Born in 1977, Justyna Bargielska is a poet and novelist. In 2001 she won The 3rd Rainer Maria Rilke Poetry Competition, and in 2002 she was awarded a special prize in the Jacek Bierezin Contest. She is twice winner of the Gdynia Literary Prize, in 2010 for her collection of poems Dwa fiaty (Two Fiats) and in 2011 for her short fiction, Obsoletki (“Stillbirthlets”). This book also won her a nomination for the Paszport Polityki, and her poetry collection Bach For My Baby was nominated for the Wrocław Silesius Poetry Award and the Nike Literary Award. Her poetry has been translated into a number of languages, including English and Slovenian.
From her debut poetry collection Dating Sessions (2003) right through to her novel Małe lisy (The Little Foxes, 2013), all of Bargielska’s books have typically featured very blunt, sensual language. A dark, macabre sense of humour is also prevalent in them. They are steeped in surreal landscapes, rather like something from a children’s fairytale. Sensuality, fantasy and absurd humour are the most characteristic features of her poems, and not without reason – Bargielska is interested in various aspects of human physicality and tries to depict them in a variety of complicated situations, involving motherhood, sexuality and death.
The most frequently recurring issue in her writing is the experience of pregnancy and motherhood. In her poetry collection, China Shipping, it engendered an intense game with language, displaying its creative power - one could almost feel the joy of the poetic self as it summoned up a world of proper names. In her subsequent fiction Stillbirthlets, Bargielska faced up to trauma, and revealed the mournful side of motherhood, as she described still births and miscarriages. Two Fiats has also been defined as a melancholy view of loss and emptiness. Bargielska often evokes death and love, contained within the limits of sensual desire, with the help of the little word “touch”.
This brings in another theme in her poetry – sexuality. Bargielska presents her poetic self chiefly from the sexual angle. Her heroine appears to us in the roles of mother, wife or lover. The Little Foxes in particular interlaces fantasies about womanhood which desires beyond the normative constraints of society, and is searching – quite literally – for a murderer from the woods, and womanhood which confirms all the patriarchal rules. The poetry collection Bach For My Baby is like a more lyrical version of the same story. In this book, the events are played out within a love triangle involving a husband, a wife, and a third male person. The romantic rhetoric in Bargielska’s poems often introduces the order of things that cannot be seen. Thus one can also say that this poetry has a sort of religiosity, more or less mystical.
Bargielska interweaves the figures and values of bourgeois, patriarchal and Christian culture. Within this framework she presents the relationship between the female self and the socio-religious order. The woman in these poems is a reflection of male fantasies, as well as an expression of desire for the ungraspable. If there is any difference between them, it comes from differences in her readers’ perspicacity.
- Dating Sessions, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Zielona Sowa, 2003.
- China Shipping, Kielce: kserokopia.art.pl, 2005.
- Dwa fiaty, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2009.
- Bach for my baby, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2012.
- Szybko przez wszystko, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2013.
- Nudelman, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2014.
- Selfie na tle rzepaku, Wrocław, Biuro Literackie, 2016.
- Obsoletki, Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne, 2010.
- Małe lisy, Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne, 2013.
- Kleine Füchse, tłum. Lisa Palmes, Berlin: Klak Verlag, 2014.