THE JARUZELSKI LETTERS
For some time now, the editor has been receiving missives from the great but
neglected Polish plumber-poet, Stefan Jaruzelski. He felt the time had come to
let the world in on the secret of this genius of the sweated joint and the
sestina. Jaruzelski promises to send soon extracts from his two-thousand-line
poetic epic. In these poor pages you may before long be able to read the work of
the contemporary Homer, or learn how to fit a bath. It's rumoured that
Jaruzelski has recently been spotted in Warrington. Was he in search of
inspiration or cheap ball-cocks ? Only time will tell....
Dear Mr Dent,
here. I move from Vacqueras to Chinon in search of work and to improve English.
This is big success. My French competitor plumber he have van with his name
"Emile Zola" and "J’accuse s'il vous plait" on it. French think this very drole
but I much better plumber and fix Jacuzzi of rich English poet. He also teach me
English. He own chateau in region. He Lord Mikhail Jagger. He say Zola plumbing
is dog's breakfast but my plumbing is dog's bollocks. Many items of ladies
clothing in nozzles and drains but I fix them pretty damn quick - then Lord Mick
teach me English. He plumber too before becoming poet. We have long talk on
soldering joints and bending springs. Then he play me his poems on gramophone.
Mick he main poet in England. I tell him I like sonorities but find sense - how
you say -elusive. Mick ask if I really poet too and suggest I better writing
installation instructions for gas boilers. I much hurt by this.
Mick allow me to
read his large library which come with chateau. I find polonais-francais
dictionary inscribed “De George ŕ mon cher Frederic" which big help to me learn
English. Mick make me plumber-in-residence of Chateau Mick but sometimes I moved
out to Hotel France when Mick has grand-daughter at chateau. Mick say she very
ill and need peace and quiet and many meat injections.
I read English
classics: Shakespeare; Milton, Dickens, Wordsworth etc Mick know all English
poets alive - he friends with Queen and King Charles. I ask if he write for
Penniless Press but he say he not qualified for such an outlet – yet. He many
friends who also poets. I meet Michael George who look very distinguished with
goatee beard. He very friendly to me and say he plumber too before becoming
poet. He insist we retire to Lord Mick's toilet to admire pipework. Pipework
good (not by E.Zola) but Michael then say if I to be English poet/gentleman it
important to know how to hold todger correctly in front of urinal. He much
exasperated by my failure to learn proper hold and reach out to hold it for me.
Then he ask me to hold his. He say this normal practice in Anglo-Saxon high
society. I very glad when Lord Mick burst into toilet and shout "fucking
shirt-lifter!" and drag Mr George out.
I still work on
long poem which I base on Wordsworth's Prelude. Early books on Polish childhood
will be in native language but later episodes will be in French and conclusion
in English. This will be plumber-poet apotheosis and new genius (Stefan
Jaruzelski) will appear in Penniless Press holding todger correctly in front of
perfectly installed self-flushing porcelain urinal MKIV with gleaming brass
I write again soon
and hope to include some stanzas. Can you advise book on todger/urinal etiquette
? This may be important if I am be knighted by King Charles.
Esteemed professor Dent
I find myself (je me
trouve) in Dordogne. Lord Mick had to go on world tour and felt uneasy about
leaving me in Chateau with granddaughter on premises. I try to assure him that I
too could give granddaughter meat injections if Lord Mick could teach me but he
felt it best I should widen the circle of friends rather than that of Michael
George (who offers me job plumbing in Los Angeles). After much discussion with
Lord Mick (who also was plumber before fame embraced him) we decide that
although Loire valley is popular with tourists I need clientele of established
Englanders since they are more obsessed with washing, toilets and clean arse
than French. Mick tells me that French don’t even have a word for bidet.
Consequently we decide I best move to Dordogne where in some villages there are
more English than French.
I lodge at first in tent on camp site at Neuvic next to
river L’Isle. Then locals tell me of strange English doctor who has many
failures with Monsieur Bricolage plumbing in his house at Haut Planeze. I visit
habitation up winding rue Paul Schmidt. There in old farmhouse with massive barn
half underground in hillside I find Dr Lee up to ankles in sewage fixing turd
macerator on kitchen table. This is common occurrence. He is grateful for help
since tea will be served on table soon. Madame Lee prepares meal in kitchen and
shouts often to aid Dr Lee’s concentration. Dr Lee is not real doctor but
teacher of sociology (retd) (I not sure if this is retired or retarded).
