In this, her latest collection, former LPR contributor Karina Borowicz considers the role of place, of home and of our connection to the natural world. Rosetta is the third collection of poetry by this author, and surely it’s suited to our current times, even as the warm weather rolls in and vaccines hit arms (well, some arms). This collection feels adrift, or wistful. Psychologist Adam Grant recently coined the term “Languishing” in The New York Times, with regards to our collective mental state. Languishing seems appropriate, given a year in which so many have suffered, or are still suffering. With this in mind, if there is anything to be gained by reading this lovely collection, let it be the author’s quiet insight into time and nature; let this book be an offering, one that invites its readers to sit a while longer, stay with Rosetta’s hewed words before stepping forth into the hopeful, happy business of flourishing.
Divided into four parts, many early poems feel mystical, steeped in memory. “The Old Country” depicts Russia as something vague and blurred:
“I was nourished
by nostalgia for a place
I couldn’t remember.
Wasn’t there a great forest,
A bison that would lap milk from my hand?”
In the equally striking poem, “The Only Story,” tulips become a spectacle that bookend a dream:
A slow-motion shattering over five days of showers.
Petal shards on the grass, snails
churned up on the lawn like beached amber.
This soaking pulls everything to the surface.
Last night I dreamed I carried a child
in my arms.
The child Borowicz dreams of in “The Only Story” comes from a war-torn country, and in the dream, she saves it. There’s something startling about the quiet beauty and brutality of “five days of rain showers,” especially so propped against a savior dream. This is the strength of Ms. Borowicz’s poetry, these singular angles that render place. I sense the piece isn’t just about rain and tulips and Spring, but the conscious and unconscious business of moving through the rain, with the tulips, in the Spring.
In “Rosetta,” the poem of which the collection is named, Borowicz refers to the space probe Rosetta, named so after the famous stone of Egypt, inscribed in three different languages. Imagining the comet, she considers the moment she was “amazed at the landing mission”, and simultaneously “thankful” for her blanket and also “horrified” at the latest beheading. Of this she writes:
It’s like listening
to three different songs
if you hear all
of them, you hear
none of them.
There is a remarkable piece towards the end of the collection that I suspect might be the closest Borowicz herself has come to reckoning with the passing of time. Titled “Original Wind” she writes:
Generations of hawks
have glided on the same gust
that pulls me now down
a busy street. This is all
I really know of history,
time’s collision with my skin.
Karina Borowicz was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She earned a BA in history and Russian from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Borowicz spent five years teaching English in Russia and Lithuania and has translated poetry from Russian and French. Her first collection of poetry, The Bees Are Waiting (2012), won the Marick Press Poetry Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry, the First Horizon Award, and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her second book, Proof (2014), won the Codhill Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Nightboat Press Poetry Prize. Borowicz lives with her family in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Rosetta was awarded the Ex-Ophidia award and one of its poems, “Attack,” originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of LPR.
Purchase Karina Borowicz’s latest collection here.