Man versus Institution – the Narrative of Despair

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki 2018

In recent months, I have been visiting my local surgery on a weekly basis and it has become a matter of routine to book visits and then wait my turn to be seen and checked. A matter of luck to have so many appointments, but not so lucky to have to report the effects all this prescribed medication have on me and then to find out that everything has been recorded, that the doctor has noticed if I washed my hair or not, or if I wear black, too much of it, or if I smiled or not. But then who cares anyway. I am the number written in all my medical history and my number defines my apprehension to allergies and infections.

It is the flu season, therefore busy. This morning a woman takes her nail file from her handbag and finishes her manicure just before she is called in. A man in his thirties, in a dark grey suit, with muddy brogues, on the phone with someone called Helen organises his daily appointments. The person sitting next to me finishes a BLT and wipes his hands on my chair then keeps on texting.  The waiting room, packed. At 11 o’clock, twenty-two people in waiting, talking, texting, arguing, having coffee. Busier here than the bus station just across the road. And these people, most of them, look lonely. And for this, we now have a new solution and a new scope.

This week the Cabinet announced a new appointment. A minister for loneliness in response to a documented increase in mental health cases, to a reported sense of disconnection and social isolation. According to figures published by The Guardian, we are talking here about nine million people, which is a significant slice of loneliness in the British society. Furthermore, NHS Digital shows that prescriptions for antidepressants reached an all-time high with over 64 million items dispensed in 2016. And this represents a massive 108.5% increase in a period of ten years.

This is a clear indication that we now institutionalise loneliness spending billions on pharmaceutical companies when very few alternative solutions are available to the local communities. We witness a serious lack of professional support for people suffering from mental health issues, although it is statistically recognised that one person in five is affected, at some point in their life, by mental health issues. Yes, about the time to do something about it. But what the government is choosing to do is to add to the amount of bureaucratic garbage the ministerial departments produce on a weekly basis, without concrete results or impact at the deeper levels of our society. Let’s talk further numbers.

A minister cashes in over £141,000 a year, without bonuses, travel and communication expenses, without the support staff and other technological aids. You could double or triple the sum and easily get over the half a million threshold. A mental health nurse’s annual income, at the beginning of their career, barely touches £22,000. My local surgery, or others across the UK, could easily benefit from employing further ten newly qualified nurses or a few therapists. I live in a small community where resources are stretched and stretched further and where, at times, waiting for hours to be seen by a practitioner has become an acceptable rule.

Who benefits from a new ministerial portfolio when it is historically demonstrated that no institution has ever protected the individual, when, actually, the institution is there to protect itself through complicity to a policy of silence against corruption, error and monetary gains?

I want a Ministry of Despair!

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

Who We Are

Nobody belongs, de facto, to just one place, one culture. Our existence is defined by the involuntary interactions with the world in a continuous change, but we like to believe that we do belong. To a place, a space which can be defined and referred to. And when one belongs ‘somewhere’, everything seems easier to quantify, categorise. And, then, it becomes familiar. The common familiarity which emerges through similitude in language, taste, points of view, landscape brings people closer and it helps to build that sense of togetherness.

Most tragedies have been born out of rejection, out of a deep sense of ‘non-belonging’ and people felt mostly bereaved when they realised their uprooting. The recent developments in Europe, with Brexit, in North America, with Trump’s Wall, and across the world in Myanmar, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Ukraine, Syria, Peru show that we are ‘on the move’ at a global scale. Politics and economics drive the migration at unprecedented levels and can cement a deep sense of social instability.

Millions of people move from one place to another and remain trapped in the complex process of social migration. In 2017, nearly a quarter of a million people came to Britain. And each person brought in a new narrative with elements of uniqueness and subjectivity. We could say that, in 2017, hundreds of thousands of stories came to Britain too. Untold life experiences, unheard voices; hundreds of years of education, culture, music and skills.

And this is the main focus of ‘Who We Are’ a project initiated by the artist Jen Whiskerd from University of Gloucestershire (UoG) supported by many art students, University of Winchester, illustrators, bookmakers, printers, writers, researchers, photographers. Using eight stories about migration (told by Adelaide Morris, Shelley Campbell, Fumio Obata, Anita Roy, Dolores Phelps, Maria Stadnicka, Ro Saul, John Stadnicki), the UoG art students (undergraduate and postgraduate courses) have produced a brilliant book which will be launched this weekend at Museum in the Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Photograph: ©Emma Evans, 2018

The book, printed by Emma Evans UoG, Pittville Press, is a collection of poetry, photography, drawings, journal notes, animation.

The event is free and will take place at the Walled Garden Room, Museum in the Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire /

Saturday 20th Jan. 2018, at 2pm.

Come along to share your story and enjoy the launch or just to listen and to be inspired!

It has been my privilege to be part of this.

