Once again Różycki touches on themes important in his output, namely writing, history, love, and travels. 77 poems with exotic colonial titles, with plentiful disturbing and memorable images, come together in a cycle praising the power of poetic language and imagination.
POEMS LIKE OPIUM
It has been said of this volume that it is a journey into childhood, an expedition into naïve childish imagination, into one's own memory of a past, happy time: "We have nothing else / but our childhoods", Różycki writes in the poem Cocoa and Parrots. The titles of some of the poems are exotic, as if taken from a small boy's games: Creoles, Metis, Cape Horn, Her Majesty's Sailing Ships, The Coral Bay, The Old Stronghold. This is what the poet himself said about Kolonie / Colonies: "These poems are a kind of journey into a child's reading and imagination - sort of like the journey of the children of Captain Grant. Behind these poems is concealed (...) a boy who has gone to summer camp and is reading".
Childhood, or rather the memory of images from childhood, is not a trivial and immature childishness. On the contrary, it is perhaps this past boyhood world that hides the true measure of things: "And only my son tells the truth, and that's / not like anything I've heard before, / what the television said, what they say in Warsaw / and what hisses from the newspaper", Różycki writes.
His poems also ask questions about the sense of practising poetry, about a poet's vocation, about oneself, perhaps not just about one's own mature writing but about human maturity as such. The first verse returns like a refrain; in the poem Coffee and Tobacco, which opens the volume, we read: "When I started to write, I didn't yet know / what poems would do to me, that they would turn me / into a strange spectre, constantly sleep-deprived". And later: "When I started to write, I didn't yet know / how simple it was", or: "When I started to write, I didn't yet know / who would wait for it".
Practising literature is not an excess in any way, nor a role dreamed of and learned, but a blessed curse, it's like practising life itself: "When I started to write, nobody told me / it was a disease, that I would be treated / by family and friends" (Firewater), "When I started to write, I didn't yet know / that my every word would take / away from the world bit by bit (...) That slowly my poems / would replace my homeland, mother, father, first love, second youth" (Opposite Winds), "When I started to write, I truly didn't know / what I was really choosing, how much they pay for it / and that I would be rich in such a short time, / and that if I wanted something, I would get it" (The Governor's House). Finally: "I didn't know then that it was so easy to write without respite, / to write madly, hotly, to write with all my soul, / write more than live, wither without writing, and that I'd be nothing / if I could speak in tongues, but did not know this" (Opium).
However, it is not just inside himself that Różycki looks. This is how he sees adult reality, not a child's reality but the real one: "Everything I have is formerly German - a former German town / and former German forests, former German graves, / a former German home, / former German stairs / and clock". On a narrow Paris street, as if writing against the world which is his, he sketches a different world, one without burdens and without a difficult past - this is a fantasy and impossible world: "Just for a moment, imagine I live here, / I was born here, and my parents / always had a shop here, and that there is / a bistro in the Rue du Temple (...). That there was never any Eastern Europe, no cellar / to hide neighbours in, none of those / transports or round-up arrests, no nightmares / about them going from door to door".
[Excerpts from the described book are translations made for the purpose of this article; for the original text go to the
link*Polish version*http://www.culture.pl/pl/culture/artykuly/dz_rozycki_kolonie**]**The book has been nominated for the 2007 NIKE LITERARY AWARD.
- Tomasz Różycki
Kolonie / Colonies
SIW "Znak", Kraków 2006
130 x 195, 86 pages, paperback
Source of Polish version: www.znak.com.pl/book
Author: Marek Radziwon, www.wiadomosci.gazeta.pl, June 12, 2007 - Polish version