Launch: Tuesday 3 May, 6:30-7:45pm, British Library in London
Tour: April-September, London, Brighton, Ledbury, Birmingham, Durgham
Part of the European Literature Festival in London
“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.”
“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.”
Jarosław Mikołajewski (b. 1960) is a poet, short story writer, essayist, journalist, and translator from the Italian. His ten volumes of poetry have been met with wide acclaim both in Poland and abroad, winning the poet many prizes, among them the Capital City of Warsaw Literary Award and the Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna Award. His collection of essays, Rzymska komedia (Roman Comedy, 2011), inspired by his prolonged stays in Rome and The Divine Comedy, earned him a nomination for the most siginificant literary prize in Poland, the Nike Award. Jarosław Mikołajewski lives in Warsaw.
Piotr Florczyk is a poet, essayist, and translator from Polish. Please visit his website: www.piotrflorczyk.com
By Jarosław Mikołajewski
Translated by Piotr Florczyk
Published by Calypso Editions
Bilingual edition, January 2013
As is tradition, along with the inauguration of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the Book Institute's catalogue "Polish Books for Children & Young Adults" premieres, presenting excellent Polish books for young audiences that were published last year.