Posts Tagged ‘Bill Johnston’

With love from Warsaw: Julia Fiedorczuk and a message from the mist

Friday, July 15th, 2016

scatteringJulia Fiedorczuk, the young Warsaw poet, has written some beautiful verse – well, we wrote about that here, after a magical April night in Berkeley that ended at Chez Panisse. Most of the poems that were read that evening came from a new anthology Scattering the DarkBut one, inspired by Czesław Miłosz, was not. I was not able to use print it at the time, since it was under consideration for publication by the Poetry Foundation, and Julia kindly gave us Psalm 2 instead. We’re pleased to say that Julia’s “Psalm 31,” was not selected (Psalm V was, and is published online here). So here is Psalm 31, all these months later, below. “The whole cycle rhythmically and poetically alludes to Miłosz’s translation of the Hebrew Psalms,” the poet said. We think so, too. Tell us which of the three psalms you like the best (all translated by Bill Johnston). I still think this one has the most Miłoszian bent. She sent it with her love from beautiful Warsaw:

Psalm XXXI

chickadeesfor R. K.

a chickadee had perched on the window-sill like a message
generated by the mist, October
was turning into November in the birches oaks alders,
in the frost-resistant flowers, in the cemeteries
where our fathers wrote no memoirs,
where they would not recognise our children, our
poems, ourselves. The television was showing Poland
that had perished, and then had not perished, and then
again had perished, and then not, and then the sun
flung up a mesh of branches, all at once
the chickadee was absorbed by sky before I could say
remember, remember me.

Adam Johnson, author of Orphan Master’s Son, gets a Guggenheim! Yayyy!

Thursday, April 11th, 2013
Author, author! (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Bravo, Adam! (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

The 2013 John Simon Guggenheim fellows have been announced, and we were pleased to see one friend on the list – Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son.

The whole list of fellows is here.  Another acquaintance was next on the alphabetical list: Bill Johnston, the acclaimed translator of Polish poet Tadeusz Różewicz.

The foundation awarded a diverse group of 175 scholars, artists, and scientists, chosen on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, from a field of almost 3,000 applicants this year.

We’re proud that we wrote about Adam even before he became a really big deal, as well as since the applause –  here and here and here and here, among other places.


N. Korean soldier (photo: A. Johnson)

I phoned Adam to offer my congratulations, and caught him just as he was about to go into a class where he is a guest speaker in Moscow, Idaho.  Did he have any words to offer Book Haven readers?  “What should I say?  What should I say?” he asked me.  Heavens, how should we know? We’ve never gotten a Guggenheim.

“I’m thrilled, honored.  I have received the most precious gift a writer can have – time to complete the next project, and to fulfill the potential of the work,” he finally said.

So what’s this next project?  “What?  I can’t say,” he said.  But surely it was in the Guggenheim proposal, so it’s not a secret?  He hemmed and hawed a bit – let’s just call it  “narratives of North Korea,” he said.

Any comments on the latest standoff with North Korea?  He asked me if I’d seen the New York Times article explaining that the renegade nation has most probably learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile, and is “missile ready.”  What did he think about it?  “I’m not a nuclear expert, I write about people,” he said, before ducking into the classroom.  We called out “Congratulations, Adam!” after him.

Update! North Korea celebrates Adam’s award with a funky get down Juche Party!