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Queen Cells by Małgorzata Lebda, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese PRE-ORDER

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Published 31st August 2024. Available for pre-order.


Dedicated to soil, Queen Cells recounts – from early spring to another spring – the ‘work in blood’ of one family and one small village: Żeleźnikowa Wielka, in the Beskid Mountains of southern Poland, where Małgorzata Lebda grew up. Here the fields, forest, slaughterhouse and neighbours reveal themselves as elemental protagonists: prudent and precarious. Father, mother and siblings; bees, dogs and cows; fire, water and earth are all locked in the communal and private rituals of illness, healing, love. This unflinching yet tender ‘liturgy of departures’ teaches life, not death. Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese’s sparse raw translations listen attentively to the intensity of ‘slow moves’ in Lebda’s dark and luminous world.


PRAISE for Queen Cells:

The pastoral is haunted in Małgorzata Lebda’s Queen Cells, translated with dark, glistening precision by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese. I thought of the folk-horror of Sylvia Plath’s bee poems. A sequence to impress and unsettle.

— Clare Pollard


Dreamlike but knife-sharp, this sequence of poems hums faintly with the buzzing of bees and the almost imperceptible sounds of a northern forest. A mysterious father teaches his children about death while himself moving towards it. These unsettling, precise poems instantly draw the reader into a tangible world of their own, located in a liminal space between memory and myth.

— Clarissa Aykroyd


Elemental, moving, unflinching. This is a book of rough tenderness for the soil itself, for all its creatures, animals, insects – bees especially – and ourselves. At times our human blood mingles with that of the animal world: a sister’s nosebleed and the blood on her father’s hands from a killed hare as he tends the child. A rural upbringing is distilled through a seamless stream of images. With startling clarity a daughter recounts the stories in duet with intermittent adages and reflections from a ghost father. Subtle and imaginative translations by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese lightly run close to the original. Małgorzata Lebda’s poems carry you through changing seasons, moments, flowing swiftly towards the inevitable end – only to make you want to start again from the beginning.

— Maria Jastrzębska


To read Małgorzata Lebda’s Queen Cells, poem after poem, is to witness an expert archer firing arrow after arrow straight into the bullseye. Not a wasted word, no ornament; only an elemental concision drawn deep from the claggy soil of the Beskid Mountains in the south of Poland. Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese’s translations capture the reticent pitch and spare, gut-punching drama of Lebda’s Matecznik, giving English-language readers a rare chance to encounter this major talent in European poetry.

— Alice Lyons


ABOUT Małgorzata Lebda:

Małgorzata Lebda is the author of eight poetry collections, which were awarded, among others, the prestigious Wisława Szymborska prize (2022) and the Gdynia Literary award (2018). Her 2023 debut novel, Voracious, published to instant critical acclaim, is forthcoming in English from Linden Editions in 2025. A photographer and ultramarathon runner, Lebda ran 1113 kilometres along Poland’s longest river, Wisła, to draw attention to the environmental fragility of all rivers. She lives in a remote village in the Beskid Mountains. IG: @malgosia_lebda


ABOUT Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese:

Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese is a multilingual poet, literary translator, academic, accredited coach and book artist. As a Fulbright scholar, she worked at the Elizabeth Bishop archives. She co-curates and runs ‘Transreading’ courses on translocal and hybrid poetries for the Poetry School in London. Her site-specific verbal and visual texts use such analogue processes as botanical inkmaking, cyanotype, pinhole photography, expressive handwriting and bookmaking. She currently lives in Copenhagen and is a ‘creative ambassador’ for the Møn UNESCO Biosphere. IG: @elzbietawojcikleese

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