”A good book may be based on that you don’t know what it is about. A bad book may be based on that you don’t know what it is about” – read Marcin Sundecki yesterday in one of his poems. The jury of the Wisława Szymborska Award considered his recent book W the best poetry volume in 2016, awarding Sendecki the Szyborska Prize.
”W” stands for Warsaw. Or rather for has been left of it in Sendecki’s memory. In his award-winning volume the poet examines his own ability to store and reconstruct images of the past. –”It is a book about the slipping down of the world, slipping away of once important events from your memory – something hardly describable” – said Joanna Orska, the Chair of the Competition Jury in her laudation speech. ”The rhythm of Sendecki’s sentences, in which the pictures are caught like as in the flashlight, reflects his effort to commemorate everything that once could be found in Warsaw”. In addition to the statuette, the author received the financial prize of PLN 100 000. Interestingly, when a few hours earlier Sendecki talked with the readers at a get-together with the author in the Festival Centre, he expected that the day would have a joyful finale…
It was a long day, anyway. This time the poetry marathon began with a translation workshop for beginner poetry translators. From early morning the paticipants tackled poems by festival guests. They discovered that a few verses might be discussed for hours, never getting to the final version of the translations
Participants in the literary criticism workshop, concluded by the debate between Marcin Wilk, Paulina Małochleb, Michał Nogaś and Justyna Sobolewska, also discovered how deep one can dig into the text. It appears that today the greatest problem for critics is that their texts often do not find readers. – ”There has never been such a wide and multi-layered literary criticism in the post-war history of Poland as today”, said Paulina Małochleb in the debate. – ”But in the times when the media drastically reduce the place for culture, the space for crticism is shrinking”.
At half-way point of the festival, the readers met a poet whose oeuvre best reflects the festival motto: “Beginning with my streets”. In his photographs, Wojciech Wilczyk has captured the streets of Polish cities for years. This documentary experience is reflected in his poetry. Like a photographer, he watches, eavesdrops and registers the reality that surrounds him. – “The poems help me to overcome the monopoly of the image”, he said yesterday at a meeting with the readers. ”Every medium has its shortcomings but those two arts complement each other perfectly – because photography cannot ask questions, whilst poetry is never altogether realistic.”
The same way Wilczyk looks at Polish streets, the festival organisers try to look ay their neighbours’ streets, inviting poets from not distant countries to Krakow. This year the countries are represented by the Austrian Evelyn Schlag and the German Joachim Sartorius. Both of them share the same language, but the character of the poetry is completely different. Schlang’s sensual, almost naturalistic poems pave new paths for poetry, whilst Sartorius is ”the guardian of tradition”. The Pergamon Museum, the Lascaux grotto and ancient Rome are his places. Ovid, Diane and Plato appear in his poems embodying contemporary classicism, encouraging the reader to look into the past and to enter into dialogue with other cultures. “For me the primary goals of poetry are beauty, enjoying the word and keeping language in good condition”, said Sartorius, whose poems were read by Ryszard Krynicki in his own translation.
The poetry day in the Bishop Erasm Ciołek Palace closed by a meeting with Marta Eloy Cichocka, on a completely different theme from the previous talks with the authors. Cichocka talked less about her recent volume Engramy, and more abut the writing method, how to make a living writing poetry (or rather that it is impossible) and about how difficult it is to find some time for herself and for writing which has for her a therapeutic value. –”Poetry gave me the power to influence reality and to cope with painful experiences” – she said yesterday –”sometimes I think about poems as if they were moths I am afraid of but I can pin them to the wall and create something beautiful.”
In the evening the festival audience was offered Reading Stories before Sunset by Juliusz Chrząstowski, a meeting with Bridget Minamore in Cafe Szafe under OFF Miłosz stream and the film screening of Taboo devoted to the life Georg Trakl in Metaforma. Or you could simply read poetry by the guests of the Miłosz Festival on your own, at home, to gather strength for the next day.