I discovered the poetry of Tadeusz Różewicz through a friend, a homeless Polish man I met when I was working as an editor for a Dutch magazine made to be sold by homeless people, a man with whom I exchanged several items representing our cultural values and identity. I gave him a cd with Bach’s cello suites performed by the Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey for example, and I received his volume of the best of Różewicz in return. To my Polish friend the Różewicz poems expressed everything the Polish suffered from way before The War and ever after and never recovered from.
I read the poems many times before I started to draw them, in an attempt to design a visual answer to the horrors of immorality the poet verbalizes: a close examination of the objects Różewicz uses verbally to evoke his nightmares and silence them at the same time. Without any pretense to propose a poetic theory, I would like to state that the power of his poetry lies within the concreteness of the objects. Reading between the lines does not seem required, everything, every object mentioned has been actually there, present in his past, a memory still alive and kicking in his nightmares, recollected. I will learn in time to put these matters into words better, meanwhile I intend to draw every poem I can find that is translated in Dutch or English, and develop a system of deduction, trying to translate the ordinary scenes into more ordinary things on paper, drawing them and drawing them again, and again. Maybe this process of drawing is a manner of coping with the very otherness of another person, relating to him through his work as many other people have done, and still are doing (as we speak).
But why him? Why not ‘draw’ an American poet like Walt Whitman or the Dutch poet Hendrik Marsman? I strongly belief in finding works of art through the introduction by other people, say by chance or by an opportunity born from a predesigned situation, some kind of self instruction. Somehow certain writers or artist have entered my life, casting a shadow over everything I make, forcing me to revere their spirit.
Drawing Różewicz is a concrete kind of close reading, book in one hand, pencil in the other, trying to contribute to the translations, taking another one of his books from the shelf, knowing that it takes more than a million thoughts, symbols, objects and projects to counterweight the importance of being a gifted witness of a wicked war. Różewicz says in the poem In the middle of life: ‘The value of life surpasses the value of all objects which man has made.’ I believe this line just says it all.
Meanwhile it occurs to me that it may be about time that Różewicz has to learn about his impact on an important part of my artistic life since I am not only drawing his ideas out on paper, I am also writing about him within the context of a work of fiction. In my novel White Flag one of the protagonists wears the same name, and is struggling with the unimportance of her own life.