Oyster Boy Review 19  
  Fall 2010
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A Voice All Their Own: Zbigniew Joachimiak's Dreams of Fire

Ricks Carson

Zbigniew Joachimiak's Dreams of Fire: 100 Polish Poems 1970-1989
  Dreams of Fire.
Zbigniew Joachimiak & David Malcolm & Georgia Scott, editor.
Poetry Salzburg, March 2004.
152 pages, $18.50 (paperback).
ISBN: 3901993150.

Dreams of Fire reunites two dignities American literature has forgotten because our civilization has divorced them: despair and joy. These twenty poets have wrested Polish poetry from the Nazis and Soviets, swallowed them whole, and stand vulnerable but resourceful. Americans assume poetry is not history and private lives are confessions. Poles assume their poetry and private lives are essentially history. For them, literature and civilization are still wedded.

Formula: survival = art.

Surrealism dominates these anti-romantic poems, and forget traditional forms and, in most cases, rules of grammar. Poem by poem, a weird rightness confirms this rebuttal of "normal." Such irony saves their harmed reason, as in Anton Pawlak's "Polish Prayer" and Krystyna Lars' "give birth to a knife." Wit can deflect horror in Anna Janko's "Open Letter to a Laboratory Rabbit" and Jozef Baran's "Game."

There's struggle. In "dice," Zbigniew Joachimiak's speaker endlessly throws dice despite always receiving a "lower score;" Krzysztof Lisowski's speaker in "Evening in August" finally unites with a WW II survivor in a "deepening forgetfulness," and "in each other [they see] . . . a hardsurviving."

The results? Consecration: "Keep a sharp look out / for signs of the great dead / reaching out their hands to you" (Pawlak, "Ready?"); devotion: "I come to You Lord / . . . / so I may follow You / into the unknown" (Jan Sochon, "X"); and authority, as in Urszula Benka's "Chronomea": "I wear this strange name like a band on my eyes / it has the power / to blow up destinies."

And hence hope. Here's Piotr Sommer in "Medicine": "I'd like to wrap myself [like a lemon] in the world's thick crust, / I'd like to be bitter, but, finally, tasty—" and Adam Ziemianin in "Prayer for My Age": "Deliver today / from hatred / My heart my eyes / my thoughts." Jan Adamkiewicz's "Departures Poem," the first in the book, overcomes history: "we look over our shoulders" at our "false exposure in masks," which means "maybe / our hearts / exist." Ziemianin's "Meeting," poem #100, seals intimacy:

a spray of jasmine
peeps in the window
and all at once
our glances meet

it's worth living
for moments like that