by Marius Kociejowski
I’m a fan of Kociejowski’s writing. And I tend to keep my eyes open for anything of his during my travels, though historically the exercise often has proved fruitless. Part of the issue, I feel, is that I always have associated him with his travel writing, which seems to have little in common with most of what I come across in book stores’ sections marked “travel writing.” So I’ve been at a loss as to where else I should look in the various divisions of the nonfiction sections before deciding they don’t, in fact, have any books by the author and moving on. I do try and ask for help, though I don’t tend to find it helpful––booksellers usually being unfamiliar with his work and at a loss as to how to direct me, if they even pretend to try. I honestly can’t remember coming across a single seller who knew about whom I was talking when I asked about the travel writer, Marius Kociejowski, until about a year and a half ago, when the owner of a Vancouver bookstore responded that he hadn’t heard of him, unless he happens to be the same Marius Kociejowski who happens to be a London-based poet––not that he had any of his work on hand.
So it shouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination that I was super pumped to get a Kociejowski book right after it came out. As well, the selection from his five decades of work contained within Collected Poems seemed like a great place to dive in to a side of his writing with which I’m unfamiliar. I’m glad it was short. Not to say I was happy to be done with it, but rather that it made it much easier to read it multiple times, back-to-back, to help parse what I found were often difficult verses, achieving clarity in at least a narrow sense by the end. I was left with almost a sense of numbness or indifference until close to the end of my first reading. Meaning came through and led to a greater appreciation of previously overlooked poems the second time through. I see this as an interesting comparison to Pablo Neruda’s work, where I had a similar experience where meanings behind the poems were concerned, but the poetry was more deeply felt even when not understood. This fact in itself likely makes Collected Poems that much harder to emerge from in a way that feels good, but at least he warns us early, within the first poem in the collection, “The Water Clock,” that he can’t control what we walk away with after reading, but it will take work from us and we need to have faith in him if we want to get something useful out of the exercise.
And the idea that appreciation requires such thoughtful, active, repeated readings probably makes Collected Poems a tough sell. But it’s an important thing to keep in mind if you want to attempt it, because I believe that a cursory glance will leave you unsatisfied. Read it thoughtfully, read it carefully, and you may bear witness to the beautiful music contained within, as well as its author’s extraordinary capacity for expression.