Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar

Are we drifting or navigating?

Luminous dawns of death,
once people were dying at home. There was time to get used to dying, work on it a little, starting early
with something small: back ache or strained tendon.

Bit by bit the body’s untying itself from life.
Looking around as if it paused at the border
and asked, ‘Which of the two countries claims this soil?’

It has time still before it’s shouldered by the colossal
dead wave

of unsheltered night.

Before dawns come, without brightness,
in the silence of the desolate world, neither islands nor shallows, and the solitude
is already complete

Exercises in Non-existence
Fog was approaching in waves, once thin, then dense
again, till it cut visibility off, erased us too. The garden departed

for hours.

Fog closed the door to reality.

The haze is thinning now, it reveals smoothed foothills,

a small town. Stumps of perennials unearthed,
in a long row
by the fence of coated planks.
Grey-winged birds wheel, calling

over the boggy sarcophagus of this autumn day,

brimful of leaf litter, slippery stems of dahlias and sunflowers.

They return: roads cut short, houses with smooth walls,
no cornices
or details, roofs blown off like hats.

Dreams exhumed.
And we return – we are here where we are,
in the infinite now

Not comforting this
metaphor of the woods, where everything alive
– being born –
comes out onto the clearings of days.

And returns to the woods when it dies,
for ever written down.

Generations of people, swarms of green lacewings,

a lame dog. The almond white of our finite hours
and turns into desert.

Someone whom we love steps in between
petrified trunks.
into the night with no wings.

Into the scree of dark shine

Translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar

Are we drifting or navigating?

Publisher: Znak Publishers, Kraków 2018
Translation rights: Znak Publishers, bolinska@znak.com.pl

Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar’s Navigations is poetry of exquisite subtlety. The collection rethinks and reimagines the well-established topos of life as a voyage, evoked by its title. Immersed in philosophical and literary traditions, the poems pose numerous questions and attempt to answer them with raw honesty. Are we drifting or navigating? Can we resist the winds dispatched by the immobile mover (*** The wind turned…)? Is the juxtaposition of passivity and endeavour unequivocal? As Kielar suggests, attentiveness, distancing, contemplation of human existence – not that different from the life of plants and animals, matter itself – are the endeavour, too. They may well prove most meaningful. The goal is to read patiently the voices of the world, transforming from code to story.

Kielar employs her characteristically intellectual language: exact and imagistic. Like her masters, old Japanese painters studying a branch of a plum tree (May Frost) or the 19th-century Polish painter Aleksander Gierymski recording stone pines around Villa Borghese (Jan Cybis and Gierymski’s Painting), the poet wants to touch with her words the essence of reality. Navigations converses with the poetry of Czesław Miłosz and the Polish Romantics: Adam Mickiewicz’s Lausanne lyrics or Juliusz Słowacki’s poems, where landscape mirrors the onlooker’s emotions.

In the thirty-eight texts of her precisely composed volume, Kielar explores the borderland between I and not-I. The poems, focused on transience as part of permanence, death as part of living in the incessant cycles of dark matter, emerge from private loss and teach difficult non-trepidation (*** I am taught by granulation…). Kielar’s writing foregrounds the relationship between the primary fear of mortal beings and their delight in the momentary. The speaker’s discretion in signalling private mourning in order to render it universal is particularly moving because of the book’s dedication: For my daughter Paula.

Anna Spólna, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

Selected samples

Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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