Although he was plumber in Trafford originally he says he forgets all that shite
now and regrets this since he finds nothing in Weber or Durkheim on the
operation of turd macerators.
I fix macerator and clean shite off table with sleeve of
jacket. Dr Lee brings me large glass of wine which he says is from 300 litre
barrel of in back of barn. I drink but don’t complain since this is friendly
gesture. Dr Lee’s eyes not good; barrel room gloomy; he obviously filled glass
from tank of creosote. Dr Lee, however, pronounces drink “a fine, robust
expression of the St Emilion comparable with the great 96 vintage”. I decide he
is serious pisshead. In Poland too are many pissheads. I feel well at home here.
Dr Lee takes me on tour of premises pointing out many problems of plumbing. I
say I can fix all these tout de suite and he suggests I stay, sleeping in
barn, till everything honkey dory.
Later Madame Lee serves
tea but asks, seeing me at table “Not another spastic parasite John! Where do
you find them? And how are we going to feed this idle bugger? Does he speak
English?” But Dr Lee bridles and retorts “Stefan is top jockey plumber. He fix
place up plenty good and quick. He also scholar and writer and told me very
interesting tale of Chopin fixing garden tap for Flaubert. He friend of Lord
Jagger. He fucked George Michael. He wine connoisseur of great sensitivity and
detected notes of creosote in Arnauld’s vrac. He opera buff. We will spend many
evenings discussing Wagner and Verdi.” We drink from bottle with no label which
empties very quick. Another bottle appears, this time a white, also with no
label which Dr Lee says is a 1990 Pouligny Montrachet but which I recognise as
Next day, during wine breaks, of which there are many, we
discuss philosophy. Dr Lee studied this at Hull where great English poet ran
library. He met Ryle and took him to the pub. He remembers Ryle saying to him
“I’ll have half of mild please John”. We discuss the mind/body problem and I say
that Ryle is behaviourist. Dr Lee very offended by this and says that I am
dumkopf and that Poland never produced any great thinkers. I mention
Copperknickers and Kant. Dr Lee throws down blowlamp and runs up to library in
front of barn. He produces favourable citations on Ryle from Wittgenstein and
G.E. Moore but I say Wittgenstein was wrong too and should have stuck to his
plumbing course at Manchester Poly rather than chasing after the egregious
Bertrand Russell, and that Moore’s concept of a commonsense philosophy was an
oxymoron. “You’re like that Oxford toerag philosopher Jack Austin” Dr Lee raged
“A.J.Ayer told him he was like a dog which couldn’t run but bit the legs of
better dogs who could”. I remarked that all English philosophy was bankrupt and
sterile and that I preferred the inspiring mysticism of Heidegger and Sartre. Dr
Lee said it was all bollocks and that I was typical continental birdbrain. After
many more wine breaks, towards the end of the afternoon, I have run fifteen feet
of 10mm copper pipe, not particularly straight, and Dr Lee thinks there might be
something to Sein und Zeit after all. We fall asleep on large couch and
are awakened only by shouts from Madame Lee who wants spuds peeled.
Dr Lee has vast
collection of recorded music on vinyl, CD and tape. Many nights we listen to
Parsifal, Otello, Falstaff, the Ring cycle. Drawers and boxes overflow with a
plethora from Montiverdi to Schoenberg. But is this commodity fetishism? I take
the good Dr to task after familiarising myself with the sociologists vocab
browsing his extensive library. I realise that some Marxist jargon would impress
and I had much of this from my uncle who ran Poland. “John” I began one night
after a particularly fine meal with many bottles of Chateau Leftfoot “commodity
fetishism is a deformation of personality brought on by the capitalist mode of
production. The superstructural, spiritual attributes of art objects are
subsumed into their concrete encodings. Hence literary and musical works become
hypostatised into their contingent physical manifestations – books and discs.
Pseudo-connoisseurs, with no appreciation of the original artistic impulse, get
locked into the fetishistic accumulation of representations. A recent
development is the substrate variant which provides further stimulus for the
addicted collector. Thus, although you have the whole 16 hours of Wagner’s ring
on CD, Vinyl, VHS tape and DVD you must, with the advent of the Minidisc,
transpose this masterpiece into yet another encoding. Madness of course. We see
in this endemic pursuit the successful subversion of the working class
revolutionary spirit by a small secret clique of establishment autocrats.
