The Józef Czapski Pavilion, a beautiful day, clear air and a delicate murmur caused by discussions in the café. Ashur Etwebi slowly sips coffee at the table, looking around discreetly. The atmosphere of celebration can be felt in the air, even though it is still unclear what is going to happen. What was the course of this exceptional day with poetry and poems?
The road-side dog, a symbol of travel, poetic wandering and nomadism, is the motto of this year’s Miłosz Festival. As the participants of the first festival debate noted, it is an ambiguous character – on the one hand it is someone who travels in a physical manner, and on the other a thinker, exploring the secret of oneself. Adonis, Michael Ondaatje, Olga Stanisławska and Breyten Breytenbach discussed the various dimensions of travel, from initiation and formation travels, to refugee travels and escape. At some point in the discussion the host – Jarosław Mikołajewski – invited the Belarussian poet, Andrej Hadanowicz on stage, thus passing the border between the gathered audience and the invited guests. There were many such events during this meeting.
Anthony Miłosz, son of the famous poet, observed how the “road-side dog” has changed since the times of Czesław Miłosz. “We are in another phase, when it comes to wandering. Some build walls, others build rafts”. The wandering, which allows for renewal and for discovering something Other in ourselves, was discussed from the moral perspective.
In the introductory lecture Michael Ondaatje reminded that these days we are not dependent on environmental and social impacts, and geography does not have to be a cultural barrier. Opening to the world allows for both importing and exporting art. There is no single version of history, we have to speak about all histories at the same time, which has both artistic and political dimension. In his words, the road-side dog is a mongrel – someone who wanders around, constantly looking for their own place, questioning who they are. He also spoke about blurring the boundaries between various kinds of art (literature, film, architecture), genres, poetics and – finally – between people, because literature creates connections between worlds and people. It could certainly be felt in the Czapski Pavilion – the meeting place for a variety of languages, cultures and experiences.
The discussion the moved to the Tempel synagogue. The language of the discussion also changed, in spite of the fact that the poets were still speaking; now they spoke through their works. Almost symbolically, at the beginning of this unique meeting of ten poets of the East and West, the voice of Czesław Miłosz sounded in the darkness. “Rue Descartes”, his poem written in 1980: “And suddenly saw in the light the reeling wheel of the seasons / Where empires have fallen and those once living are now dead / There is no capital of the world, neither here nor anywhere else”, corresponded with the words of Anthony Miłosz, spoken during the previous meeting. The solemn atmosphere could be felt in poets’ words and seen in their biographies, as most of the invited guests were – and are – wanderers and refugees.
The evening reading was just a foretaste to the lecture, which continued in the Czapski Pavilion. Those who want more poetry can find a mobile bookstore with volumes of poetry written by the festival guests. Today we would like to invite you to a meeting with Ashur Etwebi, conducted by Krzysztof Siwczyk, and a meeting with Olga Sedakova, hosted by Adam Pomorski. The day will end with two atmospheric events – reading poetry in St Martin’s Church and the premiere screening of I Still Return. A Portrait of Ryszard Krynicki. Come and talk about poetry, and maybe you will be joined by Stefan Hertmans, Adonis or Breyten Breytenbach.