A Thing for Poetry, with David Clarke

Last month, I was delighted to attend the launch of a new book of poems by Maria Stadnicka, a Romanian-born poet living and working in Stroud. Before coming to the UK in 2003, Maria worked as a radio and TV broadcaster, presenter and radio editor. She also won a series of national poetry prizes. In 2010 she became member of the Stroud Writers Group, Gloucestershire.

I first become aware of Maria’s poetry when Yew Tree Press published her beautifully illustrated short collection A Short Story about War (as Maria Butunoi) in 2014 and her new poems, collected in Imperfect (also Yew Tree Press), are a welcome addition to her English-language work. Maria’s poems are restrained and precisely crafted miniatures: enigmatic narratives shot through with dark humour and surreal detail, they are eminently political, but rarely tackle Politics (with a capital P) head on. In all of these respects, they put me in mind of the work of Greek poet Yannis Ritsos, yet there also seem to me to be echoes of Kafka: the poems record fragile surface realities, beneath which lurk the symptoms of violence and oppression. This is a poetry of unease, and all the more honest for that, but also ultimately a poetry of hope, recording the struggle of the subject to maintain its integrity in troubled times.

Maria has agreed to feature as my guest poet in this post, which presents here poem ‘City’. Of the poem, Maria writes:

‘What can I know?’….’What can I know?’…This is not my question. Immanuel Kant answered it already, a long time ago, and many other thinkers answered it in their own way too. As a society, we slowly learnt to get used to ‘knowing’ everything a priori. When there is no obvious difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘dogma’, what is the point in asking? Everything is ‘google-able’, right?

Happy to be given the answer, happy to steer clear of uncomfortable dirt and pain. Happy and safe. But isn’t that called oppression?

Recently I have been thinking about oppression and the subtle nuances revealed by urbanism. The layers and layers of conformity which are impossible to eradicate without consequences. But then… how else shall we build consensus?

And one afternoon, walking through my working class town, out of the blue an answer kept staring me in the face. There was the rain and the shops closing at 5 o’clock and people hurrying to get the dinner ready. There was an English February, defined by our sleepwalking hyperreality. Me and everybody else: surrendered, crushed.

 

City

The afternoon we passed the city prison walls
fighting the wintry wind with a broken umbrella.

It was precisely five o’clock and
a girl on a bicycle overtook an old man
holding a rope.
About the same time,
the ice cream van closed.

The armed police arrived
to disperse the queue with tear-gas.

In the near distance, people ran
between horizontal watermarks
back to their semi-detached
airing cupboards.

We had nothing to stop for and then, I think,
I paused and
I covered my arms with a piece of history.

Imperfect can be purchased by contacting Yew Tree Press (philipalrush[at]googlemail.com) or via Amazon.

David Clarke, poet, thinker and critic. http://athingforpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/david-clarke.html

A Kind of World

If we want the world to move forward,

we must hold hands. Documenting the pain and the joy,

on the same page,

with water, with fire, with ashes

not with ink.

 

Freedom means nothing when the healthy and the sick

eat at separate tables.

Even the trees sit together. They know that life is actually simple.

But once people renounced their entitlement,

it will take more than a revolution

to reclaim such a right.

 

For too long we took the wrong turn.

 

What kind of world is this if

the madman tells us that

we should be ashamed of ourselves?

 

Photo: @Joss Beeley

New text…@International Times

Exile

 

Witness to a repeated history
in exile I learn a new language
facing the border control
at Heathrow Airport I wear my mother’s coat
ready for a winter of politics
when I need to
I keep my mouth shut I change my name to
look just like her
white and uncomfortable
the blinding sun has been washed and
smells of violets
people are happy
in such a beautiful land
nobody minds me
amongst
wrapped-well-packed boxes
brushing the dust off velvet cutlery
the only remains
of life before baptism.

©Maria Stadnicka

Photograph: ©Nick Victor

http://internationaltimes.it/exile-2/

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The World According to a Child Soldier (III)

On my first day at school I learn to

say ‘yes’ to everything and to accept the dogs’ fight

for the best seat at the open-screen cinema,

although I have a V.I.P. ticket.

 

I learn how the silence starts with a dry pen,

how it ends in a battlefield,

among abandoned bones.

 

I learn to agree with the history,

for it has the right to choose terror

over Vermeer’s ‘Girl in Hyacinth Blue’.

The options’ book has a few missing chapters but

my teacher says that acceptance, not hope,

is the best weapon against dreams.

 

I learn that I was not born a slave but

I became one.

boy

Photograph: @John Stadnicki

A Day at the Office

On Monday morning, I receive an updated version of

my handbook to freedom.

The spring is ready.

Without any fault, all of us hear the truth with a different voice,

as we continue the historic dispute over the body count.

 

The perfect war victims are lost

in the overwhelming testimony to the reality’s carnage.

Another century of fear unravels before Vivian Maier’s blunt apron,

like an atomic flower that grows overnight.

 

The collective memory has started rehearsals

for a prayer written on damaged bridges.

Those who have never been taught how to be free

escaped in the wild to make the world theirs.

foggy-railway-1

Photograph: @John Stadnicki, ‘Directions’, 2014

Thought

In a country where all books are forbidden,

the hurricane spits out a new world

with a new legacy of destruction.

People stop by the house with a light on and a blue door,

the house with boarded-up windows where

the mandolin player keeps an eye

on his own basement revolution.

These are the days when the truth learns to

travel on cigarette papers, between prison cells,

before the police arrives

to evacuate.

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Ink on paper: ‘Fisherman’, Maria Stadnicka