Compare this to the natural, life-enhancing approach of the Ituri pygmies who
dropped everything – hunting, shagging, scooping out the brains of their enemies
as a snack - on hearing Mozart’s G minor Symphony No 40 - but had no
inclination to buy a Dansette (the state of the art record player in 1958) even
if they could have afforded one.” I think John was chastened by this analysis.
And then, by an
extraordinary coincidence which only Jung or Borges could justify, I am rooting
about in John’s library when I find some back issues of…the Penniless Press!!
Shag a parrot! As John’s Australian brother in law might say. I read everything
with great attention. Your own superb criticisms worthy of the great English
ranter F.R. Leavis. But where are your poems? Such noble reticence (or perhaps
they are too big to fit in). The terrible plight of Fred Voss – “eyeless in Palm
Beach, at the mill with slaves” one might paraphrase (but would my compatriot
machinists in a freezing workshop in Lodz sympathise?), the great Jim Burns, and
the bizarre stories of Ken Clay (is this a real person? Life in the CPGB seems
very different from that of an apparatchik in Warsaw). Now that Dr Lee has
trained me on the computer I find I am writing much quicker. Dr Lee, after a
cursory glance has pronounced it all “gibberish”. The first section of my vast
epic, in Polish, will soon be finished. Naturally you will print this. An
introduction will explain the sounds of Polish while a vestigial summary will
cover the meaning. (who cares about that? Has TS Eliot lived in vain?). There
will be room for no other contributions and it will extend over three issues –
this will make life simpler for you and Madame Dent I think you will agree.
Dr Lee will be moving to
his other house in Spain soon. This is new apartment with excellent plumbing.
Turds will flow unimpeded to a splendid sewage farm which will be constructed in
two years time. No heating is required. Dr Lee says the local vino rosso and
blanco are superior to Vosne Romanée and Meursault. But I yearn for my native
Lodz from which I shall send you a large package very soon.
Your fellow poet and
STEFAN JARUZELSKI - POLISH PLUMBER
I first met
Stefan in 2005 in the South Rhone village of Vacqueras. He'd hitched from his
hometown of Lodz with a bag of tools and an urge to get rich quick. But such was
the French fear of immigrant tradesmen - the Polish plumber being the dreaded
archetype demonised even in Le Figaro - that he was soon reduced to
grapepicking. Each night we'd meet in the Bar des Sports and after a few
Ricards get into a kind of cultural exchange. French, at this point, was still
his second language but he quickly picked up a serviceable English pidgin. He
told me that Chopin, an earlier immigrant, had also been a plumber who had been
forced to diversify due to local prejudice. I find no mention of this in Groves
however. I recited English poetry with examples from the canon. He soon
pronounced Shakespeare "top jockey" preferring the Sonnets and "the Penis on the
Tortoise" above all else. He was also keen on Milton whose radical sentiments
were entirely to his taste. "Describe again King's head chopped off" he'd
The more we
recited the more excited he became. His booming performance of Book II of
Paradise Lost practically emptied the bar but since, between us, we drank
more than all the stingy locals put together the proprietor didn't mind. I did
essay a little Baudelaire and Verlaine but he decided they were "tosspots and
vankers". There was something about English, its variety of sounds and syntax,
which he preferred to French which he likened to "a monotonous stream of verbal
snot". I feel my own defective renderings of les poetes maudits may be to
blame for this harsh judgement.
Such a raw and
powerful talent might come to something, I thought, so I gave him the address of
the Penniless Press. He vowed to master the world's greatest poetic vehicle
(English) and send his efforts to "esteemed editor Tooth at Penisless Press".
Back home I got further letters, as did Alan, from the Loire valley where he
worked at Mick Jagger's chateau, and the Dordogne where he fixed plumbing
cock-ups by English DIYers. There were always hints of some heroic epic in
progress but nothing was submitted. His letters became more expressive and
increasingly bizarre. I began to fear for his sanity - perhaps he really was a
December 2005 a letter from Greek street Soho. He was staying with his daughter
who, despite a doctorate in plumbing from the University of Warsaw, seemed to be
a victim of the white slave trade. The letter, to esteemed editor Dent via me,
requested help in becoming a member of the Church of England (like Johnny
Milton) and enclosed an odd ecclesiastical hand-out he'd been sent from the
custodians of his chosen faith. I reassured him that there'd be no rigorous
scrutiny concerning his doctrinal understanding as in Catholicism (his religion
by birth) but it would help if he renounced heterosexuality and viewed women as
defective beings. I enclosed some texts by Nietzsche and Joe Orton.
