Eva Kolacz on Fire and Water
Eva Kolacz left her native Poland to come to Canada, where she graduated from the Fine Arts Department of the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. Her artwork has been showcased in exhibitions across Canada, the United States and Europe, and she has travelled all over Ontario to read her poetry. We are so pleased to include her poetry and art in Fire and Water, a book of love poems written by herself and her husband, Laurence Hutchman. Her artwork graces the cover and enhances the interior of the book. Head of the Press Marty Gervais has prepared a special video about Eva and Fire and Water.
You are a visual artist as well as a poet, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in poetry?
At the age of 11, I wrote my first poem and I remember how excited I was because I had previously thought that only adults could write. At this time, I was influenced by major Polish and Russian poets, whose poetry I recited on the school stage, most of them revolutionary— my favourite was Vladimir Mayakovsky. I continued to write during my high school years and later at age 20 by winning a poetry competition, I became a member of a literary association and started to publish and give readings. Poetry helped me to express my feelings, brought me a sense of fulfilment and comforted me over the years and still does.
How does your art influence your poetry or vice versa?
As a painter and poet I’m dedicated to both arts, although they are different mediums, they are coming from the same source, the imagination and they complement each other. Sometimes poems will arrive, at other times paintings. In my opinion, there is not much difference between the composition of music, or painting on a canvas, or poems on the page. All of them are created to communicate.
I like the process of writing when I juxtapose lines to escape from the obvious and when during painting, instead of portraying reality, I abstract it. Painting came to me naturally when I immigrated to Canada as a refugee. Not knowing English I had to find ways to express myself. It was in Saskatchewan when I started to paint. Later I graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and became a member of Ontario Society of Artists, which was founded by the Group of Seven. Now my paintings are in the Government of Ontario Art Collection and in national museums of Poland.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind Fire and Water and what you hope the readers take away from the book?
Fire and Water is a record of moments that Laurence and I created out of love for each other. The poems are bold, passionate. A famous German poet, Goethe said “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Our poems are a celebration of love, full of erotic intimacy between two lovers. Our readers should be open and curious; only then the poems will resonate with them, and stimulate their senses, to explore with us powerful scenes presented here. In this book Fire and Water, my illustrations complement some of the poems. This book is guided by our wish to show how love can inspire, provide a place for self discovery, and how in this process we emerge in a total unity with a partner.
Do you have any ideas for your next book?
At this moment, I’m working on a new collection of poems. When I start to write I don’t look for certain topics or ideas—they arrive on their own and they express what is close to my heart at certain times, what disturbs me, what gives me pain, what brings me joy. The thought provokes a new poem: it builds the poem with the first line and then with the next. We are all dealing now with isolation due to coronavirus, going through stressful days, looking toward the light in this dark tunnel. On a personal note, I feel overwhelmed by the devastating condition of my sister in the last stages of dementia. But instead of just telling a story, I’m looking for the special metaphors that could provide clues for the reader to share this experience with me. Along with a collection of new poems, I’m working on the translation of my Polish poems, written over the years. It is a large collection and these translations will require an approach, which is involved in finding ways to present their original verse in English.
Can you share a list of poets who inspire you and explain how they impact your work?
Every writer and artist needs to learn from others. It is a necessary road to take for us to grow. My education started with major Polish and Russian poets. When I started to write poems, I was hungry for knowledge, for poets like A. Akhmatova, W. Szymborska, Z. Herbert, W. Whitman, S. Plath. They were the poets I cherished most in my teenage years. Now I enjoy them along with Cz. Milosz, A. Zagajewski, A. Rich and our own poets like R. Borson , M. T. Lane, B. Bartlett. I like to read S. Sinclair, D. McKay.
My favourite painters were the Impressionists at first.: Monet, Van Gogh. They influenced my early landscapes. Then suddenly I needed to change the approach toward my artwork. I need to be liberated from representation— my masters were Abstract Expressionists— R. Motherwell, M. Rothko, H. Frankenthaler. They played an important role in my development as an artist.
Poems from Fire and Water
Not a Dream
My existence excludes
the realm of ache
by cheating on it like a drunk.
I am a thief my lover
of everlasting race
to hold the key to all your doors.
Now, the future is written
with speed of light
taking my body out of control,
out of gravity for the joy ride.
No, this is not a dream, Laurence
but could become one.
Dance on the Roof
You will be my clown
in the mask from Phantom of the Opera
singing a song from Cabaret.
I will be your girl riding
on the back of Pegasus
with a pink umbrella.
We will be rich oh rich
with hats full of golden stars
and oh how we will dance on the roof
with the music of the fiddle
in your eyes.