Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 13 July 2015

  • Thirteen, in a Gulag, 1950

    We rode on, squashed together like harvested hay.
    I lost my sister and my bearings the other side of the Urals,
    tried to make soup in some mud hut,
    rubbing frozen sorrel leaves
    with mutton tallow, trying to
    melt snow under my sheepskin,
    seeing as no one had taught me the Kyrgyz songs
    which magically light fires in wood and in stone.

    Dance, spark, chase away the ice and putrid fever,
    wake mother with your wormwood medicine.


    by Wioletta Greg, translated by Marek Kazmierski


    A reminder that the deadline for the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Prize is 31 August. There are two categories: Open and English as a Second Language, and First Prize in each category is £1000. The competition will be judged by Bernard O’Donoghue and Hannah Lowe, and you can enter by visiting this page.

    ‘Thirteen, in a Gulag, 1950’ is copyright © Wioletta Greg, 2014 and translated by Marek Kazmierski. It is reprinted from Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance (Arc Publications, 2014) by permission of Arc Publications.

    Notes from Arc Publications:

    Wioletta Greg (b. 1974), poet, writer and translator from Southern Poland, has been active on the Polish literary scene since her first publication in the 1990s, and despite her move to the Isle of Wight at the beginning of the new millennium, has remained so. She has published several volumes of poetry, a collection of short prose poems and, most recently, a debut novel Guguły (2014), which has already been hailed as the ‘discovery of the year’ by critics and readers alike. Translated into English by Marek Kazmierski, her book Finite Formulae & Theories of Chance, from which this Weekly Poem comes, was shortlisted for the prestigious 2015 Griffin Prize. You can read more about the book on Arc's website, and hear Wioletta read from her poems (in Polish) on the British Library website, with translations by Marek Kazmierski.

    As part of the Poetry Centre’s Review Blog, student Brittany Krier reviewed the book, and you can read her thoughts on the Poetry Centre site.

    Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

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