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 About Eliza Segiet's 'Unpaired'

written by: Kinga Młynarska

translated by: Artur Komoter

 

In 2018, Eliza Segiet surprised the readers with a complete poetry book dealing with issues related to war, especially with the experience of the Holocaust, which she previously only signaled in her works. As one can see, these topics are still indwelled in her, demanding a lyrical outlet. For this reason, another poetry volume was created, supporting the thoughts and emotions of the previous one.
Everywhere we will be / the past will be with us – with this reflection, Segiet opens the “Unpaired”. This thesis is a known one in the works of the author of the “Magnetic People”. The poet is convinced that what has shaped us has its source in history. However, in this book, it’s not just about getting to the roots, but rather about giving voice to those who for obvious reasons have lost it. “Unpaired” is a kind of lyrical biography of an individual – the Other, a poetic chronicle documenting the fight for each subsequent day of life.
“Unpaired” is primarily a poetry of questions. Countless documents, reports, literature are not enough to understand why a human can be a beast. It was also not enough to write dozens of works (by poem and prose) to vent one’s emotions, cope with grief, or find even a shadow of an explanation. Segiet constantly returns to this stifling question – in this volume the author also asks it several times: “why?” (“what for?”, “in the name of what faith?”) and will still not find an answer. Besides, there are many more issues that torment the poet-philosopher.
I get the impression that in this book Segiet speaks louder about the brutality of war, and even more emphatically underlines the tragic fate of the Jews. She also becomes the prosecutor of the unholy criminals more boldly. Although in her center of interest still lies primarily the one who was a victim. Let us add: an innocent one (the poet asks in disbelief: can people be punished for innocence?). And maybe this affects even more. In any case, the subject itself (neutral one) repeatedly asks what the Jewish people are to blame for that they became the target of the death-dealers. She dares even to address the Creator, although she knows it is futile.
Already in “Magnetic People” Segiet surprised formatively – above all in calling out the executioners and the victims. In the “Unpaired”, she makes accurate definitions that very much connect the imagination of the reader. She does not spare the bitter irony to further emphasize the tragedy of the persecuted. Appear, among others, the Marked – the Stellar part of humanity. On the opposite end are the creators of death, empty people, deadly people, death-dealers.
The matter of the speakers in this volume is interesting. First of all, there is the neutral subject with a distant view of the poetic world of the poems’ heroes. It reports what it sees, rarely comments, sometimes asks rhetorical questions (including: is this really happening?). It is a filling voice; its task is to take care of the background, props or showing certain matters from different perspectives (to which the leading subject has no access).
The second subject (and the main protagonist) is the Marked, who spins on behalf of themselves and their brothers – lyrically as “we” – the proper story. They mention the ubiquitous fear (I was afraid of pain / – not just mine), the hunger (I await even for an apple core) and the life in an upturned reality. The tragedy of the man’s position seems to only deepen. He is full of doubts, faith intertwines with depression, the desire to survive with a sense of futility. He asks questions, but he knows perfectly well that nobody will answer anymore.
The poignant poems are those in which the subject confesses that despite the awareness of the overwhelming death, hope smoldered in them. And they not only dreamed about survival, about the return of normality, about meeting with family – they believed that in some / remained / – a bit of humanity [emph. by K.M.]. Therefore, they do not give in to a battle / for a moment of normality [emph. by K.M.]. In these details (definitions, additions) hide poignant emotions.
It is not without reason that the poet named the volume “Unpaired” – one of the key issues is the strong desire to be with another person. But how to say I love in these dispassionate times? – wonders “I” lyrically. And they add: to whom to say – / I love? War is a brutal time that only divides. Family members die, disappear without a trace. Often, to ensure relative safety for the wife and children, men had to hide. The subject of the gathering survived thanks to the fact that he and his daughters were hiding in a hole, underground, with the rats.
People live in a certain order, set by fate – the staff of life. The author defines it as successive stages of human development. The war, however, destroys this order, criminals interfere with nature, they set a pause on the future.
The subject has managed to survive, but carries the war trauma with him to this day. In conversations with the granddaughters, he cannot afford the spontaneous delight of life, to accompany his children in their joys with the world. Instead of reading fairy tales, the subject tells them about his fears and remorse. He confides that he feels incomplete, carries with him suffering and sorrow.
The dramatic nature of this poetry is amazing. Segiet took care of every detail that built the mood of the poem, deepening the already, sometimes to a fault, tragic overtones of the poems. Let us pay attention to what is in the background – e.g. the walls cried with blood, they shot with a smile, the road to freedom / would be preceded by bathing. But it also manifests itself in a variety of stylistic means, in ironies (Jews – the kings of life and death), epithets (human – inhuman face, half-alive people – [emph. by K.M.]), rhetorical questions (which way should we go / to miss death?) or antinomies (planned annihilation / comes unawares). However, it is most clearly visible in the simple confessions of the subject: a man did not die, / but the faith in him.
There are subtle references, among others biblical, like in the poem “Copiously”, where a man bereft of hope, but not the will to live, ironically talks about the desire to eat an apple core, because maybe that will cause him to be expelled out of this paradise of death as a punishment. In “Piercing”, the poet compares the resurrection of Jesus to an individualistic return to the world of living by the subject and others like him – the Jews, with a death sentence for their lineage, who for a long time lived in hiding.
Eliza Segiet, with her characteristic philosophical verve, examines people, the world and their accompanying phenomena. In “Unpaired” she attempts to define, among others, normality, decency, humanity. This is, of course, a breakneck job, but the poet is a specialist in looking at, perceiving and transforming her deductions into surprising conclusions, apt metaphors, moving comparisons.
Several times in the course of the lyrical story we have a situation in which the subject rebels, asks uncomfortable questions, accuses. However, when their daughter inquires who they are actually speaking to, they always respond: to myself. Which in itself is sad, the more so when they add: because no one wants to hear / what we are experiencing. At that time, nobody wanted to listen and today we are heading in a similar direction – we turn our heads, we deal with little, from the world’s perspective, matters. Or maybe someone at the other end of the world, somewhere hidden in a narrow hole, is trembling for life, because in every place/one can wake up in horror.
The words flowing from this poetry form a clear appeal: look at what people were able to do to people and do not let it ever come back. This is a very important message, especially in the context of ongoing wars, minor or major conflicts, spreading like a plague of hatred or even progressive egoism.

We are born without a flaw,
it is the world that changes us.

Let’s not allow it!

Kinga Młynarska

Kinga Młynarska

A passionate Polish Studies graduate, an enthusiast of broadly understood culture and art. Focused on development in life. Full time mum of two rascals. Usually smiling.
Kinga Młynarska

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