Vertical Takeoff

On 1st October 1972, having just left the Soviet Union, Joseph Brodsky wrote in 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 a united writing community which is vital in opposing official points of view and which should support ‘personal movements’ by engaging with our 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 latest PN Review editorial 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’ reduced 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 New York Times. I’ll be either their friend or their follower.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

[‘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.

 

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

The Euro Vision and the Gold Rush #Flashnews (part IV)

@JohnStadnicki, 2019. London.

Over a month ago, the media pointed out that the price of gold increased again. A sign that investors are using gold against weaker stocks, as a response to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the trade disputes around the world. But even a child knows that when gold starts shining, it is a sign of trouble ahead.

The recent Brexit developments send waves of worry throughout Europe, whilst governments across the English Channel are increasingly interested in taking back control over their money.

Only a year ago, the National Bank of Hungary took back three tons of the country’s national gold reserves stored at the Bank of England. The decision followed similar reactions from Austria, Germany, Holland and Venezuela, which considered storing the national gold reserves in London a risky decision.

For a few days now, the Romanian authorities have been debating whether to take back their sixty tonnes of gold stored in the London vaults. With the crisis of storage space the British authorities have been facing for years, I imagine that storing a country’s national gold is not cheap.

Sixty tonnes is, by any means, a lot. Imagine ten elephants put together, if one takes the average weight of one elephant at around six tonnes. To put it simply though, the average weight of 15 people together, say, in an elevator, is about one tonne. By the same logic, sixty tonnes of Romanian gold is about 900 Romanian migrants, currently living in London.

What would be the weight in gold of 300,000 Romanian migrants currently in the UK? And what about the 3.7 million European migrants, in the UK? Imagine that gold! Imagine the value!

But in this equation, and in all Brexit negotiations, who is looking at what value people have, when financial interests are at stake?

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019.

Published in International Times, 9/03/19.

Particulars

I went out to town and took pictures
of people in queue at the shopping mall.
A third of them had been there since Friday;
pilgrims waiting for new prayer beads.

They sat on the pavement holding
their thoughts in tightly zipped handbags.
The sun kept quiet in one corner watching
the autumn busking outdoors
when a beggar stopped, asking everyone
for directions to the nearest abattoir.

Nobody knew precisely where the roads led
but smiled back at him
through the surveillance cameras.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in Litter magazine, 22/02/2019.

Out next month

The Unmoving is a dark and delicious exploration of post war landscape.

 Maria Stadnicka’s beautifully crafted lines cut like a knife,

her poems come to the page like water from a deep well, only the well has been poisoned. Masterfully succinct and shrouded in Stadnicka’s trademark sense of mystery,

The Unmoving is as vivid a poetry chapbook as you’re ever likely to read.’ (Broken Sleep Books, 2018)

The Chess Game / Jocul de Sah / LitArt

 

Pentru cititorii in limba romana, saptamana aceasta a sosit cu o surpriza minunata. O pagina de poezie publicata in LitArt publicatie lunara de cultura, tiparita la Tg. Mures, sub egida onorifica a filialei locale a Uniunii Scriitorilor.

Multumiri redactorului-sef Adrian Armand Giurgea si echipei redactionale pentru promovarea valorilor culturale romanesti.

Pentru mine are o semnificatie speciala. 14 ani de cand am publicat ultima oara in Romania. 14 ani lungi, foarte lungi, de absenta si de dor. Editia tiparita este distribuita in Romania si poate fi accesata electronic in format pdf aici:

http://www.litart.ro/fileadmin/template/pdf/litart_iunie_iulie_2017.pdf

 

 

For Romanian readers, this week arrives with a beautiful surprise. Nine poems published in LitArt, Tg. Mures, Romania, under the Romanian Writers Association patronage. Gracious thanks to the editor-in-chief Adrian Armand Giurgea as well as the whole editorial team for the great work you are doing in promoting the cultural values of our generation, in Romania and abroad.

This has a particular significance for me, as it marks 14 years since the publication of my last poem written in Romanian. 14 long years.

The magazine is available in print and online, downloadable here:

http://www.litart.ro/fileadmin/template/pdf/litart_iunie_iulie_2017.pdf

Photograph: @Georgiana Calinescu-Barber