Poetry of the journey, poetry of exile
Soon, Krakow will once again be the place for an exceptional meeting with poetry. The 5th edition of the Miłosz Festival will take place from the 9th to the 12th of June, gathering the most prominent poets – artists from Poland and abroad who speak various languages and hold various worldviews – in the UNESCO City of Literature, along with literary translators, philosophers, intellectuals and lovers of poetry. As every year, the Festival will be held under a title taken from the work of its Patron. The point of reference for the theme of this year’s edition is the title of the volume of poetry by Miłosz, Road-side Dog, as well as broad associations with travel. Outstanding artists, representing various continents, cultures and languages will invite audiences for shared poetry readings and discussions of the various forms of contemporary nomadism. Among the artists visiting Krakow will be Adonis (Syria and France), Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa and France), Ashur Etwebi (Libya and Norway) Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), Michael Ondaatje (Sri Lanka and Canada) and Olga Sedakova (Russia).
“The title of this year’s edition of the Miłosz Festival once again refers to the work of its Patron”, said Olga Brzezińska, President of the City of Literature Foundation. “It’s fascinating how current and alive the work of Czesław Miłosz still is, serving as an inexhaustible source of inspiration and providing intellectual nourishment for future generations. Road-side Dog, one of the poet’s most personal books, loses none of its freshness: wanderings, travels and migrations – both the voluntary and those marked by the trauma of exile or escape – are all problems very close to contemporary people. We want to talk about them during the Miłosz Festival, and poetry gives us a unique opportunity to touch what is important.
The city’s flagship programme, grown from the tradition of the European Capital of Culture Krakow 2000, take place on an annual basis since 2015. This decision was influenced by the significance that the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office, the City of Literature Foundation and the Book Institute attach to the poetic identity of the UNESCO City of Literature.
“We want the festival, in cooperation with the Children’s Literature Foundation and the Wisława Szymborska Foundation, to create an important message for all audiences of literature, but to also have a strong voice in the debate on the future of readership in Poland”, says Izabela Helbin, Director of the Krakow Festival Office. “We are certain that in June, all of Krakow will live and breathe poetry, and the Festival will become a place where there will be substantial and discussions and valuable poetry meetings in an excellent atmosphere”.
We travel a lot – sometimes forced by circumstances, sometimes exiled from the place where we grew up, sometimes spurred on by a curiosity of the world. We explore new spaces, absorb them, but we also tame what is alien. Quite often, it turns out that the real discoveries await us just around the corner, emerging from the nearby trees. This is what Miłosz’s Road-side dog is like – a book focused on the small and marginal, sometimes completely unnoticed. But these fragments of everyday life, the discoveries of ordinary ramblings, can become an excuse for a reflection on one of the most significant experiences of modernity. It contains both the wandering, the travels, the joy of great holidays, and the trauma of exile, emigration, moving, homelessness and the need to seek a (new) homeland. It revels the complicated relationships of people and places, but also languages – themes that are also present in other texts of the Nobel laureate: essays “Notes on Exile” and “To Be an Emigrant”.
Opening a space for reflection on the dilemmas of modernity, individual liberties and freedom of speech, the festival from the start takes on the problem of crossing geographical and spiritual borders. As every year, our guests – Polish poets, as well as artists from many parts of the world – will read poems that deal with the idea of taming the world in different ways. They will also talk about poetic journeys, about the search for and scattering of identity, about wanderings in physical space as well as the spaces of language. They will speak about inner migration, imprisonment, persecution, refugee status, about the role of the native and acquired languages, about the experience of encountering various cultures.
The festival will most certainly leave a lasting mark on the Polish literary life: for the third time, it will be accompanied by a special series of publications – new editions of poetry by invited foreign guests, specially prepared for the occasion thanks to the work of organisers and leading Polish publishers.
Among the most important guests, we should mention Michael Ondaatje, winner of the Booker Prize for The English Patient, but above all (which he himself considers to be a more important part of his identity and body of work) an outstanding poet, who has long since achieved the status of a classic. The festival audience will certainly enjoy the first book presentation of Ondaatje’s poetry in Poland, specially prepared for the Festival – Zbieracz cynamonu [The Cinammon Peeler] (Znak, 2016).
Also visiting Krakow will be Adonis, known to Festival participants, who combines intensive literary work (he has published 23 volumes of poetry) with political activism and work on behalf of the Arabic culture. For the first time, a collection of his poetry will be published in Poland – Witając wiatr i drzewa [Welcoming the wind and trees] (Anagram, 2016) – and will premiere at the Festival.
Another illustrious guest of the Festival – Breyten Breytenbach – is one of the most respected Afrikaans-language artists – writer, poet, essayist and painter. His opposition to apartheid cost him a prison sentence and exile from his homeland. It is difficult to list all the literary awards he has received – the list of the most important ones contains more than thirty.
Visiting from Belgium will be Stefan Hertmans, who writes in Dutch. His works, translated into many languages, are considered masterpieces of Dutch and Flemish poetry. He is known to Polish readers from his best-selling novel War and Turpentine, and this time, he will show himself as a poet during meetings with authors and thanks to the first selection of his poems in Polish, prepared for the Festival by the Marginesy publishing house (2016).