Maria Stadnicka, 2018

Gloria Mundi

II – MMXVIII

I – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

III – MMXVIII

IV – MMXVIII

V – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI – MMXVIII

VII – MMXVII

IX – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

X – MMXVIII

 

XI – MMXVIII

XII – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography: ©John Stadnicki 2018

 

Panis Angelicus

 

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki, ‘Corpus I’ – MMXVII

 

(for Katie McCue)

 

The soldier, asleep by his polished sword,

was somehow surprised.

Such a big storm!

 

The colours, all of them, disappeared.

The city collapsed in a big crevasse.

 

When she cried,

everybody cried.

 

The roads, the windows had to be shut

when she needed silence.

 

The words had to be wrapped in silvery knots

just before

they became people.

 

The stories stopped being written,

the earth stopped,

the war stopped.

And simply because she had

a fear of butterflies.

 

The butterflies were not scared of her.

 

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki, ‘Corpus II’ – MMXVII

A home, a home. I give my kingdom for a home.

‘Migration – Stories / A Cultural Exchange / Workshop’, Stroud, Gloucestershire, Museum in the Park

Drawing: Maria Stadnicka, November, MMXVII

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

A Thing for Poetry, with David Clarke

Last month, I was delighted to attend the launch of a new book of poems by Maria Stadnicka, a Romanian-born poet living and working in Stroud. Before coming to the UK in 2003, Maria worked as a radio and TV broadcaster, presenter and radio editor. She also won a series of national poetry prizes. In 2010 she became member of the Stroud Writers Group, Gloucestershire.

I first become aware of Maria’s poetry when Yew Tree Press published her beautifully illustrated short collection A Short Story about War (as Maria Butunoi) in 2014 and her new poems, collected in Imperfect (also Yew Tree Press), are a welcome addition to her English-language work. Maria’s poems are restrained and precisely crafted miniatures: enigmatic narratives shot through with dark humour and surreal detail, they are eminently political, but rarely tackle Politics (with a capital P) head on. In all of these respects, they put me in mind of the work of Greek poet Yannis Ritsos, yet there also seem to me to be echoes of Kafka: the poems record fragile surface realities, beneath which lurk the symptoms of violence and oppression. This is a poetry of unease, and all the more honest for that, but also ultimately a poetry of hope, recording the struggle of the subject to maintain its integrity in troubled times.

Maria has agreed to feature as my guest poet in this post, which presents here poem ‘City’. Of the poem, Maria writes:

‘What can I know?’….’What can I know?’…This is not my question. Immanuel Kant answered it already, a long time ago, and many other thinkers answered it in their own way too. As a society, we slowly learnt to get used to ‘knowing’ everything a priori. When there is no obvious difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘dogma’, what is the point in asking? Everything is ‘google-able’, right?

Happy to be given the answer, happy to steer clear of uncomfortable dirt and pain. Happy and safe. But isn’t that called oppression?

Recently I have been thinking about oppression and the subtle nuances revealed by urbanism. The layers and layers of conformity which are impossible to eradicate without consequences. But then… how else shall we build consensus?

And one afternoon, walking through my working class town, out of the blue an answer kept staring me in the face. There was the rain and the shops closing at 5 o’clock and people hurrying to get the dinner ready. There was an English February, defined by our sleepwalking hyperreality. Me and everybody else: surrendered, crushed.

 

City

This afternoon we passed the city prison walls
fighting the wintry wind with a broken umbrella.

It was precisely five o’clock and
a girl on a bicycle overtook an old man
holding a rope.
About the same time,
the ice cream van closed.

The armed police arrived
to disperse the queue with tear-gas.

In the near distance, people ran
between horizontal watermarks
back to their semi-detached
airing cupboards.

We had nothing to stop for and then, I think,
I paused and
I covered my arms with a piece of history.

Imperfect can be purchased by contacting Yew Tree Press (philipalrush[at]googlemail.com) or via Amazon.

David Clarke, poet, thinker and critic. http://athingforpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/david-clarke.html

‘Imperfect’ is now available ….

 

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This is it. The book is done, the summer arrived. ‘Imperfect’ is published by Yew Tree Press, Philip Rush, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK and printed by Andrew Morrison, Stroud, UK. Price: £10 with free P&P.

http://www.artistsbooksonline.co.uk/andrew_morrison.shtml

Curator: Jay Ramsay

Photography: @Joss Beeley

Please order the book at mariastadnicka@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

Plastic

The local MP came to visit today.

He played with his tie, in the half-empty boiling hot working class room.

Nobody offered him water.

He looked outside at the summery breeze and chewed his nails for an hour or so.

I tried to think of a question.

But all of them were already answered.

He paused and smiled at the camera.

I had a name-tag around my neck.

He had nothing.

I sat on a tree-legged small plastic chair.

He sat on a piece of cake.

Photograph: @John Stadnicki

Image

You are cordially invited…19th May, 8pm, ‘Imperfect’ – book launch – published by Yew Tree Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire