Recently in Poland Category

looking at things...

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The shutter on the old Praktina did not really want to close. I had to let it find its way again and again and again. Eventually it somehow remembered how to get from right to left. I have let the camera sleep by itself for too long, displayed on a small tripod in a glass case, with the olympic lens attached, waiting to take another shot, for months. Maybe years actually.

There are boxes with film in the refrigerator. And there is a box on my bookshelf in the office as well. The film must be not only expired by now, the seasons must have turned the chemistry on it into a run away reaction.
I dare not to put any of it in the cameras.
Some actually still have the old film in them.

The Praktina was empty. I took off the back and looked at the sleepy cloth shutter.
It eventually got to where it needed to be.
I think it did.
How would I dare to remember what 1/1000 of a second looks like.

I looked through the lens. No matter what the camera was pointed towards, it looked suspiciously like an object from 1954. Somehow the world was a different place in that complicated glass. A grainy world. The ground glass made everything look as if it were a super 8 film; perhaps bad 16mm.
It makes perfect sense that the Leicas from the same period must have felt incredibly bright and clear.

A battery arrived today.
It is such a pathetic symbol of what is about to follow in the mail.

The Praktina would never ask for batteries.
It asked me to shoot with it. Even with no film in it.
It taught me to see the world as a potential picture.
Somewhere in the early 70's when I assembled objects on the table outside of the kitchen, and then shifted focus with the aperture wide open.
Again and again.
And again.

And objects would melt.
Then they would reassemble themselves.
Then melt again.
Soft cloudy objects.

It was brilliant.

Even without film.
The best moments that were never recorded.
Only seen with intense focus.
But I guess that's the way things work sometimes.

One of my favorite little books is one that I am not even sure exists in English, it is by Wislawa Szymborska (we all love her don't we?) and it is called: "Poczta Literacka czyli jak zostac (lub nie zostac) pisarzem" (Literary Mail or how to become (or not to become) a writer)... The cover and many of the illustrations in this little gem are by Andrzej Dudzinski, who lives not very far from here, and to whom I wrote fan postcards when I was maybe 13. The book contains about 140 pages of really incredible rejection. Szymborska used to work for a literary magazine at the very dawn of her literary career, and her job was to write rejection letters to those submitting their poems, short stories and other attempts to get published bit time. (Should I interrupt this post to report that two of my neighbors across broadway just decided to do a variety of things with their naked bodies all in the proximity of their badly frosted bathroom window?) Ahem... so Szymborska's job was to write rejection letters. Had she been a good and efficient worker bee, the book right next to me would probably be the most boring piece of collected memos, or actually not a book at all. But because Szymborska is a blessing to our world and not a curse, these rejection letters are like most stunning and elaborate constantly reshaped gates preventing hundreds of wannabes from entering the literary heaven. Clearly some of the authors were injured in the process, but boy... at least they were kicked off the ladder by a foot belonging to someone who later accepted the nobel prize and for many good reasons. (If you think my neighbors stopped, you are mistaken.) Imagine sending in a poem in hopes of becoming a great literary star and receiving the following answer after a little while (and please forgive my rough translations, I am clearly not a master here...) Dear Marlon (oh yes, your name would be Marlon), not everybody who can draw a sitting kitten, a little house with smoke coming out of its chimney and a face assembled from a circle, two dashes and two dots is going to become a great painter. Your poems currently are, dear Marlon, in a state similar to the just described drawings. Keep writing, think about poetry, read poetry, but also consider gaining some experience in a field completely independent of your need to guard the muses. The muses are hysterical, as we know, and you can't count on those who are. Okay, I got a bit lost in translation on that last sentence... This one on the other hand is pretty clear: "How to become a writer?", you are asking a very problematic question, dear... . Very much like the little boy who asked his mother to explain to him how children were made. After hearing his mother's answer that she would explain it later because she was too busy, the boy insisted:"So at least explain to me how to make the head." Oh well, let's try to at least explain how to make the head: One needs to start with a tiny bit of talent. Or "In case you decide to publish the attached poems, I would like to take on the pseudonym of 'Consuela Montero'. Thank you." – You really arranged this one quite beautifully in your thirteen year old head. I wonder if a Spanish weekly received a similar letter, from a real Consuela Montero who requested to have her poems printed under the egotistic pseudonym of Marysia Nowakówna. [the real name of the Polish writer.] Now this would be a fantastic cultural exchange, wouldn't it be? It is a bit early for a publication. May both girls work a little more and show a tiny bit of more patience. Imagine page after page of these... The rejection letters are a reminded that even some of the less attractive seeming jobs can still contain potential for greatness. I know that the ones I sampled here appear incredibly mean and saturated with a certain Schadenfreude, but the overall tone of the book is more one of serious understanding of the matter, there is a positive, hopeful undercurrent; and also resistance to an onslaught of bad writing, of course. Imagine young Szymborska reading one horrible manuscript after the next. Some of those whom she rejected seemingly did not like to take no for an answer. Certain ambitious scribes wrote her back, often in anger of course. Szymborska's replies to them also sound like words softly whispered, right underneath that giant stick. From time to time even Szymborska had to give up and call other authors for help, even if only by quoting them. One of the submitted texts must have tried to chew on a much too large piece of a much too giant problem. When rejected, the writer must have complained that writing about the little things were somehow boring and not really interesting. And this is when Szymborska decided to quote Rilke. He apparently would recommend that young and maybe not so experienced writers try to focus on tiny things, maybe those surrounding them. "If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty." Now this is a very depressing one to read on a day when things somehow appear less exciting than usual... Enough with this post. I will now just publish it, and continue with work. Though I much rather would be sleeping. ; )

