Poet, essayist, literary critic, recipient of the Kościeliski Award for his collection of poems Black Square and its ‘poetic uniqueness, reflected in the boldness to deal with difficult artistic and ideological issues.’
Dąbrowski was born on 28th October, 1979 in Elbląg. He lives in Gdańsk and is on the editing team of the literary bimonthly magazine published in the tri-city area, titled Topos. He is the art director of the European Poet of Freedom Literary Festival. Dąbrowski has won many local literary prizes and in 2001 was nominated for the Pegasus award. He received the Little Sceptre award of the Polish Cultural Foundation (2006) from the hands of Tadeusz Różewicz – which is especially interesting given the fact that Dąbrowski was described as making a ‘return to Różewicz,’ and as he also wrote a few articles about the poet from Wrocław (e.g. “O tym Różewiczu, jak chcę go myśleć”, Tygodnik Powszechny 42/2006). His collection of poems Black Square (2010) earned him a Nike Award nomination and the Kościeliski Award for ‘poetic uniqueness, reflected in the boldness to deal with difficult artistic and ideological issues.’ In 2014, he was nominated for the K.I. Gałczyński Poetry Prize ‘Orpheus’ and for the Krystyna and Czesław Bendarczyk Award for his volume of poems Pomiędzy.
Besides his work as a poet, Tadeusz Dąbrowski was also the editor of the anthology Poza słowa. Antologia wierszy 1976-2006 (publ. słowo/obraz terytoria, Gdańsk 2006). It comprises works by authors who published their first poetry books after 1976. He also edited Zuzanna Ginczanka’s collection of poems Wniebowstąpienie ziemi (2014).
Titles of Dąbrowski’s books usually involve puns, often based on the author’s surname (Te Deum echoes his initials, while mazurek hints at the title of Polish National Anthem – Dąbrowski’s Mazurka). These wordplays are not made in vain, as the identity of the author, or in fact of the lyrical subject, is crucial to these poems.
Dąbrowski’s lyrical subject usually enters his characteristic role of a child responding to different manifestations of religiosity or of a young man thinking about sexual matters. In either case, these poems are surrounded by an aura of programmatic immaturity. This feature works well with the poet’s rejection of pathos and his focus on everyday issues, and, finally, with the omnipresent irony. Whereas if one searches the Polish literary tradition for models which the Gdańsk-based poet would find positive, Tadeusz Różewicz ought to be mentioned. His influence is especially prominent in Dąbrowski’s early writings.
Every now and then, Tadeusz Dąbrowski is described as a religious poet. His poetry does in fact incorporate the notions of sin, heaven, and hell. However, it is not always evident whether they refer to the supernatural sphere, or if they are just references to the language describing the world and one’s deeds which we acquire in childhood. The situation in which that child-like language is employed from the perspective of a twenty-year-old and his life experiences, with the full awareness of the inadequacy of such method of expression, clearly distinguishes Dąbrowski’s oeuvre from the work of his contemporaries. Their approach to religious themes is either distinctly solemn (Wojciech Wencel, Szymon Babuchowski), or purely ironical (Adam Pluszka, Wojciech Brzoska).
This cognitive ambiguity does not go as far, however, so as to affiliate Dąbrowski’s works with postmodernism or postmodernity – as the critics from the Kraków-based magazine Ha!art hinted in 2001-2003. The author’s ideological declarations, scattered in his critical texts, stand in a clear opposition to such associations and present Dąbrowski as adhering to the simple, direct poetic articulation and resisting ambiguity and relativism. Indeed, while reading his poems, one may notice that all examples of that which initially transpires as excessive complication, usually may be boiled down to jokes or ornaments, or otherwise offer an almost immediate conceptual solution. Even if a poem does not directly comment on the author’s beliefs, it still quite strongly refers to them. The poet comments on his creative credo:
As I have already mentioned, there is Something besides the language which can only be honoured with silence. You have eyes, but you cannot see everything, you have the language, but you cannot describe everything. But silence needs to be eloquent, poetic, ‘being silent about’ is an art mastered by few: Mickiewicz, Norwid, Różewicz. And me. (Ha!art 18/2004).
In 2016, Biuro Literackie published Dąbrowski’s first book of prose, Bezbronna kreska, a metropolitan love story filled with pop cultural and literary references. In it, Dąbrowski combines the low and the high brow, surpassing the classic structure of a novel.
The protagonist of my novel – Dąbrowski said in an interview – decided to write a book for rather unsophisticated reasons: he wanted to have the last word in the game, into which – as he suspects – he was drawn by the young architect Megan. So, in a nutshell: revenge! He writes in order to turn his misinvested feelings into paper, fiction. On the other hand, this fiction sometimes has more power over him than reality. When writing, he not only processes his disappointment and pain, but also takes part in a sophisticated and cynical play, an experiment on people, a kind of installation. Or – if you prefer to call it that – in a telenovela. (www.biuroliterackie.pl)
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Author: Paweł Kozioł, September 2008. Article prepared for the online Anthology of Polish Poetry from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, designed by Piotr Matywiecki. Update: NMR, October 2016, transl. AM, November 2017