(after Rainer Maria Rilke) River bank meadows have all the time in the world. Their pulse slows to a teardrop before any changes in weather. It turns to cement, turns to salt mixed with root clumps, for winter seeps through layers of sunset under glass ceiling. Our tree chopping season grows heavy with chalk, a burial site for the things we once loved that have fallen and broken in to pieces. © Maria Stadnicka, June 2021, Stroud.
During supper at our usual tavern
it reeks of furniture polish. At six o’clock
waiters dust the old piano then serve
wine out of bleached carafes.
Two past seven. Room temperature
eighteen Celsius. Twenty-three guests
order the same main course.
Those seated by the piano need
face coverings. They ask for salt
and spare cutlery. Twenty past seven.
The kitchen door opens
four times in twelve minutes.
There is a power cut when guest B
finishes the lamb chops.
The waiters bring out fire-safe candles.
Guests A and C reach for matches.
© Maria Stadnicka June 2021
Excerpt from the sequence Hermit Age.
A while ago, as I was writing Buried Gods Metal Prophets I often looked back at my childhood games and wondered what they meant then. Whether time has given them a different meaning or not. It might have. And surely while the Guillemot editors worked on the manuscript, there were moments when my siblings’ chasing in the backyard or ‘soldier-soldier’-game felt untouched and sacred. Precious and private.
At first, sacred to me, and later just sweet reminders that childhood play and joy are universal experiences. A child’s laughter and falls and bruises and tears have a collective ‘sameness’ yet our experiences give them unique meaning. A bit like different interpretations of what ‘freedom’ and ‘enjoyment’ are all about. A bit like what being human is all about. After all, war and tragedy, love and disappointment, growth, learning, failure and success are human experiences that repeat themselves despite topological or temporal differences.
TU-PLEI is not just an invitation ‘to play’. It is an invitation to engage with the ludic self then to share the experience with others. TU-PLEI is an exhibition which brings together painting, photography, collage, prints, sculpture and montage from artists with a perceptive and individual interpretation on contemporary playfulness.
Alongside their artwork, there will be poetry from Buried Gods Metal Prophets. FREE entry!
Buried Gods Metal Prophets published by the Guillemot Press, edited by Luke Thompson and Sarah Cave and illustrated by Antonia Glücksman is available here.
The exhibition will be open 20-25 July 2021 at Stroud Brewery.
© Maria Stadnicka, May 2021.
Buried Gods Metal Prophets (2021) published by the Guillemot Press. Editors: Luke Thompson and Sarah Cave. Designer and illustrator: Antonia Glücksman.
From Samsara (2012) directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson.
Samsara is an American non-narrative documentary originally released at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. It was shot in 70mm format, filmed in 25 countries and completed over a period of 5 years.
Maria Stadnicka, May 2021
At the end of 2020, for the first time in 70 years, Unicef pledged £25,000 to support the community project School Food Matters aimed to provide food to children from 25 British schools over the Christmas holiday. At the time, 3.3 million children were registered for free school meals, an increase of 17% from 2019.
The revelation provoked the public’s consternation and the petition “End Child Food Poverty” initiated by the footballer Marcus Rashford gathered more than 1.1 million signatures. By the time the MPs started debating the petition in Parliament, Rashford had raised £20 million and was already distributing food parcels.
Unicef, UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide, said the coronavirus pandemic was the most urgent crisis affecting children since the second world war. The British government’s reluctance to extend the free meals programme led to a significant dip in Boris Johnson’s popularity as the government response to child food poverty was described as “a lot of clothes pegs without a washing line” (BBC, 2020).
Coming to think of it, free school meals is not the only failed governmental strategy yet it is bruising the national vanity the hardest. We are used to applauding Unicef’s interventions in third-world countries not to witnessing the sixth world economy’s inability to feed its own children in a pandemic. Nothing hurts more than being told you are a bad parent, that you care more about haircuts, the next holiday abroad, the pub opening hours, than about your children’s lunch at school. Being told you are bad at parenting is one thing but admitting it willingly is something else altogether. It’s not about recognising a systemic failure, it is simply admitting that your heart is failing.
Britain, your heart is failing. The core which supports your social systems needs an infusion of compassion and empathy; it needs radical intervention beyond statistical progress, beyond doctrine, beyond sneaky text messages exchanged between “the high and the mighty.”
This intervention won’t be generated by an individual tick in black ink smeared on voting ballots next week. I wish it was that simple. Passing the responsibility higher up the power chain has led to a tacit collective culpability which feels comfortable justifying the existence of food banks. Exercising democracy at a voting station will not transform our society since one million signatures on the petition initiated by Marcus Ashford has done nothing to eradicate child poverty in Britain. It gave us all a pat on the back, the illusion of possibility, as we returned to our post-lockdown revenge spending spree.
And that’s that. Things are almost back to normal while our collective actions give the measure of our collective consciousness. Since the lockdown ended, searches on ebay for ‘high heels’ surged 53% overnight, according to EBay Ads UK. Meanwhile searches for ‘clutch bag’ made by shoppers rose 55% and the sale of ‘hoop earrings’ and ‘fake eyelashes’ increased by 25%. In a couple of months, the summer holiday will mark the end of free school meals and the beginning of a national barbeque season.
© Maria Stadnicka, April 2021.
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
There are many voices in these poems about degradation, fight, resilience and defeat. There is defiance, and some ‘needs-must’ wry humour, but in the regular resignation – a kind of strength when that is all you can produce – it is deeply despairing. That the collection begins with Radioactive Milk, a poem that births the horrors of both its (and the whole book’s) reality and symbolism, it is not surprising there’s a dark portrayal of suffering and at best some kind of basic survival.
The other ‘voice’ – one that works with and against the poetic – is that contained in the documents and notes and reports and diagrams and other similar that set the scene/s of orphanage, alienation, abuse, doctors/medical, government, history and so on. Stadnicka’s poetry has such a startling ability to move into the expanse beyond this – where it needs to be exploring in and around the actual – that these other reminders are anchors to what should be an extraordinary context, but is in human history a bleak norm.
There are so many threads I would like to follow and unravel here, but I have only just finished a complete read and know I will want but also have to return to begin tying these together. I don’t mean that’s a necessity to be engaged and moved by the full narrative of these memorable poems. I mean that is what I want to do, because I am so engaged. To share a few impressions: the child Stupid (as so-called, though clearly not as the observations reveal) talks of pulling teeth – having to pull out one’s own teeth – and so when this reference point appears again in a poem like Sister’s Night Shift, it resonates in its differing reveal, […]
Full review available here.
© Mike Ferguson, 2021.
Buried Gods Metal Prophets published by Guillemot Press and illustrated by Antonia Glücksman is available here.
‘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.
© 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.