• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland



  • 10 December 2013

    Bilingual poems by Jarosław Mikołajczyk translated from Polish by Piotr Florczyk.

    "At the start of this book you will find one of my favorite poems from contemporary Poland, 'My Wife's Spine.' 'And when my wife's pregnant / her spine is a bough of an apple tree,' Jarosław Mikołajewski begins, innocently enough, and then: 'On nights of animal love / it is the zipper in a suitcase / that won't close, even under a knee' and wow, we say, just about to take a surprised breath, when a poet surprises us again: 'On nights of human love / it is the steel rope / at the highest voltage,' and he goes on, with each metaphor more unpredictable than the previous: 'On the noon walk / my wife's spine is the flag / carried by the pilgrims' guide in a crowded church.' This is contemporary European poetry at its best, I think: tender, unpredictable, a hymn, a love poem, a moment of laughter, of revelation. And, there are many moments like that in this collection, where 'the earth howls loudly / because I've gone upstairs'—reading such lines one thinks of the lineage of Vasko Popa and Miroslav Holub, but there is a new music, too, set 'to the words that have aged / since the last trip / "aeroporto" and "areoporto"'—and there is new wisdom, too: 'how the words age in me,' says the poet. Indeed. 'They are like soft gums / losing teeth.' This is beautiful poetry. One's gratitude is to Piotr Florczyk for bringing this new voice, previously unknown to Americans, and making this poet available in lines that captivate. Polish poets are much beloved in America today, but introducing a new voice is never an easy task. And Florczyk has done this many times over. This generosity of spirit is astounding."—Ilya Kaminsky

    "Who's Jarosław Mikołajewski? Is he an angry poet? No, not really. Is he pater familias? Yes, he is, but this doesn't tell us much about his poetry. Reading his poems we follow his itinerary, we go with him to Rome—he's at home in the Italian culture though his first home is in Warsaw, we see his wife, his daughters, we remember his father. Mikołajewski's poetry is alive. This is a huge praise, maybe the highest one: it's not an academic enterprise. His poems are kicking, running, appealing to us, readers. His poems live."—Adam Zagajewski

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