Review published in Magma No. 81 ‘Anthropocene’ 2021.
Buried Gods Metal Prophets (2021) is published by the Guillemot Press, edited by Luke Thompson and Sarah Cave, illustrations and design: Antonia Glücksman. The book is available here.
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
‘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.
Buried Gods and Metal Prophets is based on Stadnicka’s experience as a teacher at St. Stelian Orphanage, north Romania, which cared for three hundred children diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Exposing the reality of living in state care during the Cold War, it explores the spectre of political and human tyranny that can contribute to a generational socio-cultural trauma. Buried Gods Metal Prophets explores childhood experiences during the Cold War in Romania following the Decree 770 imposed by the Communist Party in 1966. Issued as a measure meant to stimulate the population growth, the disastrous Decree 770 banned contraception and abortion, while awarding women with more than five children an Order of the Heroine Mother. As a result, an estimated twelve million illegal abortions took place between 1967 and 1989 while over 250,000 children were placed in orphanages or care homes.
Stadnicka builds a polyphonic poetic documentary inspired by Julia Kristeva’s idea that poetry can establish ‘space and infinity’ beyond the restriction of linear poetics. The juxtaposition of narratives builds a world in which the omnipresent voice of the government echoes in the mechanised communication between the state and the individual, in a society where the private ownership of a typewriter without state permission, meant prison sentence.
‘UK-based Romanian poet Maria Stadnicka’s forthcoming Buried Gods Metal Prophets, published by Guillemot Press, is an astonishing collection of poems, and a testament to the tens of thousands of children who grew up in Romanian orphanages under Nicolae Ceaușescu. Bringing together historical documents of the era, lines of other authors with her “censoring” interventions, and Stadnicka’s own moving poetry, this is the poet’s fourth collection both written and published in English.’ (Paula Erizanu, The Calvert Journal, 2021)
The full article is available here: https://www.calvertjournal.com/articles/show/12466/romanian-english-poetry-ceausescu-orphans-buried-gods-metal-prophets-maria-stadnicka
Buried Gods Metal Prophets (2021) is published by Guillemot Press. Editors: Luke Thompson and Sarah Cave. Design and illustration: Antonia Glücksman. The book is available here.
There is a break in hostilities.
Long enough to exchange prisoners,
embalm scattered shirt buttons.
A temporary ceasefire to inearth
our collateral losses then pause
for a live broadcast at midday.
Coloured bar charts hurry up to
catch the moment cyber runners
reach their finishing lines. Race over.
Winners grow up to have long legs,
fitted for mile-wide life hurdles.
Empty seats line up in combat gear.
© Maria Stadnicka, October 2020
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, collection out now at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2020.)
© Maria Stadnicka 2020
Somnia is available here.
2020 catches me off guard. I finish a glass of red wine and start my list of New Year resolutions brushing my teeth. My dentist suggested it, to prevent staining. Spitting paste foam in the sink I notice my second watch shows one past midnight. British time. On the other wrist, my first watch shows one past two. The time in the country I grew up. Youngsters already pissed pints on street corners, on the way home after celebratory fireworks. The end of a decade and all I’m thinking about is how lonely must have been for Ian Seed to share a hotel room with a woman he’d never met. And all due to a booking error.
© Maria Stadnicka 2020
! Recommended reading: Seed, I. (2018) New York Hotel, Bristol: Shearsman Books. [TSL Book of the Year 2018]
‘Somnia’ was launched last night at the Museum in the Park, the Pavilion Garden Room. Beautiful photography from Nikoletta Monyok and it has been a joy to share the evening with the gifted writers Caroline Shaw, David Clarke, Adam Horovitz and Philip Rush. Thank you Uta Baldauf for a memorable performance, and to Caroline Rush, Philip Rush and Fred Chance for making the launch possible. Thank you for the generosity of our host, The Museum in the Park, to painter Mark Mawer for his artwork, Alec Newman and The Knives Forks and Spoons Press. It felt so special because there were so many people who attended, despite the bleak and windy weather on a Thursday evening. ‘Somnia’ THANKS YOU!📖
Photography: © Nikoletta Monyok 2019
Cover art: © Mark Mawer 2019
Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, UK
Editor: Alec Newman
Further details, on the ‘reviews’ and ‘books’ pages.
Reading Issue 38/ Autumn 2019 of ‘The Moth’, the beautiful Irish art and literature magazine edited by Rebecca O’Connor.
This issue features a brilliant interview with the American novelist Gary Shteyngart, interview with the Irish poet Stephen Sexton, poetry and prose. Thank you for including my work!
A great way to enjoy the Sunday autumnal light.
You can access the magazine online here: The Moth.
If Cain and Abel played the piano, Somnia would have been a piece written for them. Following the four movements of Schubert’s Fantasia in F Minor, Somnia explores the hidden connections between a group of people who witness a crime as they come out of a cinema. Reading their testimony, it becomes increasingly apparent that the murderer is bigger than all of them. Bigger than all of us put together.
Published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, Merseyside, UK.
Edited by Alec Newman.
Cover photo, collage created by Mark Mawer.
There are so so many people I thank for this. I am grateful for all the support to: Alan Baker, Ionut Boghian, Lesley Burt, Rosie Byrd, David Caddy, Carlie Chabot, Tom Costello, Tom Dwight, Anna Gosson, Beatrice Hitchman, Adam Horovitz, Peter J. King, Jack Little, Morag Kiziewicz, Mark Mawer, Katie McCue, Hugh McMillan, Andrea Morehead, Adelaide Morris, Andrew Morrison, Alec Newman, Stuart Paterson, Hayley Porri, Jay Ramsay, Philip Rush, Hayley Saunders, Aidan Semmens, Steve Spence, John Stadnicki, Natalina Stadnicki, Rick Vick, Samuel de Weer, Jen Whiskerd, Jane Woodend and Neil Young.
Warmest gratitude for the invaluable editorial suggestions and belief in my work to Rupert Loydell, as well as Angela France and Nigel McLoughlin.
Maria Stadnicka, 2019.