.

Seamus Heaney called it a moment of literary ‘vertical takeoff’, crucial in establishing the capacity of language to go farther and faster than expected and thereby provide an escape from the limitations and preoccupations of the self.

It was, in itself, a warning signal that politics became a psychological danger for humanity, as it engaged people in external fights with the Evil, which automatically made them begin to identify themselves with the Good. And when mankind begins to consider itself bearer of Good, it slides into self-congratulation. This is a state of complacency which Brodsky, who was stateless in 1972, saw it as the source of everything that was radically bad about people.

Brodsky carefully re-considers the role of an united writing community which is vital in opposing official points of view and which should support ‘personal movements’ by engaging the society in real exercises of reflection and learning. This engagement, however, is built on access to books, not articles about books; direct contact with ideas, not ‘pre-packed’ blurbs.

The PN Review editorial (January 2020) comments on the closure of nearly 800 British libraries over the past ten years. The Trump era defines how we conduct literature not only politics. ‘The triumph of the tweet’ reduces our engagement with books to a suite of emoticons, in which the responsibility for personal engagement with ideas is a constant forward-re-tweet and a sum of likes. Bring me someone who sits down to read War and Peace or a five-thousand words article in the New York Times. I’ll be either their friend or their follower.

© Maria Stadnicka 2021

[‘Vertical Takeoff’ was published in International Times on 25/01/2020.]


Brodsky, J. (1972) ‘A writer is a lonely traveler’. New York Times, 1st October 1972. Available here.

Brodsky, J. (1997) On Grief and Reason. Essays, London: Penguin Books.

PNR, January-February 2020, vol. 46, no.3. Available here.

‘Buried Gods Metal Prophets’ out on 11 Feb. 2021

Buried Gods Metal Prophets published by the Guillemot Press, UK.

Editors: Luke Thompson and Sarah Cave

Design and illustrations: Antonia Glücksman

Free online launch on 11 Feb. 2021 at 7pm. Please register using the Guillemot’s Events Page which is available here: https://www.guillemotpress.co.uk/events/11th-february-book-launch-maria-stadnicka-featuring-susie-campbell.

About Buried Gods Metal Prophets:

Maria Stadnicka’s latest poetry collection Buried Gods Metal Prophets is inspired by the experiences of her siblings, who lived in a Romanian children’s home between 1978-1987. This was the period of Romania’s Communist Party’s disastrous ‘Decree 770’, which banned contraception and abortion, at the same time as awarding women with more than five children an ‘Order of the Heroine Mother’. As a result, an estimated twelve million illegal abortions took place between 1967 and 1989 and over 250,000 children were placed in orphanages or care homes.

Stadnicka builds a polyphonic poetic documentary inspired by Julia Kristeva’s idea that poetry can establish ‘space and infinity’ beyond the restriction of linear poetics. The juxtaposition of narratives builds a world in which the omnipresent voice of the government echoes in the mechanised communication between the state and the individual, as well as in the control over the process of information dissemination in a climate where the private ownership of a typewriter without state permission, meant prison sentence.

Buried Gods Metal Prophets is based on her personal experience when working as a teacher at St. Stelian Orphanage which cared for three hundred children diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Exposing the reality of living in state care during the Cold War, it explores the spectre of political and human tyranny that can contribute to a generational socio-cultural trauma. Children are called by numbers, not by names, and even the letters they write to Santa Claus are subject to censorship.

The creative process was informed by interviews with family members, and research around childhood trauma, neglect and child language development. The book responds to what Sartre calls literary ‘commitment and substance of enterprise’, looking at survival as an act of defiance.

January 2021

Hermit Age

When I get lonely, I visit my local tip. Apart from Wednesdays, I am guaranteed to find someone about, willing to help me get rid of a load of stuff which, up to that point, had prevented me from moving on in life. One time I discarded so much of my old junk that back home I noticed the front door sign was gone, and the post box which had my name on it. I got in and a woman I’d never met before was moving about hoovering. She was wearing my shoes.

© Maria Stadnicka January 2021

Furniture Without Memory

© JStadnicki ‘The Wait’ January 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ask about someone lost

in an escape gone wrong /

 

they will point at a place

of returning where things

 

talk themselves out of paper

so loudly it is impossible

 

to miss them even if you can

barely hear at all / peculiar how

 

eternal-now locks everything

indoors / before too long

 

hair grows in old toys

in furniture without memory

 

© Maria Stadnicka, January 2021

 

It Has Snowed,

(for F. M. )

 

after many hospital visits

and the nurse has left a message

that you are now an embryo.

 

Chromosome – parity – sequence:

one, two, four then another snowfall

before your mother and I buy curtains.

 

It is a strange place for snow, our road,

our house and the courtyard with dried herbs

grieving for your lateness. Miracle Grow.

 

In hindsight, if magic existed

it would have been weaponised by now.

