Katarzyna Zechenter

Katarzyna Zechenter Poems

I don't know where Gombe is,
no one knows where Gombe is
but now, one can easily check,
Tanzania - that's far away,

Between the high wall
and the road
with six lines of traffic
on a scrap of dried out soil

Katarzyna Zechenter Biography

Katarzyna Zechenter is an award-winning poet whose poems regularly appear in major literary journals in Poland (Zeszyty Literackie, Kultura (paryska) , Tygodnik Powszechny, Przekrój, Pamietnik Literacki, Odra, Poezja Dzisiaj, Krakow, Dekada Krakowska, Czas Literatury) ; and also in the USA (Christian Science Monitor) ; India (The Bangalore Review) ; and in Bhutan (Tashi Delek) . Her last volume of poetry, 'There and Here' (Tam i tutaj: Poznan 2019) was nominated for the 'Orfeusz Literary Prize' in 2019, and won The 2019 Best Book Award of the Union of Polish Writers Abroad. Critics emphasize that, in her poetry, Zechenter addresses the issue of how continuous change makes life complex. She employs paradoxes, contradictions, and negations to focus on death, both human and animal, and on the demise of objects or ideas. Although her poems often single out an individual - such as the Soviet officer who prevented nuclear war in 1983 - they highlight the collective. Critics call her poetry 'inspirational' in its intellectual focus on modern issues: the destruction of the planet, and the results of global warming. They value Zechenter's simple yet sophisticated language with its irony and underlying humour. Zechenter is an Associate Professor at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL, specialising in Polish contemporary literature, the history of ideas, and, in particular, suffering and cultural trauma in Polish culture. She is the author of the first English language monograph of Tadeusz Konwicki ('The Fiction of Tadeusz Konwicki') , and the editor of a highly popular book on bilingualism ('Bilingual and Bicultural': Speaking Polish in North America) that ran to three editions.)

The Best Poem Of Katarzyna Zechenter

The First Civil War In Gombe 1974-1978

I don't know where Gombe is,
no one knows where Gombe is
but now, one can easily check,
Tanzania - that's far away,
far, far away

yet war is war,
we all know what's going on here
especially the fight for more land
and, of course, Lebensraum

in Gombe
a separatist group Kahama
lost everything it was fighting for
no one survived:
a story as old as the world
and equally boring

the names of the leaders are known
as are the names of all who were slain
(this in itself a historical rarity)
as are the names of those who were enslaved
before they were mercilessly murdered

acts of cannibalism by the victorious clan, Kasakela,
carefully described, in great detail

the only observer of this war, a woman,
she would recall, for years
the haunting images of drinking blood
from the enemies' wounds
a bestial attack on the body, long dead,
of one of the defenders
for the defence endures "and will endure to the end"
(so says the poet)

half a century has passed
I no longer know what's happening in Gombe
(well, how can one worry about
all these wars, all the time?)

the first chimpanzee civil war
about which the world has learned
thanks to Jane Goodall,
it's an old story
and completely insignificant

still, I don't understand
were these chimps so human
or are we such animals

translation from Polish: K. Zechenter

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