Wioletta Grzegorzewska is a poet and prose writer linked to Częstochowa, where – together with her husband Szymon Grzegorzewski – she published Bulion magazine and ran a publishing house of the same name between 2003 and 2005. Since 2006 she has been living in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
She was born on 9th February 1974 in Koziegłowy and spent her childhood in the village of Rzeniszów-Hektary.
In Tekstylia Bis, Anna Kałuża said that Grzegorzewska writes her poems on the border between dreaming and wakefulness, between fantastic imagination and hard facts.
She considered the articulation of her first book both critical and sceptical, which was proven by her reinterpretations of different cultural stories, from the myth of Sisyphus to old Polish nursery rhymes.
Grzegorzewska’s work often references her biography. Poems from the Orinoko volume include a list of lodgings from her times as a student, but the poet, who always starts with a particular detail, surpasses this clearly defined area. Another direction of this act of going beyond individual reality is defined by Jakub Sajkowski’s review of Inne Obroty:
Trying to bring order to these texts (I don’t know to what end), I read Inne Obroty mostly as poems about memory, or better: memories, because there’s more than one. More and more individual stories appear, but they all seem to be subjective, signed with personal experiences, dreams tangled like bits of spectres.
In 2015 Grzegorzewska’s poetry book Finite Formulae and Theories of Chance, published under the name Wioletta Greg and translated into English by Marek Kazmierski, was shortlisted for the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize, one of the most important poetry prizes in the world.
Grzegorzewska’s great success in Poland was Guguły, nominated to Nike and Gdynia awards. Guguły is a collection of loosely connected stories about a girl from a small village in the last years of the communist-regime era. Writing about this book Eliza Szybowicz underlined a conscious and consistent denial of any other perspective different than the one the young narrator, Wiola from Hektary village in Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska: "There is no future, no grown-up Wioletta, not even us, the readers of her book".
There’s the language, however – the language of sensual description, skillfully using regional elements, which makes the reader think about magical realism and at the same time searches for harmony in the world. Dariusz Nowacki wrote:
We won’t find here neither sugary sentimentality, nor – what happens more often – a catalogue of childhood traumas and wounds.
One could say that achieving this balance requires the long term of the child’s perspective. In one of the most interesting sentences of the book, the father says to Wiola:
This world is weirdly arranged (…) I haven’t yet had the chance to really see it, and they already call me an old man, while inside I like these guguły.
The regionalism in the title means sour, unripe fruits, which makes immaturity one of the main themes of the book.
Evoking immaturity through unripe fruit instead of psychological description reveals one more feature of the author’s work. Grzegorzewska is undoubtedly most interesting, when she describes concrete things, giving them priority over general statements.
Published in 2017, Stancje (Boarding Houses, trans. AP) is a loose continuation of her previous novel. Filling her book with flowery prose, Grzegorzewska describes the further dilemmas Wiola runs into after moving from her village to the town of Częstochowa to study. The new circumstances give her space to reinterpret herself while living in the eponymous boarding houses – idiosyncratic places, like a workers’ hostel and a convent.
In 2017, Grzegorzewska also published a new book of poetry, Czasy Zespolone (Compound Times, trans. AP), in which the poet stitches together a patchwork of different chronologies: war, her childhood, and her present.
- Wyobraźnia Kontrolowana (editor's translation: Controlled Imagination), Wydawnictwo WSP, Częstochowa 1997;
- Parantele, Wydawnictwo Bulion, Częstochowa 2003;
- Orinoko, Biblioteka Tyskiej Zimy Poetyckiej, Tychy 2008;
- Inne Obroty (Other Turns), Polski Fundusz Wydawniczy w Kanadzie, Stowarzyszenie Literacko-Artystyczne "Fraza", Toronto-Rzeszów 2010;
- Ruchy Browna (Brown's Movements), Towarzystwo Literackie "Li-TWA", Częstochowa 2011;
- Pamięć Smieny/ Smena's Memory, OFF Press, London, 2011;
- Finite Formulae and Theories of Chance, translated by Marek Kazmierski, Arc Publications, Todmorden 2014;
- Czasy Zespolone. Wybór Wierszy (Compound Times: Collected Poems), Wydawnictwo Eperons-Ostrogi, Kraków 2017.
- Notatnik z Wyspy (Notebook from the Island), wyd. e media, Częstochowa 2012;
- Guguły, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2014;
- Stancje, wydawnictwo W.A.B., Warszawa 2017.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, transl. NMR, January 2016 r., updated by AP, February 2019