Jul/Aug 2008  •   Reviews & Interviews

Avoiding Those Who Deliver Letters

Review by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Our Flying Objects.
Grzegorz Wroblewski.
Translations by Joel Leonard Katz, Rod Mengham, Malcolm Sinclair and Adam Zdrodowski.
Equipage. 2007. 72 pp.
ISBN 978-83-60787-00-7.

These Extraordinary People.
Grzegorz Wroblewski.
Translations by Adam Zdrodowski and Malcolm Sinclair.
Erbacce Press. 2008. 36 pp.
ISBN 1-906588-21-2.

Grzegorz Wroblewski, a Polish poet and artist, now living in Denmark, is nothing if not energetic. His poetry has appeared in a great many European journals, electronic and paper. More recently, the work has been appearing, in translation, across the English language web and in such fine journals as the Chicago Review and Common Knowledge (Duke University Press). He collaborates regularly with European musicians such as Olga Magieres and Bobi Peru on joint projects.

(Editor's note: Eclectica has been proud to feature Wroblewski's work as well.)

His paintings are redolent of Miró, and it would not be stretching matters too far to say that his poetry shares some of the same qualities. There is a strong Dadaist element to most of it, and a pathos and a strange lyricism to the best of it. The poem "Chewiness of Life," from Our Flying Objects, displays a bit of each of these qualities:

I unwrapped the paper
I took out the sandwich and quickly put it in my mouth.
Bread with butter and cheese.
Good, pretty good, I thought.
The one next to me was scoffing something, too.
I couldn't see what.
"Hey, you! What do you have?" I asked.
"With butter and luncheon meat," he yelled.
I drooped on the sack.
With butter.
With butter and luncheon meat.
Luncheon meat and butter were circling in my head.

These are the opening lines. The poet's awareness that he does not need to set the physical scene, in order to explain the "sack,"—that it would only clutter a poem that needs to be simple in order to work—speaks highly of him.

"The Chewiness of Life" is by no means the finest poem from these collections. The six-line lyric "Jan Hansen's Father," which appears in both Our Flying Objects and These Extraordinary People, leaves Dada behind while it keeps the pathos and lyricism. The result is a truly exceptional poem, the kind of hidden gem that one aimlessly leafs through ponderous anthologies hoping to stumble upon.

Poems such as the quirky "Jesse Owens and Luz Long" (These Extraordinary People) and "On the Milky Way" (Our Flying Objects), while less effective, are still well worth the read. The latter begins with a whimsical honesty:

What joy not to do anything!
To avoid those who deliver letters or earn money by counting

In the five-line lyric "The Horses of New Spain" (Our Flying Objects) the horses feel...

           …on their backs
the shivering of half-mad riders

The more Dada-surreal the poems, however, the less well they work as the rule. They share the historical tendency of such poems to consist of occasional brilliant images surrounded by the hulks of far more frequent failed attempts at such images.

Production quality varies widely between these two volumes. Our Flying Objects is a 6 ½ x 6 ½, square bound volume with card-stock covers and a silver-grey matte jacket. The printer, Cartalia, has done fine work. The book also houses much the better poetry. These Extraordinary People is composed of staple-bound light card-stock with a colorful cover photo by Alan Corkish. The poems are generally Dada-surrealistic. On balance, both the book and the poems that compose Our Flying Objects, in particular, are unusually well made.


Editor Note: Thinking about buying Our Flying Objects, These Extraordinary People or another book today? Please click the book cover link above. As an Amazon Associate, Eclectica Magazine earns a small percentage of qualifying purchases made after a reader clicks through to Amazon using any of our book cover links. It's a painless way to contribute to our growth and success. Thanks for the help!