Six years ago today at Sheremetyevo

A photograph that made one long layover worth every misspent minute. An instant of photojournalistic realness at a time when I was mostly leaving behind that genre for a more reductionist still-life approach. A document from a day in a life suspended between a Murakami-tinged near-month in Japan and a return that... demanded adjustments. A perfect metaphor, maybe, for, well, any number of things.

Photo by Natalia Osiatynska, taken with the Ricoh GR Digital 2 in Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, on 2009 04 11.

Introducing... something beautiful

It’s special enough when a piece of music becomes a favorite the first time one hears it. But when that piece of music possesses the life and immediacy of an improvised live performance that just happens to be captured on a recording, and it is part of a challenging, previously inaccessible genre—then we are talking about an experience so rare and special that... it even warrants a blog post.

And a world premiere.

Recorded live on March 10, 2015, at Warsaw’s Eufemia, Eleven Minutes In features Patryk Zakrocki on viola along with the duo Skerebotte Fatta, consisting of Jan Małkowski on tenor sax and Dominik “Dodos” Mokrzewski on drums. It is a fragment of the first of two sets performed by the trio on an evening belonging to neither winter nor spring, and it was edited by Małkowski to the specifications of the author of this post. The title, of course, derives from the timing, as does the artwork that shows the sun setting over Warsaw rooftops on the very same day. Both are my contributions, humble and proud.

Now, if you know me, you’ll know I’d love to tell you why this fragment is so perfect. But if you know me well, you’ll also know that my experience with discourse on music is still in its infancy. Indeed, jazz is a puzzle I’m barely learning to solve. Thus, I present you with a masterpiece I can’t explain: four minutes and fourteen seconds of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. Playful yet contemplative, soothing yet elecrifying, with Mokrzewski’s dazzling rhythm and Małkowski’s seductive melodies aligning beautifully with Zakrocki’s irresistible determination. All the sophistication of avant-garde jazz but none of its limits on accessibility. Complex, fascinating music, unburdened by the difficulty that scares away those more accustomed to songs measured in units of chorus and verse. To me, anyway—a softly tapped, wistfully played, remarkably intricate... invitation.

Eleven Minutes In is shared with permission from Małkowski, Mokrzewski and Zakrocki—and published here for the first time, ever.

Thanks, guys.

More sunsets over Warsaw

All images by Natalia Osiatynska, taken between July 21, 2014, and February 17, 2015, using the (improbably modest) Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT fitted with the (formidable) 200mm/f2.8 L-series lens (images 1-14). Last image shot with the Leica M (Typ 240) and Elmarit 90/2.8.

For earlier work in this series and the... artist’s statement, see the post Evenings in Warsaw.

A poem for my father

What do you give someone who’s given you just about everything? One way is to go with a gift of acknowledgment, thoughtfulness or time. Thus, for my father’s seventieth birthday I decided to make him a present of one of his favorite poems—in my English translation. The poem is a philosophical, metaphoric, cathartic one about dying, written by Polish poet Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz just days before his own death in February, 1980. Now some might find this a somber, even morbid theme, but my dad is fearless and sentimental and totally impertinent, so ushering in his 70’s with a lyric about passing away might actually be pretty spot-on. Here is the translation—and, next to it, the original with all its quietly heart-wrenching wonder.

URANIA
by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz

Urania, pine tree, sister—I give you your name
For the way your trunk’s hand points at the sky
The wind blowing through your black mane
Quiets from under. Sister, I am calling you

As once did seers in mistletoe crowns
To stand guard at the door to my home
And watch over the flower, fruit, honey bee
And the hearts that fade here in hiding.

Urania, muse of the final day
Goddess of the end, goddess of permanence
Goddess of destruction and all that is wrong
Keep watch over home and over nothingness.

Take me in your manes, you who are crazed
Rip from me arms that will never regrow
Bury me, save me, give me your crown,
Let me, too, be Urania, nothingness and pine.

URANIA
Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz

Uranio, siostro, sosno – tak ciebie nazywam
Bo palcem pnia swojego ukazujesz niebo
Wiatr co się w twojej czarnej grzywie zrywa
Zacicha dołem. Siostro, wzywam ciebie

Jak niegdyś wróże w koronach z jemioły
Abyś wytrwała w progu mego domu
I strzegła kwiatu, owocu i pszczoły
I serc co tutaj gasną po kryjomu.

Uranio, muzo dnia ostatecznego
Bogini końca, bogini trwałości
Zniszczeń bogini i wszystkiego złego
Stójże na straży domu i nicości.

Weźmij mnie w swoje grzywy, ty szalona
Wyszarp mi ręce co już nie wyrosną
Pogrzeb mnie, ratuj, daj swoje korony,
Bym także był Uranią, nicością i sosną.

English translation by Natalia Osiatynska, 2015, dedicated to Wiktor Osiatyński (who is very much alive, in case anyone is wondering, and in fact helped with the final version of the translation).

Note: I web-searched extensively to find any existing English translations of Urania—and found only one, indeterminately attributed to a Philip Earl Steele and buried toward the bottom of this puzzling treatise on the picturesque Masovian town of Podkowa Leśna.

A poem by Yeats

Hopeful and defiant in equal measure, this gem of late Irish symbolism has been a favorite since I first read it in a subway car in New York city around 2003 (where it was displayed as part of the MTA’s inspiring “Poetry in Motion” campaign). Written by the 47-year-old William Butler Yeats in 1912, it was published four years later in the collection Responsibilities and Other Poems. Here it is—in the original and in my Polish translation.

A COAT
W.B. Yeats

I made my song a coat     
Covered with embroideries     
Out of old mythologies     
From heel to throat;     
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes     
As though they’d wrought it.     
Song, let them take it     
For there’s more enterprise     
In walking naked.

PŁASZCZ
W.B. Yeats

Z mojej pieśni
Płaszcz zrobiłem
Cały pokryty haftami
Starymi mitologiami
Od pięty po szyję;
Ale głupcy go zdobyli,
Przed światem nosili,
Jakby sami uszyli.
Pieśni, niech Cię mają tako,
Najintratniej
Chodzić nago.

Polish translation by Natalia Osiatynska, 2007.