Short story collections and novels have the ability to make us feel, yet poetry collections seem to exist in another world. They’re a lot shorter, which means the writer has to do a lot more to make each section resonate. There’s also the chance to be creative because a poetry collection doesn’t have to follow the structure of a traditional novel. As far as poetry collections go I find Factory of Tears by Valzhyna Mort unique, most notably for the Belarusian dialect accompanying the poems.
There’s the impression of looking at a mirror image when comparing the Belarusian with the translation, as if it is a reflection of the English. A tremendous amount of emotion is present in each poem, becoming more powerful when looking at the Belarusian and hearing it read aloud. In every poem there’s a sense of desperation, as if Mort is becoming increasingly focused on keeping the Belarusian language alive. The collection consists of a good balance between contemporary poetry such as ‘Music of Locusts’ and prose poetry like ‘White Trash.’ The former half of this balance was more enjoyable for me.
One of the themes I found haunting was the bitterness present in ‘White Trash,’ ‘in memory of a book’ and ‘for Rafal Wojaczek.’ The bitterness remains constant but it’s always focused on something new. The juxtaposition was interesting and added to the emotional weight of the collection. Imagery is used in quirky but entertaining ways, such as a prostitute being compared to a memory in ‘Password.’ However, there’s a tendency for cliché in some poems such as “your body is so white/that it falls on me like snow.”
Among my favourite poems were ‘for Rafal Wojaczek’ and ‘Juveniles.’ In the first poem the persona is almost congratulating Wojaczek in an ironic way for his suicide and the imagery used to convey that is striking. In ‘Juveniles’ there’s more of the same bitterness. It’s conveyed as people being children in everything they do.
Factory of Tears stands out as a collection written by an author doing all in her power to prevent a language from dying out. After reading it I believe she’s succeeded. You can buy it on Amazon.