Marcin Baran

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  • photo by Krzysztof Dubiel

Born in Kraków in 1963, he read Polish at the Jagiellonian University and since the 1980s has been associated with the alternative bruLion group. A poet, essayist and showman, he is a master of public appearances who comes into his own before a large audience. He has won the appreciation of critics and readers (including a NIKE award nomination). He lives in Kraków, and works in Warsaw as one of the editors of arts section of the weekly Przekrój [Review]. His debut collection of poetry, Mix-up, is firmly rooted in the achievements of his poetic predecessors from the New Wave generation. His next collection, Sosnowiec is Like a Woman, brings a disbelief in the power of poetic performance that is symptomatic of the contemporary poet: “A wound that’s dressed in words is no less painful,” says Baran. The reality depicted in his early poems is deliberately unappealing, coated in a film of dust and sorrow, in which it is not hard to identify the strong influence of “martial law poetry”. More typical of Baran’s work are his next few publications, including the short collections Amorous Interventions and Contradictory Extracts, and the anthology The Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Raymond Chandler, which he co-edited with his friends Marcin Sendecki and Marcin Świetlicki. For the poets of the bruLion generation Chandler has a special value; he is the half ironical, half serious embodiment of masculine virtues, rugged language, bitter feelings and disappointment at adulthood. For Baran himself two aspects of human life have fundamental significance, mortality and sexuality, as the title of his next collection, Thanero, tells us. The poet “would like” to be a life-exploiting sybarite, but omnipresent Thanatos won’t let him. “I was born to die”, we read in one of the poems. Likewise he is also prevented from devoting his life to metaphysical debate (or at least to his peaceful existence as the father of a family) by Eros, whose very varied incarnations Baran presents with great skill. “Women and men go by, but mainly I notice the women”, he does not hesitate to admit. It is this dilemma that gives his poems all their drama, for apart from that they are constructed in a very classical way, without any extravagance in terms of language or depiction. His next book, Lyrical Prozac, does bring some diversity in terms of structure, because it is a collection of lyrics in prose that do not steer clear of the grotesque, but apart from that it does not add much to Baran’s output; rather, it is evidence of a creativity crisis. His tendency to explore new structures is also born out by the separately published long poem, God Only Knows, which includes stories, aphorisms, dramatic dialogues and interludes of an encyclopaedic nature. In Baran’s new poems we see a return to his old interests, descriptions of “some women of the world” appear alongside the dilemmas of a man who combines deep, traditional religious faith with an equally deep love of number games. The great calm and simplicity with which Baran expresses his thoughts and impressions make his poetry ideal material for translators, who are often discouraged by over-complicated metaphors and syntax.

Bibliography

  • Pomieszanie, Kraków: Oficyna Literacka, 1990.
  • Sosnowiec jest jak kobieta, Kraków-Warszawa: bruLion, 1992.
  • Zabiegi miłosne, Kraków: Baran i Suszczyński, 1996.
  • Sprzeczne fragmenty, Poznań: a5, 1996.
  • Długie pożegnanie. Tribute to Raymond Chandler, Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka, 1997.
  • Tanero, Kraków: Oficyna Literacka, 1998.
  • Prozak liryczny, Kraków: WL, 1999.
  • Bóg raczy wiedzieć, Kraków: Zebra, 2000.
  • Destylat, Kraków: Zielona Sowa, 2001.
  • Gnijąca wisienka, Kraków: a5, 2003.
  • Mistyka i zmysły (zbiór wierszy), Kraków: Austeria, 2008.
  • Niemal całkowita utrata płynności, Kraków: EMG, 2012.
  • Zebrane, Kraków: EMG, 2013.

Translations:

Czech:

  • Individual poems issued in an anthology, "Biale propasti", Skalice nad Suitavou: Host/Weles, 1997.

English:

  • Sosnowiec is Like a Woman, St Andrews: Verse, University of St Andrews, 1993.

French:

  • Poésie [sel. by Karl Dedecius], Paris: Éd. Noir sur Blanc, 2000.

German:

  • in an anthology, "Das Unsichtbare Lieben, neue Polnische Lirik", Cologne: Kristen Gutke Verlag, 1998.

Slovak:

  • Individual poems in an anthology: Out of record, Banská Bystrica: Drewo a Srd, 2000

Slovene:

  • Individual poems in a catalogue of literary encounters entitled "Vilenica '95", 1995.