Dust Borealis

 

 

Driving home from the airport I notice

my old school flatten down in the city centre.

 

No traffic. People indoors, folding hours

in cupboards, in boxes without keys.

 

A land of graves reflected upside down

in each blind spot. Letters pinned

 

to a blazer, white socks mother mended

at night, trace the playground where

 

children abandoned a beachball.

The wideness of urban carparks

 

risen from ashes, dust borealis

glows above the steering wheel.

 

© Maria Stadnicka, July 2020

Prototype 2020 out now

Prototype 2020, prose and poetry anthology published by Prototype Publishing, London, p.175, ISBN 978-1-913513-03-0.

Editor: Jess Chandler, Designer: Theo Inglis

The anthology includes work written with Rupert Loydell for the forthcoming collection The Geometric Kingdom.

IMG_3735

Writers: Astrid Alben, Caroline Bergvall, Linda Black, Lochlan Bloom, Iain Britton, Sam Buchan-Watts, Hisham Bustani, Theodoros Chiotis, Cathleen Allyn Conway, Emily Critchley, Claire Crowther, Susannah Dickey, Tim Dooley, Olivia Douglas, Michael Egan, Gareth Evans, Aisha Farr, Miruna Fulgeanu, Mark Goodwin, Philip Hancock, Oli Hazzard, Hoagy Houghton, Dominic Jaeckle, Aaron Kent, Caleb Klaces, Lotte L.S., Ali Lewis, Jazmine Linklater, Rupert Loydell, Alex MacDonald, Helen Marten, Mira Mattar, Otis Mensah, Lucy Mercer, Vanessa Onwuemezi, Sinae Park, Molly Ellen Pearson, Meryl Pugh, Elizabeth Reeder, Leonie Rushforth, Lavinia Singer, Maria Sledmere, Maria Stadnicka, Maia Tabet, Amanda Thomson, Donya Todd, David Turner, Lizzy Turner, Sarah Tweed, Anne Vegter, Ahren Warner, Oliver Zarandi.

Prototype 2020 is available from Prototype Publishing, London.

The ‘Useless’ Knowledge

 

Over two months ago

24th April 2020. Britain just passed the peak. Statistics broadcasted live at the press conference from Downing Street show an increase of over 5.500 cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours. It is lower than earlier in the week and, on top of this, more good news. The PM has made a full recovery from his encounter with the virus and is expected back in the swing of things.

Analysing newspapers’ front pages from 24th April 2020, I find headlines suggesting how a ‘grateful Britain’ (Daily Mirror) is slowly ‘taking back control’ (The Daily Telegraph), with the help of ‘mass testing to get Britain back on her feet’ (Daily Express).  At the same time, hospitals are struggling with significant PPE shortages, with ‘failings in the privately run virus test centres’ (The Guardian) and are ‘running out of dialysis kits’ (The Independent).

A snapshot of the ‘new normal’ (The Scotsman) in April, when things are bad and better at the same time. The sigh of relief from governmental departments is so loud, I can almost hear it from the Midlands in the lockdown quietness.

Weather is good but the angst caused by the emergency stop on economy is wearing many out. As my professional and social life move online, days and nights blend into each other, in a confusing melange of obsessive handwashing, sleeplessness, overeating and virus paranoia. I would believe anything as long as it brings hope.

The worst has passed and social media takes comfort in the heavily quoted words of Pastor Olawale Daniel who prophetically anticipates the arrival of ‘a time to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the next phase of our existence’.

I admit I have not heard of Pastor Olawale before the pandemic and, looking at his website, I am still unable to trust the source, but for a while his quote goes viral on social media. Maybe it speaks to a yearning for social change, in a moment when, having lockdown time for reflection, we realise that we have been going in the wrong direction.

© JStadnicki, 2020 / Stroud / UK

 

Over a month ago

25th May 2020. I’ve already been introduced to the science behind the R number. The press conference in Downing Street is chaired by the PM himself who announces an increase in number of COVID-19 cases with only 1,600 in 24 hours. Britain’s records show that 36,900 people died infected with COVID-19, but I’m re-assured that things are ‘being controlled’.

Unfortunately, trust in the government’s concerted narrative ‘together against the virus’ suffers a big blow following the Cummings-gate media revelations.

