The Ascendant by Maria Zajkowski, Puncher and Wattmann 2015, was launched by MTC Cronin at The Brett Whitley Studio, Sydney, on March 22 2015.
Most of us writers have to ask someone if they will write our back cover blurbs or launch our books. Further, we are often turned down. I am privileged to say that I offered to do these two things for Maria Zajkowski’s first book – The Ascendant. My first go for the cover comment I sent in an email to Maria: ‘I like this poetry better than mine!’ MTC Cronin. And I do! Maria’s work is miraculous. But it was then I realized I needed a great poet to give me a hand so I called Peter Boyle and we wrote our commendation together. It reads:
Zajkowski’s writing has that kind of imaginative rightness that tells us something essential about ourselves and reads like something no one has ever said before. Imbued with human vulnerability, mystery, wonder and awe, the poems testify to a largeness of vision about what poetry can be and what a poet can accomplish. If it is possible that sometimes the soul just ‘appears’, then it has done so in this fine collection.
An extract from ‘This is Not the Silence I Imagined’
the floor of the hall of the house where you lay
hands in my head and a head my hands
the small rescue I can’t decide if I performed
for you the house remains what we thought
half of the truth is gone as always
like the soul’s evaporations
the immeasurable so precise tonight
your old shape takes up all that nothing
shaving light from the proof
the soundtrack plays down
you were a body
you were it
These words are both ‘soul-koans’ and clues for the soul. They contain all the contradictions of our ‘philosophies’ about ‘life’ that we suspect we are forced to live, for example, ‘you were a body / you were it’, but the existence of the poem again contradicts, that is, ‘the poem is not simply it’. There is always more and there is always a mind and a desire and an emotion that tugs away in us at the corners of every received dogma or belief – even at those we think we have come up with ourselves.
The poet, Ekaterina Yossifova, said ‘the reason of all reasons is sentiment’. Maria’s poems are saying that: There is the body. There is death. But we do not ‘know’ the body and we can’t ‘do’ death. No amount of logic, of examination of cause and effect, no studies of chemistry or religion, none of our attempts to control our feelings, can adequately approach an individual experience of an actual life. This is what we are left with. Each and every one of us. And our responsibility in this yawning aloneness is the hard labour of understanding what it means to move beyond, to rise above, the self.
This is Maria’s ‘Bison Grass’
The time ran through
your hands like a gold snake
and you said it as though
you’d drunk it head first.
What followed is the way
you now writhe and writhe
with the memory of that
sun-wet day in your eyes,
through your words it is pouring
one hundred per cent proof
that you had a god out in that field,
you had found yourself
walking on water,
bobbing above a timeless current
in a river of bison grass.
Transcendence – it’s not about me. That is what love is and poetry is the part of love you can see. It is the only place where beauty cannot be buried. But love isn’t easy. Not because love is not easy – it is the simplest thing in the world and out of it – it isn’t easy because we are incompetent practitioners of it. For this reason, Maria’s poems are not easy. You will find no satisfying metaphors here, no little lessons you can gratefully take on board, no nicely turned phrases that will illuminate a certain take on life, no grooming or concessions that will allow you to take the work so that it can be easily swallowed.
In ‘Is Nothing is Death’ she says:
….faith in numbers (which are stone)
strikes from the sky
everything comes when it rains
every thing is upheld by mud
and the love we make with progress
The gift we are being offered is the realization of the value of work. Any one of us who has truly worked hard, who has sweated and tried and reached in order to make something of real ‘use’, something with a greater purpose than serving self-interest, will know how truly right and unquestionable that is. Maria’s work has that greatness.
i have been buried turning away
because you haven’t understood
to draw inside this tomb
is the only life to make
This is the gauntlet thrown. This is what we want. More than that, what we need. Fuck entertainment. Viva la challenge!!
As Maria urges in ‘A Compass After Life’:
enter the ringing meadow
the far sun pretends
lying in the joke that breathes
past thought’s prison
the small sound of a world
leaving your mouth
its colour turning back
into the death you made
enter again a life
or keep the flower you lost
It’s your choice. But I would buy this book.
– MTC Cronin
MTC Cronin has published twenty books which include poetry, prose poems and essays. Her latest book, The Law of Poetry, has just been published by Puncher and Wattmann (https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2015/04/22/complex-provocative-thoughtful-peter-boyle-launches-the-law-of-poetry-by-mtc-cronin/).
TheAscendant is available from https://puncherandwattmann.com/books/book/the-ascendant. Maria Zajkowski can be found at http://mariazajkowski.com/