Łukasz Jarosz

- Poland -

Łukasz Jarosz (born in 1978) is a percussion player, vocalist and lyricist for bands including Lesers Bend, Chaotic Splutter, Panoptikum and Katil Ferman. He teaches Polish at a primary school and lives in the countryside near Olkusz. His first collection of poetry was Soma, published in 2006, which won first prize in the W. Gombrowicz Young Writers’ Competition. It also won the Young Cultural Foundations prize, one of whose jurors, the poet Bohdan Zadura, said of it: “A collection of muted, unpretentious poems, unobtrusively meditative and moderately narrative, telling an honest story. Here we find sensitivity and an original use of metaphor, authenticity and subtlety. Death, which is there in the background, merely underlines the beauty of the world being described.”

On reading these poems, we submit to the charm of language which we want to enter into again, just as we enter a mantra or a prayer. The phrasing is strikingly evocative. Not all poets are capable of achieving this sort of trademark – it is a feature of the chosen few. But there comes a moment, after the seventh or eighth reading, when the so-called “content” starts to shine through the guiding order of metaphors and the pertinent rhythm of images. And then we can see the battlefield of transitory states which these poems wanted to see and depict. Then come thoughts of maturity and restraint. This example shows that it is good to make your debut later on, once you are standing on a hill, from where you can see your early youth and your broken toys. Jarosz gives us plenty of these sights. His book not only sums up “the era of the heart”, but also tends towards “the stage when the mind is quicker than the heart”. In this briefly arrested time something has been frozen (petrified as in amber) that is a fundamental value: life is glorified in the embrace of death, and beauty amidst rotting corpses and dying worlds.


The critics have stressed the emotional and thematic consistency that push into the foreground themes that are to do with the earth, the home and the body, private life, which is made into a universal, symbolic story. According to the writer and literary critic Inga Iwasiów, the most important feature here is “private life experienced on the quiet, with initiations appropriate to age – into love, sex, breaking up, and the dying of loved ones”. And she adds: “So if I can communicate with these poems (and it’s not about their poetic qualities – one can always communicate with those), by coming out towards the young poet’s experience, if I can live through it as my own, it means that in this muted voice there is exceptional strength”. The reviews of Jarosz’s work have often drawn attention to the unique nature of the view of reality he has developed, to his way of deriving from banality images and ideas that are not at all banal, and “achieving a state of concentration which allows one to feel the pulse of the surrounding world” (Artur Nowaczewski).


Biały tydzień (“White Week”, 2007) brought even greater interest in his work. It was described as “a continuation of the adventures of a character living as if on the margins of the modern world, a devotee of the simplest activities, a pilgrim to places apart, a tireless eulogist of personal and family mythology” (Maciej Robert). Attention was drawn to the economical, focused language, entirely individual and almost magical against the background of the urban jargon predominant in young Polish poetry. The next book, Mimesis (2010), lived up to expectations, and now entirely revealed the poet’s intentions, who said in an interview that he wanted to write for people, to be comprehensible, for it is possible to write simply about the greatest depths, although some mystery always remains. He defined the title poem in the collection as “one of those poems with which I come out to people, without focusing, as I sometimes have done, on myself and my own experiences. Is it in some sense a community poem? I don’t know. Nor do I know if the poet should write that sort of poem, or should get involved in that sort of thing. Or perhaps it’s a religious poem?” The critics willingly took up the religious theme, pointing out the subtlety of the metaphysical references that appear in his descriptions of everyday rituals. As the critic Jarosław Nowosad wrote: “In its most interesting aspects Łukasz Jarosz’s poetry shows connections between things that would seem to be far apart, such as the past and the present day, civilization and nature, everyday actions and the metaphysical (including the sacred). The relationships between major and minor matters, the world as a whole and an individual detail. This is an increasingly successful attempt at realizing William Blake’s demand: ‘to see the world in a grain of sand’. And also the place of a grain of sand within the world.”


The poet Roman Honet presented an interesting interpretation of this poetry in his afterword to Jarosz’s next collection, Spoza (“From Behind”, 2011). In it he placed emphasis on the categories of reliability, authenticity and truth in building a credible world, which one almost instinctively wants to trust. “From among the wealth of erudite approaches offered by contemporary poetry, from among the multitude of intertextual arrangements Łukasz Jarosz has chosen a different variant: realistic description. And he has made it an art form, giving it his own inimitable expression”. This interpretation was expanded by the critic Stanisław Tabisz, reflecting on the poems in Jarosz’s next collection, Wolny ogień (“Free Fire”, 2011). In his view, here the realistic description is always underlined by something disturbing and irrational: “Jarosz as it were falls into a strange existential state of continually and patiently deciphering the world, but though precise and armed with variety, his words come up against the resistance of mystery.”


Jarosz’s sixth book was Pełna krew (“Full Blood”, 2012), which won the Wisława Szymborska prize. The jury for this award stressed the unusual nature of his poetry in the context of the prevailing trends, its submersion in everyday life in a rural setting and in nature, and its reliance on personal experience. “Superb, multidimensional, ambiguous and genuine poetry that speaks in its own voice and enters spheres of reality that are not often visited by modern poetry. This is the world of the countryside, its landscapes and inhabitants and their daily rituals, incisively and affectionately observed by the author”. Jarosz’s most recent book is Świat fizyczny (“The Physical World, 2014). Among the critics already discussing it, it is worth listening to Marian Stala, who says: “This is the poetry of a reliable, genuine order. Its strength lies mainly in an ability to capture slivers of reality (taken from what is seen, touched, remembered or overheard), and then to arrange them into a whole, which at first seems simple, but later starts to darken, take on depth, and refer to some sort of riddle. The world that emerges from these poems initially seems uncomplicated, imbued with distinct emotions, but then turns out to be a world apart as well, one that eludes unambiguous definitions. In the process the poet never loses his sense of the concrete, or his control over the phrasing and the poetic construction.”


by Karol Maliszewski, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones