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

‘Imperfect’ is now available ….

 

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This is it. The book is done, the summer arrived. ‘Imperfect’ is published by Yew Tree Press, Philip Rush, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK and printed by Andrew Morrison, Stroud, UK. Price: £10 with free P&P.

http://www.artistsbooksonline.co.uk/andrew_morrison.shtml

Curator: Jay Ramsay

Photography: @Joss Beeley

Please order the book at mariastadnicka@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

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

Silent Country

On the wall opposite my bungalow

a blue advert drips on a stationary boat.

 

The sea is far away, overcrowded.

 

The acid rain dissolved the bold letters

which used to show my direction.

 

I have no choice but to stay vigil

behind this lighthouse

waiting for another explosion.

 

Do you see what I see?

We arrived, at last, at a dead end

a few souls making plans at a bus stop.

All that talking led us cattle to slaughter.

clock-1

Games During the Cold War

The winter Clara and I secretly discovered socialism

we had nothing left in the house

that was worth burning.

 

The frost surrounded the bedroom,

we talked to keep warm

and I suggested to write on the walls.

 

We used the kitchen knife to sharpen crayons

and kept at it for a couple of hours.

‘All western countries, enemies of the people!

Kill the foreigners!

Kill Ronald Reagan!’

I thought Ro-nald was such a bad name

for a man who never wrote children books,

probably he deserved to die.

 

My spelling was not very good at that age,

so the room filled with rainbows instead.

Clara and I laughed.

 

At that point, we felt hungry and I remembered

mother kept the bible covered with cloth

on top of the fridge

so I lifted the shiny red cover, sliced it in very small pieces

and added water and salt.

The feast carried on for a bit.

 

Clara and I chewed with determination several chapters.

We almost got half way through

when I read: ‘Then there shall be a time of trouble …for

every one that shall be found written in the book.’

 

And then, in the middle of our small apartment,

the game stopped.

I went back to the wall

and changed the words around.

‘Ro-land, orphan but free’.

piazza-del-duomo-milano-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph: @John Stadnicki, ‘Piazza’, 2016

 

No Other Survivors

I sit by the emergency exit

at a neat desk

in the office with

neat plastic flowers.

 

Freshly baked people buzz

empty in black and white.

A typed frozen password on my screen: bonjours tristesse number eleven.

It keeps snowing in Russian.

 

A nest arrives.

Hollow roundness.

At my window, a kneeled motionless pigeon

is picking and picking at my praying crumbs.

No other survivors.

 

cimitero-monumentale-milano-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography: @John Stadnicki, ‘Cimitero Monumentale’ 2016

Preparations

I am getting used to passing the time
in the solemn company of my wood beams.
Perhaps weeks, perhaps years
in which I have been witness to the world’s determination to name the unborn,
to possession and
to abandonment,
to preparations coming from planning uncertainty,
and to my own weakness.
I have not become better
although I lit candles and prayed
and I mattered.
I scribbled more question marks on waiting room tables than I gave answers
and
I felt the humility of a man proven wrong when
I hoped I had done enough.
Somehow,  each time I rebelled
I ended up cleaning up the wreckage,
packing, unpacking,
forgiving everything
but not myself.

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