Trust science with your heart,

 

grow spare valves, ventricles for all the lies

the world tells you. The biggest deceit is

that your future is set in stone.

 

© Maria Stadnicka, January 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Geometric Kingdom’ is out now.

 

In The Geometric Kingdom, Rupert Loydell and Maria Stadnicka write about loss, grief and mourning, and explore how memory, faith and ritual facilitate the relationship between the living and the dead. 

Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, UK.

Editor: Alec Newman 

 

 

‘Loydell is mining themes that resonate with our times, leading to collaborations with a talented array of fellow poets, allowing for a synergistic pulse of varied views. He and his fellow travelers ask difficult questions and offer open-ended answers through the time-tested holy triad of ethos, logos, and pathos.’

 – Joey Madia, X-Peri

‘Stadnicka’s poetics is one of craftmanship, wherein she carefully walks the tightrope of surreal poetic metaphor and the gritty realism of investigative journalism and broadcasting. Drawing on her experiences in both, Stadnicka’s writing culminates into a distinctly inventive literary landscape.’

 – Bryony Hughes, Stride

 

The Geometric Kingdom is now available at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press  it can also be ordered on Amazon as well as various local bookshops. 

 

Yes, it is all a snapchat but I take it seriously.

Katrina aged four (1992). © Photograph: Craig Easton / Published in The Guardian on 14 Nov 2020

I am seven and have committed a crime. And I am going to prison where my brother won’t visit for fear of being locked up as well. Someone says that if you stare at the classroom walls long enough, Mister Williams can’t read your thoughts because God, hidden in the plaster, has built a shield around your body which makes you invisible.

I trust God to wake me up with a packed lunch I can carry to school, but at break-time all I hear is rumbling and heartbeats. Grandfather warned me that when you get upset your heart grows a claw which pokes at your ribcage until you pass out. And to avoid passing out, I’ve stolen a girl’s lunchbox. I am a thief who will go to prison and die hungry.

© Jack Shenker The Guardian 14 Nov 2020

The article can be accessed here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/nov/14/this-photo-of-children-living-in-poverty-caused-shock-waves-in-1992-where-are-they-now

Maria Stadnicka, 14th November 2020, UK

“Sleepwalking into the Abyss”

Earlier in the week, a few anglo-american media agencies mentioned the ‘quartet of despotism’ in reference to the international reaction to the election results in the US. It could have been a slip of the tongue, or maybe a warning sign that things are not over until are over.

Yesterday, The Guardian, The Independent [yes, I know] picked it up again and included Timothy Snyder’s analysis on the current developments. It reminded me of a talk Snyder gave in Amsterdam in 2017, in which he looked at the contributing factors to the current state of affairs. I’ve only just ‘re-found’ it: ‘Can history save us from ourselves?

The talk is long and if you are short for time, begin with minute six and listen for about 45 minutes.

The fact that The Independent, currently owned by the former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev, has picked this up too, is in itself worthy of further attention. 

Maria Stadnicka, 12 Nov 2020

Domestication

Illustration © Claire Palmer, 2020 for International Times.

Thank you for calling our service. You are
fifth in the queue. An operator will be
with you shortly. In the meantime, watch
the beasts in our zoo through the keyhole.
Please observe safety precautions and
remain in your vehicle. A lion born in captivity
has recently been reported missing.

Thank you for calling our service. You are
fourth in the queue. Apologies for the delay.
All our operators are busy at present. 
We are experiencing unexpected disruption,
someone will be with you shortly. For information
in your own language, access online tutorials.

Thank you for calling our service. You are
third in the queue. The operators hear
shouting and screaming outside the call centre,
high alert. Please remain in your vehicle
and lock the doors. Our clients’ welfare is
very important except in emergency situations
when staff come first. To survive the jungle,
you have to become animal.

Thank you for calling our service. You are
second in the queue. All our operators
are dealing with a serious incident.
We are sorry for this inconvenience.
The background music contains sounds
which you may find distressing.
Press zero to return to the main menu,
press one to continue listening.

Thank you for calling our service. You are
next. Please have your bank details ready.
Bear with us and someone will be with you
as soon as possible. To listen to these
options again, press star. To keep on,
please hold. You are next. You arrr…

Good morning, sorry to keep you waiting,
you are through to the Samaritans. How
                              can we help you today?

© Maria Stadnicka, 2020. Published in International Times on 24 October 2020.

Wind Noose

 

Art work © Mark Mawer, Backwater (2019).

 

There is a break in hostilities.

Long enough to exchange prisoners,

embalm scattered shirt buttons.

 

A temporary ceasefire to inearth

our collateral losses then pause

for a live broadcast at midday.

 

Coloured bar charts hurry up to

catch the moment cyber runners

reach their finishing lines. Race over.

 

Winners grow up to have long legs,

fitted for mile-wide life hurdles.

Empty seats line up in combat gear.

 

© Maria Stadnicka, October 2020