Jerzy Jarniewicz

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  • photo by Dominik Figiel

Born in 1958 in Łowicz, Jarniewicz is a poet, translator and literary critic. He lectures on English literature at Łódź and Warsaw Universities. He is an editor at Literatura na Świecie (a magazine) and a regular contributor to Gazeta Wyborcza, Tygodnik Powszechny, and Tygiel Kultury. In 1999, he won an American government scholarship, participating in the International Writers Program in Iowa, and in 2006 he was a writer-in-residence at Farmleigh House, in Dublin. He lives in Łódź.

He made his debut with a volume of poetry called Corridors in 1984. It was not at once evident, however, that this was a poet of spare technique, aiming toward condensation and clear conclusions, often using dazzling paradoxes. It was with his subsequent books that the main issues of his poetry clearly sketched themselves out, and ostensibly central among them is the issue of communication with the world or with another person being made difficult or rendered impossible. This is combined with such dilemmas as the construction of identity in a world where we have a countless number of possibilities, facilitating the existence of the “I” in various forms, and the potential articulation of the self in various languages. A very important thread that appears time and again in Jarniewicz, and which continually returns in his writing, is also reflections on the relationship between the subject, language and non-linguistic reality. He often ponders this triangular relationship using erotic metaphors (“speak to me like we still loved each other: / skating across the surface, / reading the skin with your lips / fragment by fragment” from the poem Jarosław Mikołajewski reviews Agnieszka Kuciak’s Translation in “The Gazette,” from the book Proof from Identity). In effect, this poetry is focused on philosophical issues – historicity, the dialectic of presence and absence created by writing, inexpressibility, the conditions of understanding, the fictions of childhood – yet turns out to be an outstanding combination of humor, ironic barbs and melancholy sorrow, which refuses to subscribe to a single mood or a single rhetorical mode. It is demonstratively inconclusive, powerfully sensual and linguistically restrained.

Jarniewicz’s poems have been translated into many languages, and have appeared in anthologies that include The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry (1999) and Altered State. The New Polish Poetry (2003).

Jarniewicz regularly introduces English literature into the Polish market. His books of literary criticism deal with contemporary British, Irish and American literature, and sketch outstanding portraits of the most important foreign prose writers and poets. He also tries to draw attention to those who are lesser known in Poland, such as the poets from Wales and Scotland. His work fulfills an educational function, making up for many-year gaps in knowledge of the latest names in world literature. Similarly, in the collection of sketches entitled In the Belly of the Whale (2001) he presents the giants of 20th-century poetry: Yeats, Eliot, and Auden, and places lesser-known figures alongside them: Derek Mahon, Craig Raine, Ciaran Carson, and others. In speaking of the annals of poetry on the “Isles”, he also speaks of the feeling of local identity and the dominant “Britishness” of England. In his Larkin. Putting an Ear to Poetry (2006), a monograph devoted to British poet Philip Larkin, he creates a convincing vision of an author who, while attempting to shed all illusions of happiness, is conscious of falling into the trap of demystification and disillusion. His critical interests go beyond poetry; in The List of Absence (2000) and Trademark (2007), he comments on prose written in English.

As a translator, he has published over twenty books by such authors as James Joyce, Philip Roth, Umberto Eco, Edmund White, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Craig Raine, and Simon Armitage.

 

Bibliography

Poetry:

  • Korytarze, Łódź: Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1984
  • Rzeczy oczywistość, Łódź: Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1991
  • Rozmowa będzie możliwa, Łódź: "Biblioteka", 1993
  • Są rzeczy których nie ma, Łódź: "Biblioteka", 1995
  • Niepoznaki, Legnica: Biuro Literackie Port Legnica, 2000
  • Po śladach: wybór wierszy, Łódź: "Biblioteka", 2000
  • Dowód z tożsamości, Legnica: Biuro Literackie Port Legnica, 2003
  • Oranżada, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2005
  • Skądinąd, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2007
  • Makijaż, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2009
  • Na dzień dzisiejszy i chwilę obecną, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2012.
  • Woda na Marsie, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2015.

Essays:

  • The Uses of the commonplace in contemporary British poetry - Larkin, Dunn and Raine, Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 1994
  • Lista obecności: szkice o dwudziestowiecznej prozie brytyjskiej i irlandzkiej, Poznań: DW Rebis, 2000
  • The bottomless centre: the uses of history in the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 2002
  • W brzuchu wieloryba: szkice o dwudziestowiecznej poezji brytyjskiej i irlandzkiej, Poznań: DW Rebis, 2001
  • Larkin: odsłuchiwanie wierszy, Kraków: SIW Znak, 2006
  • Znaki firmowe. Szkice o współczesnej prozie amerykańskiej i kanadyjskiej, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2007.
  • Od pieśni do skowytu. Szkice o poetach amerykańskich, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2008
  • Heaney. Wiersze pod dotyk, Kraków: Znak, 2011
  • Gościnność słowa. Szkice o przekładzie literackim, Kraków: Znak, 2012
  • Podsłuchy i podglądy, Mikołów: Instytut Mikołowski, 2015