One of the most versatile and rebellious poets in Poland, Marcin Świetlicki takes us into streets, cafes, rooms, and conversations where — with his signature dark glasses — he ponders metaphysical questions in the minutiae of daily life. These are poems about life, forgiveness, communication, love, death, and time: in the slit of a mailbox, he sees “Not the light but / the galloping Now.” The poems have an urban edge and bite, and Świetlicki has recorded many of them as lyrics with his rock band. The collection, his first to be translated into English, culls work from twelve of his published volumes.
Born in Lublin in 1961, Świetlicki is a poet, crime writer and musician who has published thirteen poetry collections, and writes most of the lyrics for two rock bands he regularly performs with. He co-edited (with Marcin Baran and Marcin Sendecki) the poetry anthology Długie pożegnanie. Tribute to Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye. Tribute to Raymond Chandler). He has received several major awards, including the 1996 Kościelski Foundation Prize, the Silesius Wroclaw Poetic Award (2012) and the Lublin Poetical Stone Award (2014), for lifetime achievement.
Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese writes with/in English, Polish and Danish. Her translation of Nothing More, by Krystyna Miłobędzka, was shortlisted for the 2015 Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize. She translated Salt Monody, poems by Marzanna Kielar, and co-edited Carnivorous Boy Carnivorous Bird: Poetry from Poland, both published by Zephyr Press and available on this website. She co-curates “Transreading” courses on transnational and hybrid poetries for the Poetry School in London. Her multilingual Thirst in Three Directions is forthcoming in 2022. She lives in Copenhagen.
Night truck driver
Night Truck Driver
By Marcin Świetlicki
Translated from Polish by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese
128 pages trade paper
Bilingual: Polish and English on facing pages
“I’ll be thinking about these poems for days and months to come—in particular, the solitary line of the final poem hasn’t stopped replaying itself in my head: 'And this can’t be done endlessly.' This can’t be done endlessly, can it?" — Kraig Davis , Kenyon Reviews Online
"Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese vividly renders Marcin Świetlicki’s at once lively and thoughtful poems, often set amidst the unsettling chaos of the quotidian. The Polish poet evokes love and family life, the political misdeeds plaguing his homeland, but above all he depicts, drolly but also compellingly, an individual discovering his own disoriented state of mind. The narrator is indeed a “night truck driver” who ends up “in the wilderness of the black streets / of a tiny town.” He has lost his way even when he knows where he is. He is settled in “Nowhere” and knows that he will never be in “Elsewhere.” This situation sometimes causes the poet to speak out trenchantly, or simply to muse. “If he knew how to rightly use the compass,” he admits, “he wouldn’t be here.” As Świetlicki wittingly demonstrates, only language can guide him. These captivating, linguistically resourceful poems explore not only resonant micro-events in the streets of Kraków, but also our human condition."
— John Taylor, author of Into the Heart of European Poetry and A Little Tour through European Poetry
"Marcin Świetlicki’s incantational poems in Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese’s masterful translation astonish with sharp endings, yet these closures leave the door ajar for residual visions of everyday, singular experience. When we open our eyes to these poems, they ignite.”
— Ewa Chruściel, author of Contraband of Hoopoe and Of Annunciations