bloody who?


Dzien Dobry, yes, I was born in Poland. I think I might be pretty Polish. (Though I do feel like native American at times, and sometimes like a little a snow monkey.) Do I keep mentioning that I am Polish? Or does it simply radiate through my writing style? You know that Poland has this amazing energy somehow that just glows through sites like Eeksy-Peeksy.
So, I was linked to by a site called... bloodypolaks. You can imagine my rage when I clicked on that link? And what happened then? Not much. The site does not seem to show much when viewed on a Safari. I came back as an Internet Explorer and saw that the site is run by a Polish guy who is actually “promoting polish existence on internet”, and that rawks. (= rocks = is a good thing.)
Some of the sites he linked to are quite unusual... pregnantki (the Pregnants. Or the documentary of three pregnant photographers by a non pregnant photographer. All children, all sons are now born.) But some of the other Polish links are pretty diverse to say the least. Happy clicking.
One of my favorite links is the one to Internetowe Muzeum Polski Ludowej (The Internet Museum of The People’s Republic os Poland,) which is a bare bone collection of artifacts from the time of the cold war and Solidarnosc and such.
Some of the gems of the collection are definitely the coupons for sugar (2 pounds/family/month/if you are lucky to find it), or a combo card for Sugar, Soap, Detergent and some special item... (really). Or how about this beauty, for meat, smoked meat and beef. You can also listen to snippets of the underground broadcast of Radio Solidarnosc. This is the original sound quality so be warned. Actually, the sound quality is not so bad compared to the western propaganda radio stations that had to fight their way through the airwaves on frequencies crowded by cover up national broadcasts. I wonder why I do not remember tik-tak and his little world. I guess I was too old for all this cute stuff in 1981. Strzalka.

Looking at Havana.

There were these other things I was supposed to finish right now, but what do I do? I read, the fantastic blog of one of the founders of movabletype.
Mena G. Trott describes how she used to be "The Queen of the Mountain" when she was little. She lived in a place with a garden that had a little hill. (Read it. It is quite fun... actually... I might be ale to permalink to this one... here Those of you who know me, will know that I spent large portions of my childhood on the 8th floor of a large apartment complex in a city called Jastrzebie Zdrój, in Poland. I had a beautiful view out of my room. We were on the 8th floor, (European 8th floor, would make it the 9th in the US) but right in front of our house was this huge valley, filled with mud and dirt and freshly planted trees. Jastrzebie was a very young 100,000 soul city at that time and the houses were built and inhabited before there were any streets to lead to them. (See this blog). Across the valley was a large shopping center. Maybe it was not really large, but it felt large because I was a little kid. And because it was the 70’s in Poland, there were bright neon s on the shopping center. The s belonged to a club, but we just called the whole complex what the club was called (Wow, bad English). It was called Havana. Nobody in their right mind would call a shopping center Havana in the States. But in Poland, on the other side of the iron curtain, it felt like this superbly exclusive destination. Havana is certainly beautiful. The Havana I was looking at as a child was probably not beautiful. I do not even know if Havana still exists in Jastrzebie. A search for Havana and Jastrzebie actually returns 2.5 results in Google. (Now it will be 3, I guess). None of the results is actually from the city of Jastzebie Zdrój. (The city is misspelled in the National Geographic Atlas of the World I have here.)

Have you ever been to Poland? (Movabletype understands Polish!) Have you ever been to Havana?... (The real one, in Cuba, or the one in Jastrzebie Zdrój?)

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Poland category.

Photography is the previous category.

San Francisco is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 4.25