Newspapers’ front pages explain how the PM’s aide, ‘a cheat’ (Daily Mirror), offers ‘no apology, no explanation’ (The Guardian) for breaking the lockdown rules. While some newspapers report that ‘he acted responsibly, legally, and with integrity’ (The Daily Telegraph), others call for the ‘aide’s sacking’ (The Scotsman) and the public opinion begins to split, reigniting the arguments which fuel the narrative ‘them and us’. My professional and social life are still booming online, weather is good, and then something else happens.

On 25th May 2020, George Floyd is killed in Minneapolis at 9.07pm. Britain is asleep (3.07am) and about to wake up to an updated version of the ‘new normal’; a social normality forced back to the ‘drawing board’ by the inequality and the injustice which stained our system before the COVID-19 pandemic, and our systems before that, and even earlier than that, as back as history can remember.

 

Finally, the ‘useless’ knowledge

The statue of Edward Colston is toppled and removed (7th June 2020) by protesters supporting the ‘George Floyd Movement’ in Bristol. The British Home Secretary points the finger at the destructive ‘mobsters’ and the House of Commons heats up with MPs recognising the urgent need to improve our education system. We have not learned enough from the past, nor thought enough about a future free from racism, discrimination and injustice. At this point, volume goes up in my headphones.

It is a mistake.  A mistake, for I can hear Sam Terry (MP for Ilford South) saying how UK universities must be:

valued as part of the frontline response to the coronavirus pandemic, […] and recognised for the role they can play in their local economies in terms of retraining and reskilling their local workers during any recovery from the pandemic. (2020, p.1)

The hope for fresh beginning in the ‘new normal’ gets crushed.  Shouldn’t universities be recognised for all their roles, for their contribution to developing critical thinking and creativity, science as well as arts and humanities? If not, then what is the point in having higher education in the first place?

With philosophy, literature and art courses being scrapped in many British universities, public libraries closing, an art sector barely surviving under the new rules of social distancing, our children’s chance to reflect on and to learn from past mistakes is significantly undermined. Not that economic recovery is irrelevant, far from it; but looking at the underlying societal disease caused by ‘outcomes’, it seems that we are moving backwards. Almost as back as 1935 when Bertrand Russell observed a similar symptomatic failure in the education system:

Educational commissions point out that fifteen hundred words are all that most people employ in business correspondence, and therefore suggest that all others should be avoided in the school curriculum. (1935, p.34)

Russell criticised the education system tasked to avoid ‘useless’ knowledge, without practical applicability and immediacy, pointing out the insurmountable value of philosophy and literature, for instance, in creating better visions for the future.

Surely, I think, in almost a century we moved beyond fifteen hundred words; surely our world-leading higher education system looks nothing like the system described by Russell in 1935:

Knowledge everywhere is coming to be regarded not as a good in itself, or a means of creating a broader and human outlook on life in general, but as merely an ingredient in technical skill. Educational establishments are not allowed to spend their money as they like, but must satisfy the State that they are serving a useful purpose by imparting skill and instilling loyalty. (In Praise of Idleness, 1935, p.38)

Writing In Praise of Idleness, Russell had the experience of the Great Depression. The Stock Market Crash followed in 1939. Despite his opposition to war, Russell witnessed how a social system, skilled by education, was unable to solve the crisis of the 20th century in any other way but war.

As for us, things are surely different.

© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020 / Published in International Times on 4th July 2020.


Russell, B. (1935) In Praise of Idleness. London: George Allen & Unwind Ltd. An e-version can be accessed here.

Furniture Without Memory

 

‘Interior MMXX’

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, 2020


Published in Stride Magazine, February 2020.

Somnia | Four Movements in F Minor

Billed as ‘Four Movements in F Minor’, Somnia is split into parts, ‘Allegro’, ‘Largo’, ‘Scherzo’ and ‘Finale’. The poems explore living through terrorism and fear, although these themes could be metaphorical or literal since the poems’ concerns focus on the effects on people living through these times. From ‘Allegro’, ‘Witness’ takes place a supermarket where ropes are on sale and shoppers talk about the pending hurricane,

Across the isle, a women looks out.

Trains deliver milk and morning newspapers;

at the end of his shift, a night watchman

lights a cigarette watching umbrellas running

to shelter. He has nowhere else. His children

sent him a blank telegram. Monochrome winds,

he thinks. Time to repair, to build.

The house he was born in no longer exists.

