Hermit Age

© JStadnicki, Paris 2019

Technology and I are not on good terms as of late. Due to limited memory space, mobile apps keep freezing. Vodanex contacted me a few times already with updated offers then with sound advice which I politely requested to have mailed over. The experts suggest that my memory clutter is most probably coming from the BooksApp; too many pages left open in standby. The longest kept on the waiting list has been Is God Happy?* I flick through an essay on socialism which Kolakowski started at page fifty-eight and finished at sixty-four. My phone pings: Congratulations! Time for a break! You now reached your daily reading goal!

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


* Leszek Kolakowski 2012 Is God Happy? Selected Essays London: Penguin Modern Classics

Kafka

© JStadnicki, 2019. London.

 

The other day, during an afternoon nap,

a tramp came to my door with a letter

for the man in apartment three, ground floor.

 

The knock made me jump, then I thought

I could give out some change in return,

but the beggar refused; he was holding

a bunch of keys and left saying ‘till tomorrow.

 

When I opened the envelope, lying flat

in my bunk, a pair of handcuffs and

steel neck chains dropped on my chest.

 

(from Somnia, out now at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2020)

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

 

Book available here.

Reviews available in International Times and Stride Magazine.

Duende

© JStadnicki, 2020

It looks like a lorry’s parked outside, just by a flower pot. I am arguing with online friends about class differences, ideologies, lack of revolutionary zeal, young-black versus white-old. Reversing over the pot, the lorry crashes into my neighbour’s house. I pause the argument to look for a quote from On Disobedience in the pile of books due to go to charity shops. Police and fire brigade should be on their way. There might be questions needing answers about circumstance, and whether anybody tried changing the course of events. My neighbour and I, maybe the driver, would have. The writer of this account would have too, by swiftly changing the lorry’s position from here, to somewhere at the far back of the landscape. Yet some would argue that for centuries barbarism solved all our problems by force and violence, proving to be such a success.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Gallery

Edinburgh 2019

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© Maria Stadnicka, November 2019.

Transitia Miserabilia: The Illusion and Delusion of Change

Thirty years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall signalled the final months of communist regimes in East Europe, leading to a period of transition which culminated with the end of the Cold War.  It marked the transition from realist-socialism to democracy in the Eastern Block states. The change meant new societal structures and political strategies, created in response to the demands of newly formed democratic systems. The transition from mono-party governance to political plurality was difficult and, at times, painful for all newly formed democracies, unaccustomed to rapid market and social changes.

It was as difficult for the Western side of the continent. Left without its common goal which had defined the Cold War, The West began the reconfiguration of own strategies, while maintaining scepticism about the viability of Eastern democracies. However, the European institutions appeared to put aside old ideological conflicts which were replaced with economic alliances. Europe appeared united around a common purpose. The East-West divide went underground, driven by economic competition, by cultural misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

Transition is always marked by change, insecurity, doubt, pain, loss, anxiety and conflict. All transitions have similar attributes. Transition emerges when a revolution ends. Transition brings probing questions about values, beliefs and principles, forcing a society to find new answers. During transition, a society ends up reconfiguring its own institutions and their symbolic power.

Vermeulen (2010) opens another thread of discussion about transition. He proposes ‘metamodernism’ as a concept which defines the current developments in aesthethics, philosophy and arts. These developments are less and less focused on tensions between countries or religions or genders, rich or poor, young or old, black or white.

Vermeulen (2010) identifies that the contemporaneity experiences a more fundamental tension; between past and future. In his vision, our response to this transition it’s about whether ‘we settle for the same divisions, distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity’ (2010).

Transition is defined by fragmentation, a model which dominated the past decade and which has proven detrimental to cultures and societies. In poetry, for instance, the fragmentation created conflict, polarisation and an artistic space unable to cope with / and to respond to, the pace of our time. Whilst poets are caught in the bubble of their own discourse, the artistic focus shifted to expand the engagement with the readership, and to find new audiences.

And one would say, it is all part of this change; nothing wrong with it.

It’s not. But it is!

This type of transition is wrong, when the cultural space shows, as Stevenson (2000) says, that our generation of poets is ‘at the mercy of technology and in thrall to the media.’ It causes the illusion of power and relevance in a culture which has not yet defined what ‘relevance in poetry’ actually is. It is wrong, when the new generation of poets ‘proliferate under pressure to please a specialist clientele’ (Stevenson, 2000). It is wrong, as Susan Sontag remarked in 2002, when contemporary poetry begins to suffer from an ‘uninhibited display of egotism.’ It proliferates a cultural delusion defined by everything goes, everything is important, everything needs to be heard.

In 1934, Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva published the essay ‘Poets with History and Poets without History’ in which she identifies two opposing categories of poets (and poetry): ‘poets without history’ and ‘poets with history.’

The first category refers to poets preoccupied with self-expression, whilst the second category refers to poets engaged in artistic discovery and literary innovation. Tsvetaeva’s categorization is not without relevance today, more than eighty years later.

The ‘poets without history’ or ‘poets without development’ as she said, include poets consumed by personal expression.

‘Sometimes their knowledge is narrow and they come into world not to learn, but to say. They come into world to make themselves known. […] A poet without history cannot have a striving towards a goal, as his/hers poetry has no project.’

By contrast, in Tsvetaeva’s vision, ‘poets with history’ are:

’like an arrow shot into infinity. They seem to inhabit the creative will, don’t have time to turn around to look at themselves, only pressing forward.’

The process of ‘looking forward’ implies a continuous drive to innovate and explore new artistic territories. And here is our moment of metamodernism, the moment when our transition begins a dialogue between past and future. This is a cultural opportunity which rejects both illusion and delusion, preoccupied with shaping the power of its voice, rather than consumed by its own narrative.

And what kind of poetry can face such a challenge? To quote Seamus Heaney, it is a poetry which doesn’t win ‘competitions in the Irish Times or the New Statesman’ (Heaney, 1974, 2000). It is not a detailed self-interview, but a poetry which questions systems, and it reveals new interpretations of the world. This poetry becomes memorable when the writer assumes the responsibility to challenge complacency, and has the courage to experience the transformative power of change.

© Maria Stadnicka, September 2019 / Published in ‘Stride’ magazine on 15 October 2019.

Gallery

Lewis & Hole, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1993

A bit of local history. Lewis & Hole started melting iron in 1946, immediately after the Second World War. Many people from Stroud remember the building, which used to be the centre of Dudbridge area of Stroud.

This is a set of images taken by photographer John Stadnicki in 1993, a few years before the foundry was closed down, following redevelopments in the late 1990s. Although the work conditions were as close to Dante’s Inferno as you can imagine, people were proud of their contribution to the local industry.

Photography: © John Stadnicki, 1993.

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Kafka

© John Stadnicki, 2019.

The other day, during an afternoon nap,
a tramp came to my door with a letter
for the man in apartment three, ground floor.

The knock made me jump, then I thought
I could give out some change in return,
but the beggar refused; he was holding
a bunch of keys and left saying ‘till tomorrow.’

When I opened the envelope, lying flat
in my bunk, a pair of handcuffs and
steel neck chains dropped on my chest.

© Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Poem published in Osiris, U.S., Vol. 88, July 2019.