Photograph of Mariaimg_0296

Poet, editor and translator, Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw, Poland and came to England as a child. Her most recent, third full length collection is At The Library of Memories (Waterloo Press 2013).  She is the co-founder of Queer Writing South and South Pole and co-edited Queer in Brighton (New Writing South 2014) with Anthony Luvera. Her poetry features in the British Library project Poetry Between Two Worlds and her drama Dementia Diaries toured nationally to sell-out audiences with Lewes Live Literature.

Cedry z Walpole Park – The Cedars of Walpole Park a selection of her poems translated into Polish by Anna Błasiak, Wioletta Grzegorzewska and Paweł Gawroński was published in a bilingual collection by  K.I.T, Stowarzyszenie Żywych Poetów in their series Faktoria (Poland 2015). Lidia Vianu has translated Old Knives, her selected poems, into Romanian, published in parallel texts by Integral Contemporary Literature Press this year.

Maria Jastrzębska co-translated Elsewhere by Iztok Osojnik with Ana Jelnikar (Pighog Press 2011). Her translations of Justyna Bargielska’s selected poems The Great Plan B are forthcoming from Smokestack Press in November 2017.

Cedry, okładka

Books

Postcards from Poland and other correspondences with artist Jola Scicińska, (Working Press, 1991)

Home from Home (Flarestack, 2002)

Syrena (Redbeck Press, 2004)

I’ll Be Back Before You Know It (Pighog Press 2009)

Everyday Angels (Waterloo Press, 2009)

At The Library of Memories (Waterloo Press, 2014) 

Cedry z Walpole Park (K.I.T, Stowarzyszenie Żywych Poetów, Faktoria, Poland 2015)

Old Knives/Cutite vechi  (Integral Contemporary Literature Press, Romania, 2017)

 

PRAISE for Cedry z Walpole Park:

Eliza Szybowicz
:

Ta poetka ma w herbie wilka. W języku węszy, tropi, szarpie mięso, walczy, czasem wybiera ucieczkę, szaleńczo się bawi, pożąda. Chciałoby się należeć do jej watahy!

 Eliza Szybowicz
:

This poet’s coat of arms has a wolf on it. Her language sniffs out, tracks, rips flesh, fights, sometimes choses escape, parties madly, desires. Don’t you wish you were in her pack!

 

Urszula Chowaniec, University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies:

Maria Jastrzębska, Cedry z Walpole Park, 2015 

 Cedry… to poetycki zapis bycia skądinąd. To liryczny szkic wyobraźni dziecka emigrantów. Dziewczynki, której język ojczysty jest obcy jej rodzicom. Cedry.. to pejzaż bezustannej napięć między tym, co znane i co obce.

To ważny tomik poezji, zwłaszcza w naszych czasach, w który migracja, ten od zawsze obecny w ludzkiej historii element, stał się tematem publicznych kontrowersji. Bo też powojenna Europa zbudowała niemożliwy mit domu, zakorzenienia, który udaje się zrealizować tylko nielicznym. Zatem tytułowy wiersz przestrzega o zawsze obecnym zagrożeniu, kiedy „nie dasz rady wrócić do domu”, a w całym zbiorze pojawia się motyw lęku o życie w „za trudnym języku”, w „tym dziwnym języku”.

Maria Jastrzębska pokazuje, w zgrabnie skonstruowanych lirycznych, pięknych, niebanalnie nostalgicznych i nigdy łzawych historiach, rzeczywistość pełną przylotów i rozstań, barier, w której „tych dwoje obcych ludzi” może okazać się twoimi dziadkami. I jednocześnie Cedry… to ciekawa wycieczka w poezję wnikliwą i bogatą, walczącą z językiem i starającą się przez język przywrócić pamięć o kolorach, zapachach („Pokój zapachów…”) czy dotyku („Całowanie”).

Dwujęzyczne tomiki zachęcają do czytania równoległego i porównań. Gdy tłumaczenia są odważne, interesujące i dobre te porównania stają się kolejnym czytaniem, a nie sprawdzaniem wierności przekładu. W kalejdoskopie migracyjnych tematów poezji Jastrzębskiej napięcie między angielską i polską wersją tworzy dodatkowa przestrzeń interpretacyjną. Która wersja jest oryginalna? Ta pierwotna czy tłumaczenie? W którym języku opowiedzieć krajobraz poetycki, emocje, które wyłaniają się z Cedrów…, aby były najprawdziwsze? Odpowiedź należy do każdego Czytelnika.

Urszula Chowaniec, University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies:

The Cedars… is a poet’s record of coming from elsewhere. It’s the lyrical outline of the imagination of a child of migrant parents. A girl whose everyday language is alien to her parents. The Cedars… is a landscape of the constant tension between what is familiar and what is alien.

This is an important collection, especially at a time when migration, an ever present element of human history, has become the subject of public controversies. After all post-war Europe created the impossible myth of home, of rootedness, which can be achieved only by the very few. So the title poem warns of ever present danger, ‘when you can’t go home’, while throughout the entire collection there is the theme of anxiety about life where ‘words are too difficult’ in ‘this strange language’.

In elegantly crafted, beautiful, original and nostalgic – never sentimental – stories, Maria Jastrzębska shows us a reality filled with arrivals and separations in which ‘the two strangers’ can turn out to be your grandparents. At the same time The Cedars… are a fascinating journey into poetry at once insightful and rich which wrestles with language and yet attempts through language to recreate memories of colour, scent (‘The Room of Smells’) or touch (‘Kissing’).