The punch of the last line carries a heft in contrast to the seemingly mundane routine of everyday lives. As others are hurrying home to shelter from adverse weather, the watchman has no one else to be concerned about him. In ‘Defence Mechanism’ from ‘Largo’, a questions throws a person,

I move

rubble pieces

across the chess table

unsure of what bishops,

rooks, pawns are for

in this game.

 

Would you kill a bird?

the angel asks.

A stone grows

in my mouth.

Between my flesh

and my heart,

                    rust.’

The poet is Romanian and lived through a political regime of a dictator, secret police and general paranoia where neighbour reported neighbour to save themselves form arrest. The question isn’t necessarily about a bird, but could you kill to save yourself? Can you do what it takes to survive?

Somnia is accomplished and timely, built on acute observation and drawn without judgement. The poems focus on the darker sides of humanity, the intrusion on every day lives by the political forces and show solidarity with those simply trying to protect family and survive.

© Emma Lee for The Journal, 29 June 2020


Somnia (published on 6th April 2020 by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press) was included among ‘the best books to read during lockdown’ by The Telegraph Arts (May 2020). The book is available at Knives, Forks and SpoonsThe Poetry Book Society, WaterstonesAmazon and the following independent shops:

Banner Books (Ennistymon)
http://bannerbooks.ie

Book Corner (Saltburn-by-the-Sea)
bookcornershop.co.uk

The Bookshop (East Grinstead)
eastgrinsteadbookshop.co.uk

Brendon Books (Taunton)
brendonbooks.co.uk

Bridge Bookshop (Isle of Man)
bridge-bookshop.com

Browsers Bookshop (Porthmadog)
browsersbookshop.com

Gullivers Bookshop (Wimborne)
booksandvinyl.co.uk/gullivers

Gnash Comics
gnashcomics.co.uk

Gwisgo Bookworm (Aberearon)
gwisgobookworm.co.uk

Haslemere Bookshop (Haslemere)
haslemerebookshop.co.uk

Hungerford Bookshop (West Berkshire)
hungerfordbookshop.co.uk

Lindum Books (Lincoln)
facebook.com/lindumbooks

Mostly Books (Abingdon)
mostly-books.co.uk

Niche Comics and Bookshop (Cambridgeshire)
nichecomics.co.uk

Red Lion Books (Colchester)
redlionbooks.co.uk

Sam Read Bookseller (Grasmere)
samreadbooks.co.uk

Wivenhoe Bookshop (Essex)
wivenhoebooks.com

The Woodstock Bookshop
woodstockbookshop.co.uk

Leviticus

Painting © Manuell Manastireanu, 2020

to Anne-Marie

 

We’d have peace if we meet

at a cemetery, she says,

 

but once there graves open,

the dead ask for headlines.

 

The good news is that I am

in the same place as Moses

 

walking around life when

sands shift. I reach my desert

 

retouching roots that match

the colour of parents’ home.

 

I forgot where they live now;

as close as my skin, as far as

 

a memory from when I was five.

There must be a house nearby

 

where someone stays awake

to warm up bottles of milk.

 

Instead of looking for it, I hold

a telescope aimed at the sky

 

marching past stray pebbles.

 

 

© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020

Until tomorrow / Free online reading 16th June, 7.30pm

Photograph: @John Stadnicki – MMXVIII

An opportunity to hear new work, as well as fragments from Somnia.

SOMNIA (front cover) published by The Knives Forks Spoons Press, April 2020.

Event organised by Gloucester Poetry Festival!

Registration and further information: here.

Thank you! Maria

Until tomorrow, you can listen to:

 

‘The Seventh Virtue’.

 

 

Note:
Latest book Somnia published this year by the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press was released on 6th April and can be ordered from the following independent bookshops:

