Review: Anti-Poerty for Survival (A Review of Dear Beloved Humans by Grzegorz Wróblewski
By Marcus Silcock
When you look up anti-poetry you are likely to run into the work of Nicanor Parra. Parra said something like “real seriousness” resides in the “comic.” We can of course go further. It is also cosmic. Like Parra, Grzegorz Wróblewski’s poetry is often anti-poetic and minimalist. Many of the speakers resemble visitors from another planet. There is a kind of unblinking reportage of the absurdity of our existence. It is sometimes terrible and sometimes humorous and often both. Parra uses popular speech and irony and humorous turns of phrase. Parra describes his anti-poetry as simultaneous "laughter and tears.¨ Ditto Wróblewski.
Take the opening of this one entitled “Metamorphosis,” influenced by Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” with its critique of the dehumanising and alienating nature of consumerism
he pounds his wing on the ground
I’m a carrier pigeon he says
I’m a carrier pigeon he repeats louder
does he want to scare me or what
luckily I have a fresh roll in my bag
I’ll bribe him if I have to
The poem swiftly moves from the casual and humorous encounter with a carrier pigeon into the intricacies of toxic hierarchies. The carrier pigeon begins ordering the speaker around asking for “a bandage, a bottle of water, a glass of cognac,” and even “an apartment in central Warsaw.” The list of demands increases as the carrier pigeon demands “a plastic materials factory” and a “gold mine.” All the while, the speaker obliges saying, “why yes sir right away right away right away.” However, in the middle of this absurd poem, the speaker interjects with “what a story what a story.” We are made aware of the nature of the poem as entertainment. This heightens both the artificiality of the art and also its drive towards the harsh reality of toxic capitalism with its servile conditions.
Poetry, like other forms of entertainment, sometimes offers forms of escapism, but Wróblewski offers stark realities. This insistence on facing life as it is can come as a sense of relief. This poetry is not the poetry of transcendence. Anti-transcendent tendencies are shown throughout this representative collection of Wróblewski’s poetry from the early 1980s until 2020. One in particular, written in response to the news story of Heaven’s Gate, whose 39 members committed suicide in the hope of joining a spacecraft following the comet Hale-Bopp, stands out. Eight of the male members underwent castration. Here is the poem:
(A Middle-Aged Man’s Morning Ablutions. Unexpected Misgivings before a Journey)
For the Eunuchs of Santa Fe
Belief in Amber.
In the eyes of the Persian cat.
In first snowdrops.
In men who proclaim the end.
In society for research.
In life after death.
In biodynamic food.
In secret fighting techniques.
In the year 2000.
Belief in the soul.
Belief in the body.
The wounds of the marks on the body.
Belief in old age.
Belief in flat earth.
Belief in oneself.
In sea, land, and theurgy.
In Chinse Taoism.
Belief in the sun.
In the solar eclipse.
In the solar plexus.
In the Order of the New Templars.
Belief in the logical answer.
Belief in the cleansing act.
While sometimes bleak, this harshness of reality also offers a means to cope. Like Buddhism in its original stripped down essentials, Wróblewski’s poetry offers a means of radical acceptance, rather than clinging to various crutches of belief. In the poem “Ryōgen-in”there is an acceptance of going nowhere. When looking for someplace where everything will finally make sense, sometimes you have to stop searching and stay still:
Do not ask for directions to the stone
gardens of Ryōgen-in.
You’ll be told: Go straight, then
Which can mean: Turn back and
go down the stairs.
So forget the map of Kyoto
for a while.
Stand still and take a deep
Think what really made you
want to go there.
It may be the gardens themselves
will come to you.
It is so easily to feel lost among the content overload of our 21st century existence. Dear Beloved Humans is a practical guide for survival in our consumer saturated world. The minimalist reality of Grzegorz Wróblewski is anti-poetry for survival. It is a message from the milky way.
Diálogos Books, 2022.
Marcus Silcock (FKA Slease) co-edits surreal-absurd for Mercurius magazine. His poetry has been translated into Slovak, Danish and Polish. His latest books are: Never Mind the Beasts (Dostoyevsky Wannabe), The Green Monk (Boiler House Press), and Play Yr Kardz Right (Dostoyevsky Wannabe). Find out more at: Never Mind the Beasts