Poetry Night @Stroud Book Festival 2018

Orbita – Reconfiguring Contemporary Dialogue

Orbita: The Project, Semyon Khanin, Sergej Timofeyev, Vladimir Svetlov, Artūrs Punte, translated by Kevin M.F. Platt with colab. (166pp., Arc Publications)

Orbita is a creative collective/group of Latvian poets writing in Russian which attempts and succeeds to reconfigure the contemporary dialogue between culture and creative genres. This refreshing poetry collection is an unpredictable Latvian cultural project rather than a straightforward poetry anthology; a cross between concrete poetry, poetry installation and art gallery.

In terms of historical anchors, Orbita invites me to revisit directions proposed by the Black Mountain School and then look back at the British movements like the Gloucester Movement, the Westminster Group and the Scottish group headed by Ian Hamilton Finlay. However, the achievement of this innovative and remarkable anthology comes from the precision with which the four poets define, as Tony Ward mentions in the preface, a cultural path ‘the UK poets of a half a century ago dreamed of but never achieved.’

Semion Khanin, Sergej Timofeyev, Vladimir Svetlov and Artūrs Punte write in Russian and their work is translated by Kevin Platt in collaboration with many other translators and academics. A mark of the project’s complexity and relevance, as well as its polyphonic orchestration.

In Orbita, nothing should be excluded; each poem, photograph, installation are equal attributes in an unitary aesthetic discourse. The humour is dark, with vibrant tones reflected in linguistic choices:

do not think he is homeless
he simply lost his keys
and for the past four months he’s been sleeping
in front of a furniture store.
(Semion Khanin, p 28)

Khanin sets the anthology’s visionary axiom placing the reader at the centre of his preoccupation, as both reader and poet are  ‘surrogate brothers and sisters / related by reason.’ (***, p. 18) His intention is to ‘tell you a story from when I was still a burglar’ (p. 19) but the story unfolds ‘in state of zero gravity’ when ‘motionless on the sofa / and everything within fogs up with your breathing’. (p. 30)

The deictic centre expands with Sergej Timofejev and becomes spatial deixis. The locative space is the world where:

a dog softly barks
at a passing cyclist.
With restraint, the weather grows worse
and the barn falls apart.
Water pours modestly from the tap
not splashing and disappearing in the drain almost at once’
and where during a radio interview ‘a pianist answers every question
with ‘yes’ and no.’
(‘Morning in a Land of Introverts’, p.35)

Timofejev’s preoccupation to formulate the daily existence’s boundaries emerges, indoor again, when observing the quotidian. The present is defined by isolation, routine and angst:

I got to my own place and went to bed.
Woke up in the morning; it was Monday; and I lay face down
On the pillow and waited, but nothing special was happening;
So I got up, showered and went to work.’
(‘Quiet God’, p.36-37)

And so is the literary world:

Write me a novel
That will tell of another novel
All the same I’ll read neither one nor the other –
I’ll depart for Manchuria and perish for nothing.’
(‘Popular Song for Ukulele’, p.45)

Vladimir Svetlov who focuses his poetics on the practical aspects of consumerism similarly negotiates this metaphysical drive:

like a gift for loyalty
to repeat customers
we have been given these days
(‘Hit Parade’ p.63)

Svetlov’s discourse is direct and urgent, placed as critical question about the meaning of our contemporary socio-cultural preoccupations: ‘have you noticed we use the word “to tell” about posts in FB?’ His irony poses a destabilizing threat to our hierarchy of values…[the full review, in Stride Magazine.]

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

 

Hollow Wean

 

Dear Sir,

a beauty company sent me an email,

‘We win, you win’ it said, invited me

to purchase youth serum at half price.

There is something I hate about emails

sitting black on white on screen:

comma after verb easily mistaken for

philosophical pause or breath taken

when reading poems aloud.

‘Please, do not reply’

it carried on ‘we hope to see you again.’

I have a hundred things to do but

rush to the bathroom to see how deep

the line cutting my glabellar region

has grown since I last checked.

A fair amount I notice. Others joined

the frontal network, showing people

how much I’ve won in forty years

of living too small, dreaming too big.

 

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

 

Minor Voice

Photograph: ‘Air – 2018’, ©JStadnicki, 2018

 

to Robin Wheeler

…………………………………………

I saw a man leaving a water glass

at a junction where the elm tree,

he used to know,

had been suddenly cut down.

