I'm certainly not qualified to review poetry, so this isn't a review, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to tell you about Lodgings, the latest book published by Open Letter (one of my absolute favorite publishers). We are very lucky to get this opportunity to read Andrezej Sosnowski’s poetry in English. Lodgings in the first book-length collection of Sosnowski’s poetry to be translated into English from the Polish, and translator Benjamin Paloff has done a marvelous job capturing Sosnowski’s dream-like imagery and contrasting tones. This collection includes poems from nine of Sosnowski’s books, spanning more than twenty years of work (1987-2010).
Although I’m not an educated poetry critic, I am a longtime poetry appreciator. I know what I like, and Sosnowski’s poetry definitely qualifies. It’s challenging and often nonsensical on the first reading, but the lush imagery leaves me in a pleasant, rather than an annoying, fog of confusion. In each poem, I usually discover a line or two that really grabs my attention and encourages me to read the poem several times over so as to untangle its meaning. Meaning often shifts from line to line. These poems demand an open-minded and flexible reader.
To give you a sense of Sosnowski’s style (and Paloff’s translation), here are a couple of my favorite lines from two of the poems included in Lodgings.
Yesterday, after the paper, they were giving out a new hymn, actually /
a two-for-one mazurka and dream cake in chocolate sauce /
garnished with candied angelica, and today on the stairs and in the elevator /
the smell of mint chewing gum so that once again like the speech /
bubble in a comic strip it’s going to follow me all day.
From “Life in Korea”:
The intellect dozes a little, /
the senses have their turn, and again I’m seized /
by the lovely things of this world: apples, water, milk, /
purest air. And once you get it, /
that you haven’t earned these or any other /
fifteen minutes, you can have a drink, /
smash your world to pieces, and at long last /
think it over.