In December 1970, amid a harsh winter and an even harsher economic situation, the ruling communist regime in Poland chose to drastically raise prices on basic foodstuffs. Just before the Christmas holidays, for example, the price of fish, a staple of the traditional Christmas Eve meal, rose nearly 20%. Frustrated citizens took to the streets to protest, demanding the repeal of the price-hikes. Things took an especially dramatic turn in the northern regions near the Baltic shore — later, the cradle of the Solidarity movement, which would eventually spark the fall of communism in Poland and throughout Central and Eastern Europe — where the government moved against their citizens with the Militia and the Army. Forty-one Poles were murdered by their own government when militiamen and soldiers opened fire with live rounds on the crowds in Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg. Jan Polkowski’s moving poetic cycle Głosy (Voices), presented here in its entirety in the English translation of C.S. Kraszewski, is a poetic monument to the dead, their families, and all who were affected by the “December Events,” as they are sometimes euphemistically referred to. In his afterword to the collection, “Jan Polkowski’s Voices — The Antigones of the Baltic Coast,” Józef Maria Ruszar notes that this work, in which Polkowski, as something of a medium, “enters the skin” of the dead, the survivors, and their families to “speak from within his narrators,” is something which “has no counterpart in the literature of Poland — or even that of the world.” In its moving, subtle, yet powerful tribute to those who paid the highest price for the ultimate victory of right over wrong, liberty over oppression, Jan Polkowski’s Voices takes its rightful place alongside other immortal artistic threnodies, such as Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, and Henry Górecki’s Symphony III.
About the Aurthor:
Jan Polkowski (born 1953) is a poet and a prose writer. During the Communist years, he worked as a publisher and editor in the Polish underground press system. After Poland’s regaining of independence in 1989, he was publisher and editor of the newspaper The Kraków Times. As a poet, Polkowski debuted in 1978 with several poems in the uncensored literary quarterly, Zapis (The Record). His first volume, To nie jest poezja (This is not Poetry), was printed two years later, in 1980, by NOWA Independent Publishers, which makes him the only Polish poet to have debuted in the underground press system. His subsequent volumes were also printed by independent publishers. Polkowski was interned at the imposition of martial law on 13 December 1981. Upon his release from prison in 1983, he went on to serve as editor of the underground social and literary magazine, The Ark. In the same year, he won one of the most prestigious Polish literary prizes — the Geneva-based Kościelski Foundation Award. His first legally published volume, Elegie z Tymowskich Gór (Elegies from the Tymowskie Mountains), came out in 1990 and contained a selection of pieces that had already appeared in print, as well as previously unpublished poems from the early period of his career.
Several years of publishing silence ensued, after which Polkowski finally made his literary comeback in 2009 with Cantus, which volume won the Andrzej Kijowski Prize in 2010. He followed this up with two more collections: Cień [Shadow (2010)] and Głosy [Voices (2012)]. This latter publication won him the “Orpheus” Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński Award for Poetry. In 2015, Polkowski published Gorzka godzina (The Bitter Hour?), consisting of poems written in the village of Tymowa, where he had settled not long before. Another collection, Gdy Bóg się waha. Poezje 1977-2017 (When God Wavers. Poems 1977-2017), came out in 2017, after which several more books followed in quick succession. In 2013, Polkowski debuted as a novelist with Ślady krwi. Przypadki Henryka Harsynowicza (Bloodstains. The Trials of Henryk Harsynowicz), which won the Identitas Award in 2014. A collection of his short prose pieces, Portier i inne opowiadania (The Janitor and Other Stories), was published in 2019, followed, a year later by a volume of daily reflections entitled, Pandemia i inne plagi (The Pandemic and Other Plagues).
About the Translator:
Charles S. Kraszewski is a poet and translator, creative in both English and Polish. He is the author of three volumes of original verse in English (Diet of Nails; Beast; Chanameed), and one in Polish (Hallo, Sztokholm). He translates from Polish, Czech and Slovak into English, and from English and Spanish into Polish. He is a member of the Union of Polish Writers Abroad (London) and of the Association of Polish Writers (SPP, Kraków).
Review copies are available upon request.
Title: Głosy / Voices
Author: Jan Polkowski
Translator: Charles S. Kraszewski
Publisher: Glagoslav Publications
Photographer: Maria Gąsecka
ISBN: 9781914337345, 9781914337352, 9781914337369
Extent: 93 pages
Price: €18.99 (PB), €22.99 (HB), €9.95 (e-book)
Format: paperback, hardback, e-book