Punk rock poetry: reviewing “Night Truck Driver” by Marcin Świetlicki2 min read
Marcin Świetlicki is a Krakow-based Polish musician who dons plain black t-shirts and sunglasses, has fans from all over willing to cram into a pub for his rock concerts, and he doesn’t give a fuck. Świetlicki is also a crime writer and a poet, with thirteen published poetry collections.
Most of his work is lyric-writing for his two Polish rock bands Świetlicki and Zgniłość. He has received several major awards for his writing, including the Kościelski Foundation Prize, the Silesius Wroclaw Poetic Award, and the Lublin Poetical Stone Award for lifetime achievement.
Night Truck Driver, Marcin Świetlicki’s newest poetry volume by Zephyr Press, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese, embodies the same cool. It contains haikus to barmaids; the poems have titles like “Cold cigarette” and “Shambles;” and some poems draw allegories to one night stands. In “McDonald’s,” he compares his bloody body sack to a Big Mac. The collection was long-listed for the 2021 PEN Poetry in Translation Award and was a finalist for the 2020 Big Other Book Award for Translation.
This new book is filled with diary entries, observations from the music industry, odes to his dad, and even a shout out to Satan:
If it’s true
that Satan speaks through me
— God will have mercy
and tear out my tongue.
Jesli to prawda,
że mówi przeze mnie szatan
— Bóg się zlituje
i wyrwie mi język.
His poem “I’m back — nothing to look for” is just as bleak and packs as much of a bite as the title suggests:
Dogs are making love on the lawn. For fifteen minutes
I’ve been imitating a tenor till suddenly
the tenor’s voice on the radio is gone and the last movement
of my lips is fishlike, and I’ve pushed out only
a small puff of silence. In my hand a crumpled note:
IF YOU FEEL MORTAL – PHONE
Psy się kochają na trawniku. Przez piętnaście minut
udawałem tenora, aż zabrakło naraz
głosu tenora w radiu i ostatni ruch
moich warg byl jak rybi i wypchnąłem tylko
obłoczek ciszy. W ręku gniotę kartkę:
JESLI POCZUJESZ SIE, ŚMIERTELNY – ZADZWOŃ.
I’m guessing we’re supposed to scream the last line together and I’m here for that. After all, are caps-lock not the language of the angry on the internet? His movements are robotic, the world is post-modern, and he might just need technology to remember that he is still a person.
Świetlicki’s poems offer a glimpse into his fast-paced life. They are a fun ride from beginning to the end. Just like his shows — they are controversial, have an urban edge, and above all, are deeply personal.
Book details: Świetlicki, Marcin, Night truck driver/Kierowa nonnej ciezarowki by Marcin Swietlicki, translated from the Polish by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese, 2020, Zephyr Press. Buy it here.