…………………………………………

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

 

Poetics

©International Times, 2018

 

I had a disagreement with a poetry master
about wolves. And talking made me think
that I, too, had the same great fear
of living forever, but said nothing.

I remained held up by my feet and a tree
came out of my mouth. It hurt badly.
More than a lost war, more than lies.

The poet moved to the left, locked himself
in a room with many doors but no handles.
Outside, his wolf guarded meat-eating days.

Mine wanted to jump from a cloud
straight into the blank page, but waited.
A child passed by and said to me
that wolves did not exist on paper. Only in flesh.

Text published in ‘International Times.’

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

Your Stripes Represent My Future

 

There are a few things I don’t care about. And one of them is which royal is going to give birth to which royal. As my friend, Mickey Mouse, used to say in his song…

I remember you was conflictin’/

in a black dress under a white coat /

and I fought /

that face I’ve seen somewhere else /

in a movie about the abuse of power. 

La, la, la, la, la, lah! 

Those around me keep on running /

I stand and convince myself /

the stripes I’ve got represent my past /

but yours /

represent my future. 

La, la, la, la, la, lah! 

No chance in the doggy-doggy fight /

I’m convinced /

that dress is bullet proof

I’m convinced it’s against repetition

and revolution and honesty.

That dress is against me, babe!

Further information, in International Times.

Image

New Poetry Season / The Museum in the Park

Graffiti

Illustration: ©Claire Palmer, 2018, for International Times

– unedited preview from ‘The Unmoving’ coming out next month at Broken Sleep Books, published this morning in ‘International Times’:

 

I imagined the return at the end of my sentence

on a street in Moscow

thinking the worst was already over.

 

[ more to follow…]

 

 

 

The Pink Chernobyl

‘Poetry at Pembroke’ is a series of poetry readings organised by Peter King, lecturer in philosophy at Pembroke College. The beautiful grounds bring together a wide range of national and international poets, readers, critics, musicians, students, on Mondays at 6pm.

With great joy and enthusiasm, I will be performing at Pembroke on Monday 19th February, at 6pm with the composer Janet Davey.

Janet Davey and Peter J. King performing at Pembroke College, 2017.

Janet and I have a few things in common. Radio broadcasting. Both involved in news. Janet worked for the BBC World Service, I worked for Radio Europa Nova and then for Radio Hit Romania. We share the love for music, for poetry and for sound. And we share a common memory. The Chernobyl accident 26th April 1986. I was eight years old and went to a nearby gymnasium school. 26th April 1986 was a Saturday. In those days, we went to school six days a week and, on Sundays, we had homework. There was nothing else for us children to do. We had no television during communism, there were no magazines and we had only two newspapers. I had started to write poetry by that time; write on old notebooks, on my mother’s factory coupons, on food wrapping paper. We had no books at home, so I wrote to have something to read in the evenings.

Once a month after that Saturday, the school’s paediatrician would come to deliver our iodine tablets quota. We had to swallow one every day for almost a year. We kept breathing and eating and learning and sleeping and growing, not knowing why the iodine was good for us. The boys mostly played with the sweetish small tablets or used them as crayons. I was a short-haired nervous girl. Shy and small for my age, and I think I took them all, with precision. Or maybe for fear of being publicly reprimanded during political propaganda lessons we had on Wednesdays.

Around the same time, Janet was in London producing a live telephone programme, with Sue MacGregor between London and Moscow for BBC World Service and BBC R4. Jan noticed on the “wires” a cloud over Finland and more. The interviewee, set up by Jan, was Georgi Arbatov, Soviet spokesperson. He was asked about this cloud……and told the world. The rest is history.

These two journeys met 31 years later. The composer Janet Davey and I will be performing at ‘Poetry in the Pink’. I will be reading from my collection ‘Imperfect’ published by Yew Tree Press (Philip Rush) and the forthcoming book ‘Uranium Bullets’, with original piano music and orchestration produced by Janet Davey’s grace.

Thank you, Peter King for your brilliance in promoting poetry and thank you, Janet Davey for your superb music.

The event takes place at Mary Hyde Eccles Room, Pembroke College, OX1 1DW.
Monday, 19 February 2018, at 6pm. 
Free entry and books available!