Adam Pluszka

Poland

Adam Pluszka (b. 1976) – poet, author, film and literature critic. Author of few volumes of poems (z prawa z lewa, Zwroty, Trip, French love) and prose (Łapu capu, Flauta). In 2003 he was nominated to „Paszport POLITYKI” Prize, and in 2015 – for his collection of poems Zestaw do besztań – to Silesius Poetry Prize and Gdynia Literary Prize. Lives in Warsaw.


Adam Pluszka was born in Zabrze in 1976. He is a poet, prose writer and translator as well as a film and literary critic. He currently works as editor for the ‘Marginesy’ publishing house. In 1998 he received the Rafał Wojaczek Award and the Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński Award the following year, which resulted in the publication of his volume z prawa z lewa [From Right From Left]. Nominated by Henryk Bereza for the Polityka Passport Award. Winner of the Second Tychy Poetry Winter (2002), which led to the publication of the volume Zwroty.

Critics have described Pluszka’s poetic beginnings as ludic and in-group, while drawing attention to the wealth of detail concerning literary life in Silesia, and the facts and news from young literary circles evident in the poems. Pluszka often returned to memories of childhood in order to relive its rituals - school, class, neighbourhood friends, a stay at a summer camp, digressions on his granddad’s favourite foal, or fantasies on subjects suggested by sepia photographs. All these images have been juxtaposed against the shadow of deaths, funerals, and stately patriarchal deaths affirmed by family tradition. Illnesses, health centres, hospitals, and hospital visits celebrated with plum compote in a plastic bag. The lessons the hero learned through numerous wakes, and his participation in them, have not gone to waste. There is no lamentation in these poems but rather, apart from stoicism, mockery, rippling idiom, cheerfulness and emphasis on the ridiculousness of tragedy. Pluszka is incredible in his metaphysical fluency, in the lightness of a desperate individual able to mock poetry in general (life and death as a whole, and the fullest gamut of exultations imaginable) and its stuntman stance in particular. I have written about his earlier volumes, pointing to the paradigmatic nature of the figure behind those poems: “A 21st-century penman, slightly narcissistic (with the various combinations of mirrors evoked with coquettish self-consciousness), at times “voyeuristic” (in the perfectly captured dialectic of the relationship between the observer and the observed), a pastel-coloured cynic playing along the lines of ‘a good boy receives a shock and nothing happens to him and now he’s bravely penning this poem’. A touch of the author of descriptive and in-group lyrical verse, where an important role is played by generational flavours and argots, whether Silesian, literary-party, or now even literary-internet in character. At times a bard of the home and of the hallway: his hero is still a bachelor, more than one scenario of poetic events is set against the walls of a warm home, the walls of his own room where, at times, he feels unwanted, like a broken Furby.”  

If in his debut book he seemed somewhat immersed in the Silesian tradition of realistic poetic reportage and was closer to Siwczyk, Melecki or Podgórnik, then in his second, Zwroty (in Polish: turns / phrases / forms of address), he comes across as a parodist who owes a great deal to the poetics of Wiedemann, Foks or Jaworski. The ambiguous title might be understood as “addressing the recipient”, with its many references to the aforementioned poetics or specific poems by the aforementioned authors. The title can also be explained in terms of “phrasemes”, as Pluszka’s poems are filled with living speech absorbingly intertwined within a given situation and endowed with all the benefits of its diverse fixed phrases. All the same, who knows if the most important thing is not just the direct manner used to address the many genuine figures, often well-known literary names, with whom the poet is familiar. The kaleidoscope of surnames, first names, nicknames and quotations all creates the atmosphere of a curious poetic bazaar, a kind of village fair of poetry, a folklore of in-group codes and mores. Pluszka’s poem may be spatially structured, based on the diversely employed stylistics of in-group jargon: deftly used fragments of others’ utterances overlap, giving way to a new context and interesting, albeit extremely general, semantic shades. All this is done under the slogan “All phrases are ours” and I just use them, stick them together and join them to create piquant, witty or derisive text collages. This results in poems which are kind of letters to friends and acquaintances, neighbours or family, which seem to be a well-conceived and sublime means of providing an answer to real life situations and conversations. This very private poetic practice goes hand in hand with the masterful use of the idioms of fashionable poetic speech and results in something of a mocking game, a parodic grand ice show. Here simultaneity is merely an expression of this strategy. Because the represented world is characterised by glimmer and an overabundance of themes, references and allusions. The hero, assaulted by information, gossip, news or reports, tries to focus his statements around permanent reference points. As I have already said, these are often events or incidents from peer literary life, and facts or experiences connected with poet friends. In some way this dictates his inner life, brings order to stylistic distraction and places him within the framework of a peer group.

Subsequent volumes give rise to themes connected with the gradual departure from the group: escape, journey, relocation or break-up. While the “dramatic poem” entitled “Siedem narzeczonych dla siódmego brata” [“Seven Brides for the Seventh Brother”] might have seemed a continuation of the “jest and mockery” strategy, then the volumes Trip (2005) and French Love (2006) signal a shift to other positions. Ludicity does not cease to be important but the carefree comicality is pushed to a further plane. The “game”, in the widest sense of the word, has begun to occupy an increasingly wide expanse of our present time and simultaneously to relate to the multiple varieties of language with which we describe it. Tomasz Charnas writes that French Love is “a palimpsest stripped of foreign texture” and the lyrical I in the poems “strives to experience metaphysics in a polemical amble through French incarnations of postmodernism, which is steeped in discursive thinking”.

After a break of several years writing prose and translating, Pluszka returned to poetry in 2014 with a new volume Zestaw do besztań [Scolding Kit] well received by critics and readers alike, and a year later was nominated for the Gdynia Literary Prize and the Wrocław Silesius Poetry Award.

 

Karol Maliszewski

translated by Magda Moran, Sean Moran