Maria Zajkowski’s ,’ The Ascendant’ in the Australian
Poetry from Ivy Ireland, Maria Zajkowski; verse novel by Jeri Kroll, Australian Poetry: Geoff Page, July 2015
Maria Zajkowski’s The Ascendant (Puncher and Wattman, 59pp, $25) is an unusual book.
…poems from The Ascendant, as suites, won the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize in 2011 and 2012.
…some of the poems from this book have been performed and recorded by the Grammy Award-winning choral group Roomful of Teeth. An effectively eerie sample is available on the internet.
…The influence of 20th-century central European poets such as Zbigniew Herbert and Vasko Popa is strong, but the emotions evoked are generally less intense — or perhaps more oblique and complex. Most of the poems are minimal in form and rarely run for more than a page. Some are only a few lines. The syntax is often deceptively straightforward but the effect can frequently be gnomic and/or sibylline. We are left to make of things what we can — not always a bad thing in poetry.
Sometimes, as in The White Butterfly, this combination of techniques works very well. Its 10 short lines are brief enough to quote in full as a sample of Zajkowski at her best: “The white butterfly is / the brown butterfly / who is the moth, / the moth is the tree / the tree is its mother / the mother is the sun / and the sun is the white / butterfly falling into every / crack, looking for a place / to hide her child.” These radical changes of perspective certainly have a cumulative point to make and develop to a poignant climax.