Endorsements

Maria Stadnicka’s poetry is the most exciting I have read for some time. Her particular experience in Romania means that the political is not an option: she embraces it. Her work is on the frontline, also underscored by her background in journalism and broadcasting. But the genius of her poetry is to take the literal beyond itself into memorable and surreal flights of metaphor, while remaining firmly anchored at the same time. For English readers, her poetry is ‘other’; and I welcome that at a time when poetry needs to wake up to the contribution it can make at this time of transition and transparency. Our task as poets is to ‘see’: to divine a deeper reality. Her truth-gaze is unswerving.’ (Jay Ramsay, author)

 

The simple grey and black cover of this book –texture perhaps taken from a tree or wall, with a white crack or line separating author’s name and book title – is in many ways apt for what the reader find inside: a collection of beguiling, uneasy poems that probe ideas of love, politics and human experience. 

The work reminds me of Charles Simic’s and Yannis Ritsos’ poetry (I don’t mean it is derivative), and also the gentler end of Vaska Popa’s work. There is the same clarity of images and voice with little metaphor or allusion. Instead a kind of surrealism is at work in the direction the narratives take, in the thought processes being evidenced with their jumps and asides, their sometimes awkward and surprising conclusions. In ‘Settlement’ the narrator has ‘no further questions’ for God, so instead offers him a ham sandwich; in ‘Bad Luck’ the poem moves from a fall through Googled medical self-assessment to burns and then self-immolation, but even as the house burns a neighbour pops in to talk about the weather and running out of tea bags. In ‘Good Bye Then’ Clara’s ‘giggle melted in a slice of bread’.

As Jay Ramsay points out in his back cover blurb, in many ways this poetry is ‘other’. This may be because of Stadnicka’s experiences growing up in Romania, the effect on her of the Cold War, a slight awkwardness in the details of English (e.g. ‘Good Bye Then’ or ‘it stopped me / understand the real life’) or simply her poetics. Whatever, Stadnicka has now found a home in Stroud, in language, and clings on to a hope that underpins the poems, even if this is belied by poems like ‘The Calais Sea’, where

After weeks and weeks of travels,
for the last time, I put my bags down.

I am done with hope.

The lingering tragedy
of what I could be if
we had the right words for tomorrow.

Elsewhere, in a world of inevitable death, madness, broken families, soldiers,  barbaric politics and dehumanization, even when there are ‘no other survivors’, ‘even without a language’, Stadnicka defiantly demands that she ‘go on / being allowed to hope’. And does.

This an exciting and urgent first book of poems, that gives me hope for contemporary poetry. I look forward to the next instalment of Maria Stadnicka’s questionings, rememberings and imaginings. (Rupert Loydell, Stride)

 

Wonderful book. Not an easy read, but a slow and developed meditation of what it means to be living in a century which isn’t going as well as we’d had reason to hope. Imperfect, indeed. (And also about how things ‘used to be’ in the grammatical sense of ‘imperfect’.) The blend of multiple shades of English is powerfully employed.’(Philip Rush, writer and publisher)

 

Transformative. I listened to ‘Imperfect’ and it was icily, flaringly clear….the words heard with the inner ear (some call it the ear of god). When listened to so, do penetrate and stir to a clarity of upheaving perception.’ (Rick Vick, poet)

 

Maria Stadnicka’s latest collection of poetry ‘Imperfect’ provides touching snapshots of ordinary life, whilst also serving as an expression of her experience during the Cold War. (…) I am deeply moved. The England she hints at is far more faceted than the one I see on the news. Her poetry, whether exploring her experience here or in Europe, makes me see my country – with all its pockets of tender and mournful instances – with fresh eyes.‘ (Anna Bailey, journalist, Good on Paper)

 

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.‘ (David Clarke, A Thing for Poetry)