Olga Sedakova, outstanding poet and translator of European poetry, laureate of the Vlaldimir Solovyov Prize, will present her work in Russian, which many consider to be uniquely created for poetry. Thanks to the forthcoming book with Polish translations (Kolegium Europy Wschodniej, 2016), participants of the Festival will have the opportunity to meet with Russian culture and the language of Velimir Khlebnikov, to whom the writer makes references.
The last of the foreign guests of the Festival, Ashur Etwebi, is one of the best-known Libyan poets and writers, organiser of cultural life in Libya after the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and co-organiser of literary festivals. Etwebi currently resides in Trondheim as part of the ICORN programme (which Krakow is also a part of), created for writers persecuted in their countries of origin. His presence at the Festival will be enhanced by a volume of poetry specially prepared for the occasion by the Mikołowski Institute.
Individual meetings will be another opportunity to listen to the poems of our guests and talk about their experiences in the space of the world and language. Festival debates, with the participation of thinkers, writers and artists, will be dedicated to discussion of the different dimensions of wandering and “road-side-ness”, beginning with global migration, through travel as a creative practice, to translation, which is the space for the journey of works, words and ideas. Meetings with Polish poets will focus on poetic journeys, (Agnieszka Mirahina, Michał Książek, Tadeusz Pióro, Przemysław Owczarek), new voices in Polish poetry (Barbara Klicka, Aldona Kopkiewicz, Piotr Przybyła, Kacper Bartczak) and the poetic tension between words and the moment of silence (Piotr Matywiecki, Joanna Roszak, Julia Szychowiak, Jerzy Kronhold).
In addition to poetic evenings, meetings with authors, discussions and literary translation and criticism workshops, the Festival programme will also include a variety of other propositions. Among others, there will be a remarkable exhibition dedicated to Zuzanna Ginczanka, which will present the life of the Polish poet of Jewish origin, the star of the interwar Warsaw bohemians. Ginczanka was one of the most talented, yet underrated female writers of the interwar period. The exhibition is an attempt to extract traces of her thinking and art to compare them with the works of contemporary artists, creating an interesting dialogue between eras. The exhibition will be hosted in a new festival location: the Museum of History of Photography.
Also included in the Miłosz Festival will be Jazzformance, a spectacle combining the poetry of Witold Wirpsza with jazz. Wirpsza’s language experiments were an inspiration for jazz musicians Marcin Oleś, Bartłomiej Oleś, Piotr Orzechowski and actor Radosław Krzyżowski, whose art is based on the game of associations. Wirpsza is worth “discovering” also because the scale of his work is inversely proportional to the position that the poet, formally sharing the level of Karpowicz and Barańczak, occupies in our literary culture.
The Festival will also be part of the celebration of the Year of Shakespeare, thanks to the performance of extraordinary musical compositions written for Shakespeare’s sonnets – the effect of the work of Stanisław Soyka and the Cracow Singers formation, presenting the premienie of Shakespeare a cappella.
The festival is organised by the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office and the City of Literature Foundation, and its programme is drafted collectively together with the Advisory Board, which consists of Krzysztof Czyżewski, Magdalena Heydel, Jerzy Illg, Jerzy Jarniewicz, Zofia Król, Marek Radziwon, Tomasz Różycki and Abel Murcia Soriano. The high quality of the programme is ensured by the Honorary Committee, which is composed of Aleksander Fiut, Julia Hartwig, Robert Hass, Ryszard Krynicki, Anthony Miłosz, Adam Pomorski, Aleksander Schenker, Tomas Venclova and Adam Zagajewski
The Festival can also boast its affiliation with excellent partners. Apart from the National Museum in Krakow, the list includes the Wisława Szymborska Foundation. During this year’s edition of the Festival, an award dedicated to the poet will be presented during an official gala. Moreover, a premiere screening of Marta Węgiel’s Napisane życie (A Written Life), a movie devoted to the artist’s life and creations, will also take place during the festival.
The Festival is returning to its roots. The presence of the Szymborska Award during the Miłosz Festival reconstructs a very important tradition – the Meetings of Poets of the East and West, which took place in Krakow in the 1990s under the auspices of both Nobelists.
“The friendship between Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz has been described thoroughly in the past, but it is also worthwhile to remind everyone about it with a symbolic gesture – the Wisława Szymborska Award gala will take place during this year’s edition of the Miłosz Festival. This year, Krakow bears the title of the UNESCO City of Literature, and for a few days it will become a city of poetry, under the patronage of two Nobel Prize-winning poets”, said Michał Rusinek, Head of the Szymborska Foundation.
There will also be an abundance of events for the youngest readers – the celebration of poetry will be accompanied by the Children’s Literature Festival with its diverse and interesting programme.
“Once again during the Miłosz Festival, literature is also going to amuse the youngest readers. This year we are going to look for things which seem to be lost for good, we will learn how to win a Nobel Prize, we will – reluctantly – leave Krakow to see other cities of the world, such as London, Rome, Lailonia and Warsaw, and everything will end with a great ball”, said Łukasz Dębski, Director of the Children’s Literature Festival.
Road-side dog – the name describes a creator-vagrant, but also a person who curiously observes the visitors. Having said that, we would like to invite you to come to the Festival in order to see the contemporary dilemmas, problems and ourselves from this perspective, using an exceptional language of ideas – poetry.
Find out more about the Festival and the upcoming events soon at: www.miloszfestival.pl