Julia Fiedorczuk is a poet, translator, and literary critic who popularised the idea of ecopoetry. She was born on 23rd March 1975 in Warsaw, where she still lives.
Poet, translator, literary critic popularizing the idea of ecopoetry.
She holds a PhD in Humanities and teaches American literature, theory of literature, and English at the University of Warsaw. Many of her translations have been published in the Polish periodical Literatura na Świecie (World Literature). She also translated John Ashbery's notable collection of essays Other Traditions into Polish (Inne Tradycje) as well as texts by Wallace Stevens, Forrest Gander and Laurie Anderson.
Julia Fiedorczuk's debut poetry book Listopad nad Narwią (November on the Narew) received an award from the Polish Society of Book Publishers (PTWK). She is also a laureate of the Austrian Hubert Burda Award (2005), for her poems from the book Bio, published in the Manuskripte magazine. She is a member of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Her poems were translated into English, Swedish, Czech, even Welsh and Japanese.
Some critics tend to compare Fiedorczuk to Wisława Szymborska. She owes this comparison to her pursuit to express herself in a generic mood and her cold, ironic, and distanced language, as well as the specific sensibility with which she approaches not just other people, but also other living creatures. The spirit of Szymborska is very visible in the following declaration:
It is not just the poets (plenty of them!) that I see as my masters, but also the scientists, as they also have to always look at the world as if they were seeing it for the very first time.
The two authors also share the tendency to problematize the status of the lyrical subject, as well as the acts of writing and reception. Grzegorz Hetman notes that the author seems to ask:
What does it mean to be a protagonist of a poem? What is it like to tell authentic experiences, transmit human emotions and spiritual states belonging to the world that is superior to literature, and at the same time exist exclusively in the realm of a poem, on a sheet of paper, or in somebody's voice.
In a poem, this might take the following form:
Whoever you are, pass me your voice. // Whoever you are, pass me your body of tongue / and day. Extend your hands, please. / I’ll touch you gently as time. // Whoever you are, pass me your body of night. / I’ll lick salt off your cold eyelids. // And you will see the world.
Road. Exit, transl. Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese
Julia Fiedorczuk presents herself as a representative of ecopoetry – a genre created in Anglo-Saxon literature, which tries to describe relations between man and nature or analyze earlier texts from this perspective. She is interested in overcoming the anthropocentric vision of the world, a shift in the perception of what is human and what is non-human. She is connected to this genre not only by her poetry but also essays, especially Cyborg w Ogrodzie: Wprowadzenie do Ekokrytyki / A Cyborg in the Garden: Introduction to Ecocriticism (2015) and a book co-authored with the Mexican poet and translator Gerardo Beltrán, Ecopoetry (2015). Professor Joanna Durczak calls it:
a book which equips the Polish ecocritic/philologist with all the elementary research tools, a wide English bibliography and a navigation equipment which allows to move in the jungle of themes and approaches created by this critical school in the last 25 years.
In her description of the Poranek Marii (Maria's Morning) collection of short stories, Justyna Sobolewska emphasised two properties of Fiedorczuk's prose: her exceptional way of writing about nature and the way in which the author 'talks about harm, pain, sexual violence, and shows the moment at which the life of her protagonists (mainly female) is suddenly shaken up'. Both motifs are found in the titular short story, featuring a character called Zetka, a former tailoring school student and rape victim who lives in a forest.
It could be said that the poet's biology or ecology is most apparent wherever she includes the notion of corporeality and describes it in the wider context of nature. While in Nieważkość / Weightlessness the author writes we are only equal in the face of cruelty, which touches us from our very childhood, in her next book, a collection of short stories entitled Bliskie Kraje / Close Countries, is about 'floating away' from the world, abandoning what's safe and well known. The protagonists are mostly adult children who grew up too early, people out of place, who found themselves at the 'wrong side of the world'. Ecological sensitivity remains strong: it forces the question about the human beings' place among 'other creatures in pain'. Aleksandra Byrska wrote:
In Close Countries Fiedorczuk exposes the creatures' sensitivity, she discovers even brutal tarantulas are delicate and fragile, and their venom is not as dangerous as we are used to thinking. She seems to be saying that we create most of our fears ourselves (Instytut Książki, 23.05.2016).
In 2017, Fiedorczuk published her book of poetry entitled Psalmy (Psalms, trans. AP) which was awarded the Wisława Szymborska Poetry Award in 2018. The new world descanted by Fiedorczuk is far from ideal and it will probably never be saved but at least it gives us some hope. As Jacek Gutorow writes:
Psalmy speaks out for the disenfranchised but also for plants, animals, and landscapes. The poems mourn those who died in the latest iterations of the spreading global war as well as completely lost species and ecosystems. Like David’s Psalms, they were written from the perspective of the abyss and situations in which faith seems futile, and yet the poems express gratitude and celebrate life in all of its manifestations.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, March 2011, transl. Ania Micińska, September 2015; updated by AP, February 2019.
- Listopad nad Narwią, Biuro Literackie Port Legnica, Legnica 2000;
- Bio, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2004;
- Planeta rzeczy zagubionych, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2006;
- Tlen, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2009;
- tuż-tuż, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2012;
- Psalmy, Fundacja na rzecz Kultury i Edukacji im. Tymoteusza Karpowicza, Wrocław 2017.
- Poranek Marii i inne opowiadania, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2010;
- Biała Ofelia, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2011;
- Nieważkość, Marginesy, Warszawa 2015;
- Bliskie kraje, Marginesy, Warszawa 2016.
- Cyborg w ogrodzie. Uwagi o ekokrytyce, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Katedra, Gdańsk 2015.