Photography: ©JStadnicki, 2018
Photography: ©JStadnicki, 2018
‘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)
Ward 7H. The spring jumped on me. Donald broke a leg in the playground. The nurse ‘nitialled his file and admitted him last week. We spen’ the evenins playin’ cards. After dinner, I give ‘im chemistry equations and leave ‘im to it. But let’s continue the session.
I’m telling ya, doctor, I’m defined by objects lost in a train carriage. I am sayin’ this only to you, not to ‘hem, but I know they can read my thoughts anyway. I just know it. A burst of laughter chokes me. I zip it. My arm is num’, my smile too. Donald is watching. He breeves down my neck and I know he is smokin’ behind the curtains. The ward is full of ash. I can hear his lung. Aren’t you tired, mate? ‘Cause I am. The night guard watches. ‘come play wif me’ over a cuppa. Overall quiet.
I’m defined, as I said, by lost fings. I lost a revolver, some stamps, an umbrella. Some childhood pho’os and my dog, Derek. A plastic ruler, my dad’s jacket, my eyeglasses. A few other fings. It could be thirty or so bits of ‘istory. Stop starin’, doc’, you make me itch all over.
I’ve only known Don for a few days but I can tell he is a good egg. He ain’ talkin’ much now as he used to in 2017. Kindda lost his shine a bit, his hairs, but he’s watchin’ over me like a God. I’ve started prayin’ to him now and he’s chuffed. He likes me. This morning he came by my bed and gave me a present. A nuclear boomerang. Hallelujah!
Published in ‘International Times’, available here.
©Maria Stadnicka, 2018
When I was a child and lived in an overheated three-bedroom second floor flat, my brothers used to make water bombs. They would fill plastic bags up with cold tap water, tightly knot them, and throw them over the bedroom window every time they would see a pretty girl crossing the alleyway underneath. The water splashed all over the victim and they laughed their heads off, behind curtains. This detail came to mind watching the Brexit process taking place, month by month.
On reflection, the ‘hahaha-hihihi’ is coming this time from Downing Street as I get on with my form-filling life.
It’s has been hot recently (anyone noticed?!), even I can admit to that, and I’m used to Siberian summers. However, the heated discussions among the ministerial flock have raised the warning level from orange to red as nobody seems to have a clear view-point, nor an exit plan or a rescue package. It feels more and more like we’ve all been hoarded up into a long-haul flight, with a crew of unqualified attendants. In case of crash, it’s going to be ‘each to their own’.
Earlier in the week, the BBC mentioned how the PM is risking a revolt (I wish!) if the ‘type of Brexit she promised is not delivered’. Come on, Duncan, calling the PM ‘insolent’ on Twitter will not bring a velvet revolution. When Tusk issued a ‘last call’ at last week’s summit in Brussels, he didn’t mean your plane to the Maldives was about to take off. He meant business as you were about to sip another cooling lemonade. Last Saturday, a ‘livid’ Gove physically ripped up a report (did he really?!) for a new customs partnership with the EU. Qui prodest?
I get to understand miss Vicky when she said we needed a ‘practical, pragmatic deal that gives certainty to business and trade… not an ideological one’. The only things with it is …. everything on paper stays on paper and, therefore, is ideological. I’m back, for now, to reading Nausea. It makes, by far, a clearer point.
We are about to leave, I’ve got used to the idea by now, but there isn’t a destination on sight. We might find ourselves flying over the European economic space until the engine runs out of fuel. And then, let’s see who’s got a parachute.
©Maria Stadnicka, July 2018
published in ‘International Times’ / 3rd July 2018
There is no way one can observe the social transformations within a community and society without resorting to strong political clues in order to understand the sources of those transformations. And clearly, when things go wrong, we blame the politics, the legislators, the government. But when the political sphere moves away from the reality of the working and the middle classes, the laws and the policies have no real impact on the wide majority. The decision-making groups have little will to support change and the economic downturn Britain has been experiencing for over a decade seems to move towards a silent collapse. And nobody appears to take responsibility. The blame placed on the government rules like a shadow, hiding underneath the roots of bad financial decisions, personal greed and managerial incompetence.
Let’s consider the situation the art sector is in at the moment. The issue came into focus with the news of the devastating fire which, this second time, damaged the Glasgow School of Art beyond repair. There you have £35m down the drain, or rather turned to ashes, and everybody is powerlessly looking at the building asking, with disbelief, ‘how could this be possible’. The fate of the Glasgow School of Art seems, for now at least, sealed by confusion and uncertainty. Who is to blame this time?
Extrapolating the Glasgow tragedy, who is to blame for the uncertain fate of hundreds of art schools across the country slowly but surely decapitated by unachievable targets and percentages? We are looking at another type of devastating fire slowly cooking to ashes the art sector, in general, and the art education, in particular. The drive to achieve the funding targets, the attendance and the achievement rates, the literacy and the numeracy benchmarks. What do they all mean? Certainly, they mean nothing to those involved in the art sector (students, artists, writers, musicians, teachers) but mean everything to those in charge to justify the bureaucracy which supports their livelihoods and to satisfy the pleiades of regulators and inspectors. The focus of this type of education is not the youth’s creativity but to produce a nation of self-absorbed adults ready to slot into whatever social square has been allocated to them as soon as they joined the education system.
And here we face again another type of politics. The ‘politics of inevitability’ as Snyder eloquently describes it, which makes the art education vulnerable and a victim of the constantly expanding globalisation. Since the mid ‘80s, the way we talk about art has fundamentally changed as well as the way the education system works to serve the economy, under the bright colours of neoliberalism. And, one would say, what is the problem with that? The education and the arts remain the essential social institutions within a healthy society and preserve what we call our ‘decency’. They remain our ‘sane barometer’ if you like, which support the configuration of our future and the values this future will act upon.
I remember a recent conversation I had with a head of school who recognised that things have taken a turn for the worse, with the Brexit uncertainty looming, but, as he said, ‘what can one do against a whole government, with a mortgage to pay?’ And here we are again in the blaming game equation. The well-suited head back in his leather chair, the young artist back revising for another maths test. New financial cuts are drowning the hope of an economic recovery and the silence of those suffering its effects sounds more and more like a resigned agreement. Not once we feel that the history allows us to see patterns and to understand that action is a possibility. History permits us, ‘to be responsible; not for everything, but for something’ as the poet Czeslaw Milosz said. This responsibility has always worked against loneliness and indifference.
©Maria Stadnicka, June 2018, Gloucestershire, UK
‘It is unfortunately hard to recall our quasi-permanent concern with the future, for on our return from a place, perhaps the first thing to disappear from memory is just how much of the past we spent dwelling on what was to come; how much of it, that is, we spent somewhere other than where we were.’ (de Botton, 2002)
Photography: ©John Stadnicki, 2018
A new poem published this morning in ‘Stride’ magazine:
I covered my face with black ink
rounded all my possessions up
and set fire to everything
at the top of a hill.
click here to read the full text.