Bilingual collections encourage us to read in parrallel and make comparisons. When the translations are bold, interesting and done well, such comparison becomes a reading in its own right, rather than a test of faithful translation. In the kaleidoscope of migratory themes in Jastrzębska’s poetry the tension between English and Polish versions creates a further field of interpretation. Which is the original version? The initial one or the translation? Which language should we use to describe the poetic landscape and emotions emanating from The Cedars… to make them most true? The answer remains with each reader.

Anna Piwkowska:

Reading poems from The Cedars of Walpole Park collection made me think of Rilke. Or rather his dedication to Marina Tsvetaeva when he sent a copy of his Duino Elegies to Paris for her. “One poet only lives, and now and then who bore him, and who bears him now, will meet.” The poems of Maria Jastrzębska, a poet of Polish origin writing in English, seem to me familiar in the best sense. They contain detail, history, metaphysics. There are wolves, or rather wolves’ memories, and there is a girl. Also a leather satchel, which falls in slow motion into the moat at London Zoo in 1932. Such captured detail not only fashions anecdote but also means the poems are like the cedars of the title: you can climb/ into its flat, open boughs -/you can sail away in a tree like that. Rilke’s dedication was translated into Polish by Adam Zagajewski. You could say it was lucky – no word was lost in translation, none lost its meaning. Maria Jastrzebska’s poems have been equally lucky. In superb translations by Anna Błasiak, Wioletta Grzegorzewska and Pawel Gawroński, they sound clearly and are like the bumbleees in the poem of that same title which granny Julka held to her ear. They hummed, grumbling in the dark/space between her palms and then/she’d let them go.

 

 Karol Maliszewski

Za zasłoną z liści, za drzewami – ludzkie cienie, przejmujące historie opowiadane zpowściągliwością i wahaniem. Coś z narodowością, pamięcią, językiem i coś z płcią. Tożsamość cierpliwie wyjaśniana z następnym obrazkiem, wspomnieniem, doznaniem.

Karol Maliszewski

Behind a curtain of leaves, behind the trees – people’s shadows, heart-breaking stories told with reticence and hesitation. Something to do with nationality, memory, language and something about gender. Identity patiently revealed in the next image, memory, experience.

 

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Praise for At The Library of Memories:

‘In Maria Jastrzębska’s new collection memory is a powerful and truthful tool, admitting fallibility and never exceeding its prerogative, yet evoking a whole world of tastes and smells, longings, anxieties and human needs. This is vivid, thought-provoking poetry that takes us by stages to the heart of the immigrant experience and leaves us with urgent questions which imperceptibly have become our own.’   Susan Wicks

‘Maria Jastrzębska’s epic new collection is fabulous, audacious and compelling; here are dazzling conjurings of lost times and places, tremendously moving elegies, and astonishing fragments of intricate stories recovered from lost worlds. This exceptional collection is the work of a poet at the height of her imaginative powers.’  Nick Drake

 What other poets say about Maria Jastrzębska’s work:

Maria Jastrzebska’s poems open out like adventures in a dual land that is both here and elsewhere. The elsewhere is both place and history: the one gives life to the other, the place to the history, the elsewhere to the here, the fable to the reality. The mixture is rich and clear as alcoholic spirits.  George Szirtes

“Here is the quiet cutting edge of honesty.

Hers is a considered poetry, though inconsiderate enough when inconsideration is required.” Gillian Allnutt

Everyday Angels is a book filled with stories, such great vivid stories that span many worlds, that of Poland and Britain, and those places where they overlap in the past and present.

Jastrzębska’s poems have the beauty and warmth and rhythm of natural speech.  A language that takes me directly into the poems.  She has a “good ear” and it serves her well.  Moving, precise scenes and portraits bring a sense of true history. Tenderness and affection, grief and pain, duties and debts between generations, between us humans.  Most of all, the poems show a deep respect for and fascination with people with all their faults and virtues and their marvels.” Lee Harwood 

“Maria’s Jastrzębska’s poetry explores major concerns of our age – exile, dementia and sexuality. She records the resilience of parents forced to leave their country, giving the places, people and rituals they left a shimmering, out-of-reach quality. This estrangement is embedded in language rich with names and phrases, always on the seam of the surreal.   A mother at different stages of her life, but in particular, fractured by dementia, girls on a bus, lovers, aunts –  Jastrzębska’s writing is knowing and humane. This [Everyday Angels] is an uplifting collection.” Jackie Wills

“There’s a subtlety and seeing-round corners perspective to her poems that could be Polish, could be queer or could just be pure Jastrzębska. ” John O’Donoghue 

In sparsely reticent, if by turns surreal, poems – and in unnervingly detached prose-poem accounts – Jastrzebska unfolds a past that, far from being another country, is a lost dimension of, and an insistent counterpoint to, the complex present.Anne-Marie Fyfe

“The shadow and tenor of two tongues, cultures, histories, and sexualities are deftly embedded in her poetry — as is her use of forms, both in her traditional couplets and prose poems. She is willing to take risks, unafraid to display passion, and at the same time writes controlled intelligent verse. I’ll Be Back Before You Know It is a carefully considered collection of new poems.”  Sudeep Sen

“This is poetry with an original slant to it.  We are used to Caribbean poets, Asian poets, Merseyside poets and so on – but Polish poets I’ve read only, so far, in translation.  The sense of being an outsider in England (where she does live) and yet belonging in an important way in Greece (where she doesn’t) strikes a new note.  ‘Advice to Writers’ (‘take the hidden path’) is a poem of real distinction.

This is not-quite-English poetry, partly because of its subject matter and its admirably high-handed way with punctuation, and partly because of its affinity with the defeated, and all their echoes.  It’s written in English, but not quite expected English – and the unexpected in context of the expected is of the essence of real poetry.”  U A Fanthorpe

photo by Jess Mookherjee

photo by Jess Mookherjee

 

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