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A door poem23.09.2022
A poetess and journalist, Victoria Feshchuk, shares her experience of staying in a literature residence in Kassel (Dichterhaus Brückner-Kühner) in wartime.
You can read this essay in German here
For now, I’m living in a public space. In fact, it’s a museum, with no more than several visitors per week. A house museum. I share a garden with no more than these very several visitors. I use a vacuum cleaner in a space between my room and “presentational rooms”, being intervened in this space. Or being an intervention myself.
Thus, I decided to guard my room, the only non-public space in the house, and to guard my intervention-status by creating one more — my poem. A diary-poem, eventually. I put it on my door window, covering a rectangular glass by verse libres, like by storm-shutters. Or like a protection spell in the most pagan sense which seemed to be so long-buried for me, but also recalled a vivid memory. Back in Kyiv in May, when I wondered how to make my obscenely sunny flat more closed, I put tape stars on the window to help strengthen it and prevent it from fragmenting in a blast wave. Here, in a room of my own in a public space, I again sought safety, so I put tape stars on the poem door.
So, the diary-poem. On February 24th, I decided to write a first three lines of the poem-diary and called it day 1. Thus, it wasn’t a first day of anything, but an intensification day, which, as I was afraid, may be lost in my memory by the burden of other people’s experiences. Now, sitting in a nice leather chair in Kassel, I badly remember this day — running around in Kyiv, buying long-term food, checking available shelters, taking a 5-kilo cat everywhere with me, like, if I leave her anywhere, I’ll never find her alive.
I guess, my memory is and will be a naturally bad narrator of war events, much worse than my great grandmother’s, who lived through The Second World War at my age with two kids on her side. So, I write a diary-poem to prove myself that I did experience notions of words, which I have collected in verses. Sometimes lines are too abstract to be a diary, obviously sometimes too personal to be a poem. Too bold, dense to be in the both categories. And I continue to write it even here, in a cosy chair, in a still-quiet German city, in a house, with a such a large basement that two families could be saved from shelling here.
Therefore, my diary-poem becomes an invitation to my private space, a sign on the door that can either introduce visitors to a certain experience or drive them away. Like a trigger-warning in the social media, making the information in a public space less public (but not cleaning the evidences of the merciless reality, as we observe in Meta today). Here a poem-on-the-door becomes a door itself, an artificial border to some space or a way to get into.
So, the door. It is not a stable border, not a wall that keeps you properly (as it seems in the war, walls are never the safest protectors). A door can be opened fully, so you can come into a room, also can be barely opened, so you can only see a glimpse of the interior. You can knock on the door and leave a message, even if it is closed. You can pretend that the person behind the door does not exist, even if the door is wide open. I feel the same potential and functions in poetry — to create reciprocal security and in some way — to be able to control it. To hold your keys, to share your keys, to give them willingly. That is a very universal idea of security, control of your openness, which leaves you a chance of a room on your own in public narrations of pain and resistance, which dominate not only today, in Ukrainian houses, but in human history, as it is preserved and told.
When your actual security is so easy to be cracked and absolutely out of control, it is so natural to resemble your integrity in poetry. At least for no more than several visitors per week.
Victoria Feshchuk is a resident at Stiftung Brückner-Kühner with the program “Hafen der Zuflucht” organized by Gefangenes Wort and financed by the Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst. Victoria Feshchuk’s residency is facilitated by the joint matchmaking portal of Artists at Risk (AR) and Goethe Institut.
To apply to Artists at Risk as Ukrainian artists or cultural professionals searching for emergency hosting at artists-in-residencies, follow the link.
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