Maria Jastrzębska is a key Anglo-Polish and European poet and no stranger to exploring heritage and archetypal figures of family.
In this new work she widens her gaze. Unable – or unwilling – to settle, her speakers are nomadic.
The personal is always political, the political – unmistakably human.
Whether crossing borders, both literal and intangible, queering or reimagining histories, these poems urgently question the present, startle and illuminate.
She is equally fluent in prose poem or lyric as well as the extraordinary and quizzical language of Ponglish.
Maria Jastrzębska’s Small Odysseys is the odyssey of a lifetime. Dark fables begin in a childhood wardrobe hideout haunted by Eastern European forests and its images of sensuous fur and petrol bombs act a coda for vital living poems which explore history, migration, identity and mental illness, perfectly poised on the border between a transcendent surrealism and hard realism. Martina Evans
In Small Odysseys, Maria Jastrzębska summons a past where both personal and social traumas are reshaped by imagination. A father is born in a matchbox, an upturned table is a beetle on its back and hands smelling of herring are judged to be ‘at their most Polish.’ Against a backdrop of war, uprisings, homophobia and shifting cultural identities, these poems inhabit experiences of vulnerability created as often by the absence of a brother as by nationalist forces. Intimate and disturbing, playful and strange, they confront the dark with trained eyes and a questing heart. John McCullough
Small Odysseys is an unusual and beautiful book, a multidimensional journey through time and space. I call Maria Jastrzębska’s poems ‘acts of rediscovery’, which draw in abundant fistfuls from the world and her experiences. The narrator calls up what she finds precious, what provokes her reflection, stirs joy, sorrow or dread. One moment it is a clump of cornflowers in a wheatfield seen out the of corner of one eye, where a red butterfly has setled. Another time a dream, family stories overheard, a sudden memory of childhood, of travel, the Adriatic wind, a hawk tearing the sky, a scorpion in a doorframe, a pigeon landing at her feet on the pavement. Wioleta Greg
Cover image: ‘Ithaca’ tapestry weaving by Wol
To purchase a copy and see more titles by Maria Jastrzebska: