The Marta Poems take the reader on a compelling and lyrical narrative journey, through Marta's life and times as richly imagined by Susan J. Atkinson. She has wrought Marta's moving story with language so tenderly precise, you'll want to pause and savour each phrase, line and poem as the special treat it is before moving to the next. It's a 20th Century story with crisp imagery and lyric phrasing that will linger with the 21st Century reader for a long time to come.
~ Rhonda Douglas, author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems
In Susan J. Atkinson's sure-footed debut collection, Marta, a displaced Polish girl, is shoved on a freight car bound for Siberia in 1941. A leather satchel, sewing kit and wedding photo acquire a talismanic importance in Marta's new refugee life. With psychic survival skills which include “pressing stars into a corner against the roof of her mouth,ˮ and real-world talents such as cutting squares of cloth from her slip to make embroidered hankies, Marta treks through a year as a slave laborer at a Soviet collective farm. Yet this is only the first stage of Marta's journey. She will have much to contend with as she moves from Rhodesia to England to Canada. Atkinson has an uncanny ability to place the reader in a freight car during a bread scuffle and then whisk them on to a sensual detail which Marta uses to ride out the ongoing squalor. Through a series of hauntingly memorable tableaus, this poet has taken one of history's buried victims and blown life into her story.
~ Peter Richardson, author of Sympathy for the Couriers.
“The Marta Poems makes a tapestry of a life, with finely-stitched and intricate details. Marta’s experiences span several continents and encompass moments of joy alongside deprivations both physical and emotional, as well as heart-breaking grief that “lingers on the clothesline”. In telling Marta’s story, Susan J. Atkinson pieces together fairy tales and war atrocities as expertly as Marta’s own fine needlework, and always with immediacy and compassion.”
~Frances Boyle, author of This White Nest and Seeking Shade.
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The Marta Poems is a collection which showcases the strength of the human spirit through the story of Marta, whose life weaves from Poland to Siberia, from Rhodesia to England, and then finally to Canada. Her path is a familiar one for many who were displaced during WWII and highlights the struggles of the ordinary surviving the extraordinary. Marta’s plight will be familiar with many, and as she endeavours to find a home, she becomes an unlikely spokesperson for so many unheard voices.
The elements of history provide the backdrop for Marta’s story. The poems explore the complexities of a lifetime defined by hardship and intense emotion that was influenced by the invasion of Poland, World War II, refuge, displacement, and loss. Themes of sorrow and separation intertwine with the search for a better life.
This collection will find a market and readership beyond the poetry/literary community as its appeal will stretch to those also interested in history.
Susan J. Atkinson (Silver Bow Publishing)
Carolyne Van Der Meer (Guernica Editions)