Later still his
daughter Wislawa rang up. No victim she - I got the impression she was running a
busy knocking shop. It dawned on her that literature could be lucrative and had
been advised, by a client, that she'd be a certainty for the Hooker Prize. I
agreed wholeheartedly and asked if she could ferret out a sheet or two of
Stefan's oeuvre. I added that even great poets had to start somewhere and that
esteemed editor Dent was keen to be the first to expose the plumber/poet to the
world. Not only would she send examples of work in progress she'd translate and
annotate them too (Stefan's early efforts were in his native Polish).
Red and White
turned up after I'd sent her the Ł5 postage. It's in the Shakespearean mode (or
strait-jacket) of iambic pentameters but with echoes of the tyke bard Tony
Harrison in his fine series Continuous. Stefan mimics perfectly
Harrison's jog-trotting doggerel. It is, admittedly, a prentice work but there
are fine effects. The exile's tearful reflex, wiping his eye with a filthy, flux
smirched cloth, is very touching. The image of Chopin's tubercular spittle is
also fine in the tradition of 1940s Hollywood - one can see Leslie Howard,
sweat-streaked and slumped after a demanding etude and then a close-up of the
red drips on the ivories. I am less sure about the slanders on Gomulka. I think
the red phone and fur coat were attributes of the servile East German
apparatchik Walter Ulbricht. Then we return to the opening image. One hopes, for
the sake of Polish poetry, that Stefan didn't cut himself on sanitary wear used
by George Michael. The final agonised complaint is searing - "realm of bum" is
inspired. It has a Miltonic ring - perhaps Dante - well, Rochester at least. The
commentary by Wislawa is a very odd apparatus for which I suppose we must be
grateful, if not always credulous. We are reminded of Kinbote on John Shade.
Purists may sniff at this patchy start with its flashes of greatness but they
should remember that this is only one of Stefan's protean gifts. What, one
wonders, would TS Eliot be able to do with your blocked U bend? How was W.B.
Yeats with a soldering iron?
Ken Clay 2006
Red and White
(czerwony i bialy)
I bend my Belsen-Blitzer to the pipe
Solder and copper shine out white and red
Smooth moleskin gives the softened lead a wipe
And then my eyes as bitter tears I shed
Did Chopin's blood flecked sputum on the keys
Or Uncle Wojciech's snow-blind bloodshot eyes
Remind them of our flag — and were they seized
By dreams of statehood - the sad exile’s prize?
Gomulka takes the red phone from his ear
Three cops escort him to his waiting sleigh
In overcoat, fur-cap and winter gear
He walks the beach at Miedzyzdroje
I cut my thumb and Lord Mick's toilet bowl
Is marked by yet another bloody Pole
I cannot sing like Mick, nor can he plumb.
O muse! Release me from this realm of bum!
Translated with annotations by Wislawa Jaruszelski
Whilst heating a copper pipe joint the poet-plumber is reminded of his distant
homeland (Poland) as the colours of the national flag (red and white) appear on
the workpiece. He wonders if other famous exiles, Chopin and General Jaruzelski,
had similarly disturbing visions. A third stanza satirises modem Communist
leaders and their repressive apparatuses. In the final quatrain we return to the
plumber-poet installing a toilet for Mick Jagger. The last line exhorts the muse
of poetry to free him from this drudgery.
Line 1: Belsen-Blitzer A rudimentary Krups blow-lamp used to ignite gas ovens.
It could explode in your face as many German operatives found out. It ran on
kerosene, expensive and hard to get, or home-brewed Vodka, cheap and ubiquitous.
The Soviet alternative, the Djugashvili Dreadnought, never really caught on.
Line 3. moleskin Making a joint between copper and lead entails heating the
solder to just below its melting point 183°C and wiping the mushy mixture with a
cloth. Moleskin is the preferred material. The rest of the mole can be eaten in
a pie with potatoes - a Polish delicacy - Kret i pasztet ziemniaku
Line 5 Chopin. Frederic Chopin (1810-1845) - Polish plumber and composer. He
arrived in France in 1831 and was introduced to Achille Flaubert who asked him
to install a garden tap on his estate at Croisset. Flaubert then passed him on
to George Sand who needed central heating at her house in Gargillesse. Fred
finished the house and then proceeded to install central heating in Madame Sand.
