by Anna Kamieńska
15 April, 2013
When approaching the work of Anna Kamieńska it was useful for me to select on angle from which to view her work. The richness and breadth of her poetry cannot be appreciated without an attentive reading of an individual period or theme. In passing I want to focus on some of her poems with biblical and faith based themes as those are themes I have wrestled with in my own writing. Despite coming from a Christian background I have found my own attempts to draw on the Christian tradition frail at best and hokey at worst. Kamieńska reveals an entry point and a purpose for these biblical and faith based poems which is a boon to writers who wish to incorporate their faith into their writing.
The Job poems reexamine a well known Bible story, but, as Kamieńska shares in her 1971 Notebook: “I’d begin at the end, with Job rewarded with happiness, but crushed, unable to be happy, a scrap of a man” (p.118). There is the entry point of these poems, (a Job of Kamieńska’s imagining) and an end to the story as we know it. The first of these poems, “The Return of Job” sets the reader in a contemporary situation: “Job didn’t die/didn’t throw himself under a train”(1-2), before going back to ancient times. After asserting Job’s survival Kamieńska moves the reader through a series of third person conjecture. “How much more authentic would a dead Job be/even after shaking his fist at the God of pain” (9-10). Kamieńska questions the Bible without undermining it. This rawness, coming from her own experience with grief is a crucial point where she connects to her readers. She goes in to another ‘what if’ moment: “But happy Job didn’t have the strength to be happy/afraid he’d betray happiness by a second happiness/afraid he’d betray life by a second life” (21-23). At this moment it feels like the speaker is Job, which gives the reader permission to step in and be Job as well. This allows a release of grief.
The other point...