Exodus. Chapter Ten. Paragraph Four.

© JStadnicki, Factory MMXXI, Gloucestershire

I am seven, I have committed a crime and I am going to prison where my brother won’t visit for fear of being locked up as well. My mates say if I stare at the classroom walls Mister Williams can’t read my thoughts; a plaster-god weaved a shield around my body that made me invisible.

Open your Bible at ‘Exodus’ chapter ten, paragraph four, he says.

[…and Moses answered: Oh, God, I am slow of speech…]

I spent so long in the company of my laptop that I am becoming a keyboard. I jump over squares in conversation when real things are the wrong way around. They are so loud it is impossible to miss them even if I can barely see at all. Each shortcut leads to a mistake I had made, to a crime I will commit. 

Press “space bar” to be born.

Press “escape” to swear in emojis.

I bear the weight of a full stop God’s tongue drops on my back. I trusted God to wake me up for school with a packed lunch. At breaktime I hear rumbling and my heartbeat. Mister Williams warned me: when you get upset your heart grows a claw which pokes at the ribcage until you pass out. 

To avoid passing out, I have stolen a girl’s lunchbox. I am a thief who will go to prison and die hungry.

How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?

It gets lighter. I eat my past in small bites and praise the Lord. 

© Maria Stadnicka, April 2021

Mslexia reviews ‘Buried Gods Metal Prophets’

‘Stadnicka’s fourth collection is inspired by the experiences of her siblings who lived in a Romanian children’s home during the time (1967-1989) when the Communist Party banned contraception and abortion. Around 12 million illegal abortions took place and over 250,000 children were placed in care homes and orphanages. The collection also draws on Stadnicka’s experiences as a teacher with HIV-positive children at a Romanian orphanage, and on interviews with women who performed illegal abortions. The book explores the effects of trauma and state oppression, as well as the realities of social, political and historical crises.

Stadnicka’s writing has a disquieting quality, which may be due in part to its difficult subject matter as well as the author’s own lived experience. The language is precise and austere, often relating shocking detail in a deadpan tone. ‘Radioactive milk’ relates how ‘One night / the curse shoots out of her womb / and starts walking. / For some reason / the newly born survives’. The book explores the tragic voices of both staff and abandoned children at the orphanages. One poem, written from the perspective of a child with AIDS, ends heartbreakingly, ‘I feel rather proud. / Someone has given me a name other than dog’. Forms include historical documents, short lyric poems, diary entries and textual experimentation. Keenly observed details add touches of surrealism: ‘The moon falls asleep / above your head’; an angel who ‘stops to light a cigarette’.

Maria Stadnicka is a Romano-British writer, editor and journalist based in Gloucestershire. Previous collections include Somnia and The Geometric Kingdom. Stadnicka is a PhD researcher at the University of the West of England, researching trauma and migration. Recognition for her Romanian work includes the Porni Luceafarul, Convorbiri Literare and T Arghezi awards.

A compelling collection from an independent press. Thee book is beautifully made and designed with haunting illustrations by Antonia Glückman, which enhance its atmosphere of darkness and tragedy.’

© Jennifer Lee Tsai, Mslexia Issue 89, March – May 2021.

 


Buried Gods Metal Prophets is available here.

Buried Gods Metal Prophets reviewed in The Telegraph

© Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph, 6 March 2021.

Buried Gods Metal Prophets (2021) is published by Guillemot Press, editors Luke Thompson and Sarah Cave, illustrations and design Antonia Glücksman. The book is available here: https://www.guillemotpress.co.uk/poetry/maria-stadnicka-buried-gods-and-metal-prophets.

Gallery

Locked in winter

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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.

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. 

 

“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