Jul/Aug 2017  •   Reviews & Interviews

Zero Visibility

Review by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Zero Visibility.
Grzegorz Wróblewski.
Translated by Piotr Gwiazda.
Phoneme Media. 2017. 136 pp.
ISBN 978-1-944700-12-6.

Some three years after reading tours of London, New York City and New England, signs of unusual success, Grzegorz Wróblewski seems to be struggling a bit about what to do by way of an encore. The Dada riffs and moments of bathic irony that used to be his stock and trade remain but the simple joy of immortality has gone out of them.

When flashes of that joy return, they jump from the page to the reader's brain as in days of yore. "Two Women by the Atlantic," for one example, there is only the bathos of the moment:

Nails ready for conquest
amid signboards:
They size up the passing men.

But there is a great deal in Zero Visibility that knows the old formulas but just can't get into the spirit of it anymore.

Other of his fans credit him with a shift to "found language." But the change is not noticeable beside the heaviness of flesh in these pages. Wróblewski himself clearly realizes that this is what the present volume resolves to.

"As we slowly forget the dead, we slowly
draw closer to them..."—says a creepy man
met by accident. It's true.

Surely he also realizes that, for all he might wish to pass it off as merely the theme of his book, a thing that does not reflect his own emotional state, the mortality infuses every aspect of most of these poems including the craft. It comes up through the roots, as it were. Fundamentally, the persona and the person are one.

The creepy man is simply a creepy man, for just one example. He is not transmogrified as he would have been in earlier volumes. The fact means everything. The poet watches as his teeth are falling out.

One must believe in something.
Nothing makes sense.

Trivia is only trivia now.

Nimuë has left him—trapped in the caverns of his own mind. The thought of it is everywhere: here devastation, there inescapable realities.

Your absence terrifies me.
I'm just a piece of old, unnecessary meat.

He mumbles poems among the stalagmites.

If the title of the book might seem to imply a grasp of the situation, the title poem makes clear that even that little is illusory.

I grope my way forward.
(Life is unbearable.)

But the poem is actually quite good. It is by no means the only poem that is. If the theme of Zero Visibility is the struggle to accept mortality, to deal with it, we are heartened at times to see him rally from despair. For just a moment he threatens to reach another stage that would not have been within reach were the struggle not real. But this is not a simple theme. He falls back. Everything is not going to turn out well in the end. It never does. But does it really have to be the end?

Still, the final poem, "The Wave," is as strong as any Grzegorz Wróblewski has ever written. Person or persona, or both, who knows?

No one will be surprised by the lack of phone calls or e-mails.
I have achieved perfect isolation. Lamp hook.
What will my last thought be? A memory of you
or of my long deceased father? What does it matter now...

It displays a deeper humanity than a young poet can feel. It leaves the reader waiting for the next book.


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