Piotr Florczyks From the annals of Krakow (Lynx House Press, 2020) tells the searing realization of an almost unnoticed absence, a regret that urges us to learn what we missed. This, his second full-length volume of English poetry, shows that the shadow of the Holocaust continues to touch generations born in the late decades of the 20th century. In his case, a desire to learn how his Jewish neighbors lived and what happened to them merged with his desire to honor the memory of his grandparents who were slave laborers during World War II. So his poems are a “song. . . Certificate of authenticity. “In response to the deniers, they go beyond sadness and anger according to memory. Orchestrated by palimpsests, they form a complex one lieu de mémoire and a multi-layered narrative for the Holocaust victims in Krakow. We hear the testimony of the victims, Florczyk’s reaction to them and the information from his Holocaust guide. We are with him at the USC Shoah Foundation, where he collected testimonies, during his visits to the Krakow Ghetto and the surrounding camps, as well as to memorials nearby. About the squares on which Jews lived and died, he writes: “Back then, the square was not a blank page / or the proverbial revision / but a font / placed on another font – like / so – where / the present meets that, what was and could have been. “
Who speaks words so terrible that capturing / releasing emotion reduces their voice to a whisper? Only a common voice can pronounce words that come from listening, or words that “belong to me as soon as I let go of them”. Florczyk books the main part of the volume (the prologue and thirty-four poems from “From the Annals of Cracow” and the six poems from the Coda) with a double questioning about his journey (“Lieu de mémoire” and “Second language”). ). He asks us to read the book backwards and examine the roots of his urgency to remember: exile (Chopin’s “burial heart” kept in the Warsaw Church of the Holy Cross), disappearance (rain erasing our initials) and the inability to “keep the world from falling apart.”
Florczyk uses mathematical precision to depict the dehumanization of the victims.
Florczyk uses mathematical precision to depict the dehumanization of the victims. The numbered poems of “The Annals of Cracow” have no title. Four of them are empty. Three of them are made up of seemingly random lists: twenty years, twenty days / months, and fifty-six names. A poem about railroad trains is presented as a simple but deadly math problem. The frightening Holocaust narrative is connected with equally chilling memory and memory facts: the superficial understanding of Holocaust tourists or the disappearance of an airfield built by slave labor under “intervening apartment blocks”. The six numbered and unnamed poems of the coda offer reflection and form a counterpoint to the internal memory of “From the Annals of Cracow”. This is the end of the journey in the forest, where the stone markings on an obelisk are slowly disappearing.
Florczyk writes in both Polish and English. His volumes are widely distributed and include a scrapbook. Barefoot; a volume with short essays and black and white photographs, LA sketchbook; and two volumes of poetry, East West (2016) and Dwa tysiące słów (2019). He is also a translator, academic and co-founder of a small press called Textshop Editions. His translation by Anna Świrszczyńska Build a barricade received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award in 2017.
University of Tennessee Martin