Aspects of Strangers
Moria Books 2015 / ISBN 978-0-9888628-3-8
The strangers of Piotr Gwiazda’s Aspects of Strangers are the indigenous, the citizens, the you and I. The book is arranged in a sort of triptych voyage with the first section reading like the a newly assimilated visitor from outer space reporting its findings back to home base, or the diary of an immigrant. There are lines of play and damning indictments, clichés and warnings, and shifting points of view between alien and the landed, oppressed creature. The perception is abstracted, not aware of nuances or without total grasp of a situation and yet has a childlike ability to cut away pretense and find simple truths. “Their museums are filled with spoils of war, broken plates, headless torsos. They read newspapers and their hands smell of the bodies of the victims” (16).
In the second section, Ozone, the speaker has now settled firmly into confusion:
“Protesters with banners addressed to the people of
So what if history no longer knocks on the door
Resistance is no longer punishable by death.” (48)
Is the outsider coming to the conclusion that things must first die to be understood? Is this the voice of a lazy history student sometime in the future? Can we know whether the last line is true because the world is now without oppression or is it because the inevitability of the end has become obvious to all? (This is perhaps a display of dystopian melodrama on my part, but what grounds lines that spring from some undisclosed future?)
Moral Compass, the very strong concluding section, has grown tired with the bullshit, and has connected links to many apparent contradictions. If poems are expressions of imagination and realities, politics are a necessary fetter of both. Gwiazda offers a useful theory to his students when asked why he reads so much political theory: “‘It gives metaphors to my poetry’” (67). You decide if he is being serious. Among others, he references directly or evokes Zizek, Banksy, Celan, Thomas Jefferson, and the great Chilean poets Raul Zurita and Nicanor Parra. He gives a brief description of Venusians, provides a glimpse into his pedagogical practices, and lists some banalities that irk our daily existences. Despite the disparity of authors, the writer is situated squarely in America which provides the disquieting effect of both familiarity and objectivity.
In Raul Zurita’s Purgatory, the recently deceased C.D. Wright ends her introduction with the Zurita line “Life is very beautiful, even now” (ix). The alien author of Aspects of Strangers has found a home, in all its absurd splendor.
Review by Craig Chisholm