Banner Books (Ennistymon)
http://bannerbooks.ie

Book Corner (Saltburn-by-the-Sea)
bookcornershop.co.uk

The Bookshop (East Grinstead)
eastgrinsteadbookshop.co.uk

Brendon Books (Taunton)
brendonbooks.co.uk

Bridge Bookshop (Isle of Man)
bridge-bookshop.com

Browsers Bookshop (Porthmadog)
browsersbookshop.com

Gullivers Bookshop (Wimborne)
booksandvinyl.co.uk/gullivers

Gnash Comics
gnashcomics.co.uk

Gwisgo Bookworm (Aberearon)
gwisgobookworm.co.uk

Haslemere Bookshop (Haslemere)
haslemerebookshop.co.uk

Hungerford Bookshop (West Berkshire)
hungerfordbookshop.co.uk

Lindum Books (Lincoln)
facebook.com/lindumbooks

Mostly Books (Abingdon)
mostly-books.co.uk

Niche Comics and Bookshop (Cambridgeshire)
nichecomics.co.uk

Red Lion Books (Colchester)
redlionbooks.co.uk

Sam Read Bookseller (Grasmere)
samreadbooks.co.uk

Wivenhoe Bookshop (Essex)
wivenhoebooks.com

The Woodstock Bookshop
woodstockbookshop.co.uk

Further information about her work, collaborations and reviews at http://www.mariastadnicka.com.

Join us on Zoom (you will need to register for a ticket in order to receive the pass-code):-

https://zoom.us/j/93290445542

Dial in to join by phone if you wish:-

+44 330 088 5830
+44 131 460 1196
+44 203 481 5237
+44 203 481 5240
+44 208 080 6591
+44 208 080 6592

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeg9xXpiad


15th June 2020

Overture

Photo: © JStadnicki, June 2020

Curtains go up on a scene

whose rear walls are shaking;

stagehands clear the background.

Spotlights on at the cast’s entrance.

 

I am your memory, he says,

and the back rows answer

with cheers and whistles. Heat

rises from our seats to the LEDs’

green flicker on the ceiling.

 

Breath-monologue, breath-monologue:

the script unravels, lines break

interrupted by adverts for bleach,

toothpaste, locally sourced colours.

 

The show flows until the speed

of a camera flash sets off a fire alarm.

Curtains down for emergency exit.

 

We push against tar-water dams,

open floodgates then move

to the front seats for a better view.

The theatre holds the roof up.

 

Every moment of terror begins like this.

It matches our lives so well,

It is us performing onstage.

 

© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020

16 June, 7.30pm (UK time). Free event online!

 

An opportunity to hear new work as well as fragments from Somnia.

Event organised by Gloucester Poetry Festival!

Registration and further information: here.

Thank you!

Note:
Latest book Somnia published this year by the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press was released on 6th April and can be ordered from the following independent bookshops:

Banner Books (Ennistymon)
http://bannerbooks.ie

Book Corner (Saltburn-by-the-Sea)
bookcornershop.co.uk

The Bookshop (East Grinstead)
eastgrinsteadbookshop.co.uk

Brendon Books (Taunton)
brendonbooks.co.uk

Bridge Bookshop (Isle of Man)
bridge-bookshop.com

Browsers Bookshop (Porthmadog)
browsersbookshop.com

Gullivers Bookshop (Wimborne)
booksandvinyl.co.uk/gullivers

Gnash Comics
gnashcomics.co.uk

Gwisgo Bookworm (Aberearon)
gwisgobookworm.co.uk

Haslemere Bookshop (Haslemere)
haslemerebookshop.co.uk

Hungerford Bookshop (West Berkshire)
hungerfordbookshop.co.uk

Lindum Books (Lincoln)
facebook.com/lindumbooks

Mostly Books (Abingdon)
mostly-books.co.uk

Niche Comics and Bookshop (Cambridgeshire)
nichecomics.co.uk

Red Lion Books (Colchester)
redlionbooks.co.uk

Sam Read Bookseller (Grasmere)
samreadbooks.co.uk

Wivenhoe Bookshop (Essex)
wivenhoebooks.com

The Woodstock Bookshop
woodstockbookshop.co.uk

Further information about her work, collaborations and reviews at http://www.mariastadnicka.com.

Join us on Zoom (you will need to register for a ticket in order to receive the pass-code):-

https://zoom.us/j/93290445542

Dial in to join by phone if you wish:-

+44 330 088 5830
+44 131 460 1196
+44 203 481 5237
+44 203 481 5240
+44 208 080 6591
+44 208 080 6592

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeg9xXpiad


June 2020

Week #11 Pandemia / Midlands, United Kingdom

At the end of Week #11, the lockdown measures started to ease off, amid concerns over increase in the ‘R’ number. From 0.7 to 1.1. Some schools are still closed, but some cafes are open for business. The #BlackLivesMatter movement was marked by protests in many towns and cities, including Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Overall, it rained, it yelled, it poured, it angered, then things carried on as usual.

© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020


Photography © John Stadnicki, June 2020, Midlands, UK