Bogdan Loebl. Bogdan is one on Poland’s well-known and respected lyricists and writers. Blues is his genre. My publishing years back in the 1970s and 80s would not be complete without Bogdan’s presence. Every visit to his home which each time includes a set of new pets is a treat, and a time for sharing. It was no different this November. In 1979 I ventured out with an idea – I said: Bogdan, will you help me with a project I am doing. I wrote a book Conversations With the Master. Please read through it, proofread it, and suggest what I should cut, add, and make it a sensible reading.
A month later I sat with Bogdan and saw a changed man. Look, he said, if you write in Polish, consider Polish grammar. Here is a new version. Red is a color of change, I noted and saw that there was plenty to improve. Now, the volume was a winner. The first printing was 10K, and was quickly followed by another. A friend and a literary master made me a better writer. A few years later, he told me that he hated the day I left Poland. There was a void in his life, he told me. As I reflect, my Conversations with the Master introduced him to the Master.
Last year, Bogdan published his own My Dialogs With the Master, in which Grazyna and I were honored to receive Bogdan’s dedication. Once, he reminded me that a challenge of my editorial work led him to write and publish a poem about the death penalty. It's obvious that being present in people’s lives leads to sharing … While Bogdan, a hugely sensitive human being and artist, continues looking for more answers, his spiritual journey introduced me to … my own life-changing moments.
In this latest volume of poetry, as he dialogued with the Creator-Master, he would level a charge at both Him and His creatures:
… but it’s the present kings
that amuse You the most
as they struggle to swallow
the planet Earth
and keep it in their bowels
every day they say: “if, in spite of my powers
I have to die, let the world perish with me.”
The man is the best of your pranks.
© 2009 by Bogdan Loebl; English translation by Anna Koczon
Bogdan talked with me last year about making this small volume of his poems available abroad. Finding a publisher is a challenge, but one must not give up to see it accomplished. Always a master of black humor, Bogdan was clear what he meant in his dialog with the Master when he shared his latest literary adventures. Even though it was a rainy afternoon during our November visit with Anna and Bogdan, the conversation was as we left it years, months ago. The topic was new – a new young black dog which someone threw-over the fence for them to look after just three days before, and the usual antics of Kasia and Parasia, once stray kittens, and now distinguished members of the family. In his Leoblesque manner, Bogdan briefed us about his new venture, a weekly column in a local paper about caring for the animals. “Don’t be a human being” is his column’s theme. In his latest piece, he was reminding the reader that forgiveness comes easier to a cat, than to a human being.
He was quick to introduce Grazyna to his newly re-published book, and just before we left, he showed me a CD entitled Radio Retro by Incarnations. The record includes his six new songs. The following week a reviewer in Polityka said that, “pulling him to this record was a fresh idea.” Bogdan – a fascinating fellow traveler in making our world a better place.
As we drove away from Bogdan and Anna’s home in Jozefow, Grazyna was adamant about the car’s performance. “We have a flat tire. We need to stop,” she insisted. A few kilometers later, in the rain and under a lamppost I changed the flat for a spare. We were on our way to see another of our friends: Ingeborg Nalecka.
With Ingeborg Nalecka conversation continues as if we were meeting a day before. It was more than 25 years since we saw each other and we chatted about stuff as if we had to continue building something we were passionate about then and now. Inga, as we call her, is a poet and a social activist. She was a staff writer at a publishing outfit I managed in Warsaw in the 1970s and 80s, and her other professional work involved her with rehabilitating prisoners as a probation officer, and reaching out to drug addicts.
“Jesus sent you to me,” said Marek Kotanski, an anti-drug guru whose organization Monar reached out to help drug addicts for now about 30 years or so. With him, Inga worked on a spiritual dimension treatment to bringing up those who were down. Inga is as authentic as her art allows her to be, or as it frees her to be. Deeply spiritual, she shoots pointed arrows where they need to land, obsessed with exposing hypocrisy and sanctimonious insincerity among people who claim to preach about virtue and values.
We reconnected after Inga reclaimed our friendship on Facebook. On a rainy November evening we met in her tiny Warsaw apartment and heard her mantra to … bend over and reach for a fallen child of God. Here is one of her freshly penned poems poignantly entitled, “Creeps.”
Wise men made of dry letters
Who sit in masonic lodges
Who dress God in shoes
So no steps could be taken …
Demanding He be theirs
At their service
On their account
Dance, says faith fraudster to God
Since I am paying
© 2010 by Ingeborg Nalecka; English translation by Rajmund Dabrowski
Her passion to be involved with drug addicts was influenced by the lyrics and music of Ryszard Riedel and a blues band Dzem (Jam). Rysiek, as they all referred to Riedel, was a “preacher” of his own struggle with addiction, but his road to becoming an iconic expression of nonconformity and struggle was born in the “darkest days of Communism,” Inga said. For Inga’s sensitivity, Riedel was an expression of someone who was “waiting in a queue. And speaking about it. Fighting. And not winning. Until the last time.”
Inga does not give up on her authenticity. “I don’t care what people say about me. That’s their problem. What is important for me is that I bend over anyone who has fallen and needs to be picked up.” She told us how a few years ago she would spend night after night holding a hand of an expiring man. “I held his hand, as he was slipping away, and I would silently be humming a lullaby, as if to a child. And then a smile would lock itself on his face, forever,” she said.
That rainy day etched itself in our memories with a moment to remember. A spare tire, which I changed just minutes before we saw Inga, went … flat and in the middle of nowhere, in a deep silence of the night. Next - Part Two: Joanna Majchrowska and Jan Kot