Born in Warsaw in 1960, a poet, prose writer, columnist, literary historian and translator from English.
A poet, prose writer, columnist, literary historian and translator; his work is complex and difficult to read but rewards the effort with refined humour.
He has published six of his own collections of poetry, and has co-authored two more. In 1993 he gained his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley (his thesis was on the works of James Joyce), and until 1997 he was a lecturer at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is now a lecturer in the English faculty at Warsaw University. He is the editor of an American selection of poems by Tadeusz Borowski and also (with Rod Mengham and Piotr Szymor) of an English anthology of new Polish poetry, entitled Altered State (Arc Publications, Todmorden, 2003). He was the editor of a literary and arts magazine called Dwukropek (Colon), and for some time a contributor to a weekly Przekrój (Review) writing sophisticated essays on worls and local quisine. He regularly contributes to Literatura na Świecie (Literature in the World), a journal of new writing from round the world]. His translatory output includes extracts from John Ashbery and James Schuyler's A Nest of Ninnies and Harry Matthews's Cigarettes (published in Literatura na Świecie).He lives in Warsaw.
Pióro started writing poetry fairly late, in the thirtieth year of his life, under the influence of poems by his friends Andrzej Sosnowski and Kuba Kozioł. Their joint collection, Dom bez kantów (House without Corners), issued in the USA, at once became legendary in Poland. Pióro's first independent book, Okęcie (the name of Warsaw's airport), also made quite a stir, becoming – alongside Sosnowski's Życie na Korei (Life about Korea) – a vital counterpoint to the trend of 'O'Hara-ism' that was prevalent in those days. This poet cultivates erudite, emotionally cool 'literature made out of literature'; he does not hide his fascination with Ashbery and Pound (or with authors from the OuLiPo circle), but is also happy to 'sample' from the Polish classics (such as Cyprian Norwid, Henryk Sienkiewicz or Maria Dąbrowska), whose recognisable structures supplement a deformed or quite absurd content, or else he creates literary collages out of extracts from them. He is happy to use sophisticated verse forms (such as the pantoum, the villanella, or the sestina), and he is also the inventor of the 'Kurpie cut-out' structure, i.e. the perfectly symmetrical poem. (Kurpie is a district north of Warsaw, and 'cut-out' refers to the Polish folk art form that involves making elaborate symmetrical patterns by folding and cutting paper.] His work is labelled 'anti-biographical', because all sorts of allusion to his personal life lie hidden deep within it, making them hard to decipher. For the critics, Pioro is a hard nut to crack – they can evaluate him, but they can't analyse him. One of them said that 'discussing Pioro's poems ends in adapting them to one's own tastes'.
Commenting on Pióro's latest volume, Powązki, Aldona Kopkiewicz wrote in Dwutygodnik:
Pióro creates poetry, entwining more and more new metaphores, which is summed up in his declaration: 'you shouldn't care about what's concrete, as all's a pun'.
As a prose writer he is the author of one well-known story, Wyjaśnienie (The Explanation) (a fictional monologue by Michel Foucault's Polish lover, who is spying on the philosopher for the secret service) and of some interesting prose of an oneiric nature. A special area of Pióro's work is his cookery writing in Przekrój, and later on in Pani magazine and the culinary Kuchnia monthly, where he discusses food and wine with Marek Bieńczyk. In his columns he promotes rare, exotic dishes that are difficult to prepare, and which some people claim do not actually exist. These recipes are really just another excuse for Pióro to show off his purely linguistic virtuosity. As a student of literature Pióro is chiefly interested in the political contexts of poetry, and has published numerous articles on this subject. His research includes works about Frank O'Hara, Ralph Ellison, Dale Scott, but also James Joyce. His own poetry (apart from the poem Bez znieczulenia (Without anaesthetic), which describes a football championship using the terminology of war and genocide) is conspicuously apolitical. Complex and difficult to read, it rewards the effort with refined humour and lots of witty remarks, like the one in the poem entitled Bug Hour: 'Love makes us suffer more than pornography'.
Pióro declines unequivocal poetry with a definite message, underlining the importance of the poems' rythm, their aesthetic level:
Searching for unequivocal meanings of each of these poems has no purpose, since some are only about the speed, sound, surprise. About the surface, under which one can, but doesn't have to look for different meanings - he said in 2015 in an interview with Kamil Nolbert.
- Dom bez kantów (House without Corners), Chicago: The Movable Feast Press, 1992 (with Andrzej Sosnowski and Kuba Koziol).
- Okecie, Warsaw: Przedświt, 1993.
- Wiersze okolicznościowe (Circumstantial poems), Lublin: Stowarzyszenie Literackie Kresy, 1997.
- Syntetyczność (Syntheticity) Legnica: Centrum Sztuki – Teatr Dramatyczny, 1998.
- Dom bez fantow (House without prizes), Legnica: Centrum Sztuki – Teatr Dramatyczny, 1998 (with Andrzej Sosnowski and Fantomas).
- Wola i Ochota (Wola and Ochota are the names of districts of Warsaw, but couincidentally mean also 'will and willingness'); Legnica: Biuro Literackie Port Legnica, 2000.
- Pieśni miłosne (Love Songs), Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2004
- O dwa kroki stąd (Two steps from here), Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2011.
- Powązki, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2015.
Source: www.polska2000.pl, Copyright: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza, updated by NMR, May 2016.