During post-coital lulls he toyed the piano and eventually gave up plumbing
completely. Edmund de Goncourt, when shown the tap by Gustave Flaubert years
later, pronounced it a work of genius and wrote in his Journal that even the B
flat piano sonata could in no way compensate for the loss of further pipework
masterpieces from this Michelangelo of plumbing. Chopin died of tuberculosis.
Line 6 Uncle Wojciech General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the poet's uncle, was leader
of Poland from 1981-1989. He was deported with his father at 16, after the
Soviet partition of Poland in 1939, to the Siberian Gulags where he developed
snow-blindness from cutting wood. From then onwards he had to wear dark glasses.
This was not a politically opportunistic homage to Ray Charles. In the camp
Wojciech learned plumbing and delighted his fellow zeks by constructing a sauna
and Jacuzzi which they relaxed in after a day in the forest at minus forty. The
camp guards were so impressed they begged him to build them one too.
Line 9. Gomulka takes the red phone from his ear: Wladyslaw Gomulka (1905-82),
Polish leader 1960s. A loyal stooge of the Soviets after a short period of
resistance. It was said his office had a phone consisting only of an enormous
red earpiece - the hot-line to Moscow.
Line 10. three cops The security organs went out in threes. One could read, one
could write and the third was there to keep an eye on these two dangerous
Line 11. In overcoat, fur-cap... An aide once met Gomulka on a sunny day at the
beach swaddled in winter gear: "Wladyslaw, why the fur coat? It's 24 degrees!"
"It may be" replied Gomulka "But it's minus 5 in Moscow".
Line 13 Lord Mick The poet worked briefly on Lord Jagger's chateau in the Loire
valley near Amboise. He refused an offer from Mick’s guest, George Michael, to
service spigots in LA.
Feb 22 2006
Esteemed Editor Dent
I take opportunity of
visit to daughter to contact you again on matters literary. I still struggle
with English language and have found many inspiring volumes left by previous
owner of daughter’s Greek street flat. This was the Right Hon Somebody
Somefucker of the Lib Dem party (if I hear my daughter correctly). Works include
bound issues of The Gayboy Times and stories of wartime heroes intended
for schoolboys. The latter by Capt W.E. Johns who is very like my countryman
Josef Conrad, describing the lone hero engaged in moral struggle against fate.
I read these faute de
mieux and find myself considering pastiche as an instructive technique. You
no doubt recall Proust’s great works in this genre: Pastiches et Melanges.
How Lord Jagger and I larfed over the piss-take of Flaubert by the great Marcel.
For weeks afterward Lord Mick might say “How you like this shirt Stefan” and I
would reply “It a bit jaunâtre for me Lord Mick” and then we’d both hoot
immoderately. Or Mick might observe after night on the piss “Stefan, you’re
looking a bit verdâtre today old bean”. Happy days. (Mick has now sold
Loire chateau incidentally because of new draconian French tax on rich gits.
Johnny Hallyday also announces himself Belgian to escape the predations of state
but this surely, how you say, cutting off nose to spite face).
Captain W.E. Johns struck
me as great stylist with fine narrative drive. He very popular with young people
and I read many Biggles books during daughter’s frequent absences. She is
looking for flatmate and brings back many fellows who jump up and down on bed
noisily (I hear this through locked door) leave a deposit and then never return.
Perhaps bed too soft for their bad backs.
Eventually, although poet
with principal epic now up to line 16540 and accompanying French commentary
extending to 15,000 words, I feel prose work coming on. Perhaps more melange
than pastiche (to use the Proustian taxonomy) I find myself combining the
heroics of wartime RAF with modern moeurs of Libdems picked up from accounts in
I tell daughter of my
project and letter to you. She not too impressed and says you would be “one mad
fuck” to even consider keeping such an obscenity in the house let alone
publishing it. I retort that she knows nothing of English manners and customs
since she can’t even rent spare room. Esteemed editor Dent probably Biggles fan
himself, and LibDem too I shouldn’t wonder. No-one makes money from poetry so I
work on melanges as good little earner and expect Hollywood contract soon if not
personal column in Gayboy Times.
Your fellow poet and
Stefan's updated version of a Biggles adventure
Biggles Pulls It Off
can be read in the Annexe.
Breaking News! BritArt Superstar
Flees Greedy Govt!
Tent: "Everyone who's ever fucked me"
Haiku by Stefan Jaruzelski
Trashy Emin leaves.
well-fucked art ho
Adds “G. Brown” to