“I always wanted to write and started early, even before I was actually literate. At one point, I thought I’d be writing short stories, but poetry somehow claimed me and it ain’t letting go! I think my Polish surname with both a z and an ę in it has made a big difference. People baulk at it, commenting constantly wherever I go in the UK and every time I meet someone for the first time. If not for my name, I’d pass for English as I lost my accent early on. Not only does hardly anyone introducing me at poetry events ever pronounce it even half-right, but on a deeper level I think it does create a barrier of sorts.”
“I went to university and barely studied, just scraped through. I fought professionally during that time and that was my life. I was in a pretty bad car crash and that lost a lot of money and time, and after having to do some heartless jobs to make things meet I went travelling again. That was a long, lonely trip and I happened, by pure chance, to take with me some books I bought in a charity shop while waiting for a train, Penguin’s modern European poets Gunnar Ekelof and Tadeusz Rozewicz. It changed my life, I had nothing else to do but read them, over and over. My beginnings in poetry were always translated!”
“I studied comparative religion, but I am not a spiritual person at all. A mystic, very much, but the idea of lecturing anybody about this or that, well, regardless of what ghosts or fairytales you believe in, is a recipe for awful art. I think we live in a very moral age, compared to the past, an age ruled by legislation and legal frameworks, but we are all too often too stupid to make the laws work for us. Hence blood has to flow.”
discussion with Urszula Chowaniec on women’s writing and migration.