More than 50 meetings of the main programming stream, the OFF stream and accompanying events, 4 concerts and nearly 100 guests – this is what this year’s edition of the Krakow poetry celebration looks like in numbers. The Milosz Festival, the largest event devoted to contemporary poetry in this part of Europe, will take place on 6-9 June under the slogan “The Seizure of Power”. But this is not about numbers – Krakow will be ruled by words!
“The Seizure of Power, the first novel by Czesław Miłosz, is not only about Stalinism installing itself in Poland, and it is not only a novel with a personal key”, explains Krzysztof Siwczyk, Artistic Director of the festival, talking about the main theme of the 8th edition of the event. “Above all, it conveys the concept of seizing power at the level of imagination, appropriation of spiritual aspirations of human beings using a specific model of narration of the world that is offensive to these aspirations”. The organisers invite you to join the lyrical resistance – together, we will expose the language of the description of reality and use poetry to search for what lies beneath its surface.
The Miłosz Festival repoeticises the city. The strongest lyrical radiation will be felt in the festival centre, a role that will be played by the Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre. It is there that most of the festival’s meetings with the most interesting poets of our times will take place. Simon Armitage (UK), Svetlana Cârstean (Romania), Kholoud Charaf (Syria), Saleh Diab (Syria), Ferida Duraković (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Elena Fanailova (Russia), Athena Farrokhzad (Sweden), Denise Riley (UK) and Tomas Venclova (Lithuania) – for four days in June, Krakow will be the centre of what is intriguing and new in contemporary poetry. The poetic polyphony will be joined by a representation of the Polish poetic scene. Krystyna Dąbrowska, Piotr Florczyk, Magdalena Kicińska, Ewa Lipska, Maciej Melecki, Antoni Pawlak, Uta Przyboś, Alicja Rosé and Tomasz Różycki have all accepted invitations to the festival. Two festival debates will also take place within the walls of the National Stary Theatre: “The Power of Poetry, Power Over Poetry” with the participation of Anna Kałuża, Magdalena Piotrowska-Grot, Paweł Próchniak and Piotr Śliwiński, who will discuss the phenomenon of strong idioms, dominant in the Polish poetic tradition, which fought for years for power over our reading tastes (7.06), and a translation debate in which Paulina Małochleb will talk to Magda Heydel, Isabelle Macor and Jerzy Jarniewicz about translation as a mediation between different literatures and cultural codes alien to each other (8.06). Workshops conducted by outstanding Polish translators – Jerzy Jarniewicz, Agata Kozak and Leszek Szaruga – will also be devoted to translation from English, French and Russian (6 and 7.06).
The poetic radiation in the vicinity of Szczepański Square will be strengthened in other festival locations. On the first day of the event, the 6th of June, in the Copper Room of the Krzysztofory Palace, we will hear the Miłosz Lecture – a master class lecture entitled “Despair and Grace”, which will be delivered by Tomas Venclova, the most outstanding living poet from Lithuania today, listed in one breath with Josif Brodski and Czesław Miłosz. Just after the lecture, there will be a debate entitled “Vita Activa’19”, featuring Tadeusz Sławek, Karolina Wigura and Krzysztof Czyżewski, who will seek answers to the question of how to “seize power” for good in times of consumer hedonism, post-truth and politics reduced to a fight for power.
At the heart of the festival events will be the main festival bookstore, operating under the sign of the Księgarnia Młoda. On level -1 in the space of the MICET Old Theatre, you will be able to buy, among other things, premiere poetry volumes by the festival guests, translated into Polish, issued on the occasion for the festival. In addition to volumes of Simon Armitage’s poetry (translated by Jacek Gutorow and Jerzy Jarniewicz), Saleh Diab (translated by Agata Kozak), Ferida Duraković (translated by Magdalena Koch), Elena Fanailova (translated by Leszek Szaruga) and Denise Riley (translated by Jerzy Jarniewicz), a selection of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s poems titled Spotkanie innego rodzaju will have its premiere during the festival. The author of this selection and translation is Ryszard Krynicki, who will talk about his work on the volume by the German poet in an interview with Justyna Sobolewska (6.06).
Two exceptional concerts await us in the main stream of this year’s Miłosz Festival. On the 7th of June, Michał Górczyński’s jazz trio will appear at the National Stary Theatre, performing material from William’s Things, an album dedicated to William Blake’s work. On Saturday evening of the festival, the 8th of June, within the walls of the Barbican, the Sejny Theatre Klezmer Orchestra will perform, accompanied by one of the most renowned saxophonists of avant-garde jazz, Mikołaj Trzaska. Tickets for both events can be purchased at eventim.pl, InfoKraków and selected music shops. Music will also be present during a special evening with the participation of all poets invited to the festival. A multilingual poetry night led by Olga Brzezińska and Michał Nogaś will be accompanied by Hubert Zemler, an outstanding Warsaw drummer. We would like to invite you to this event together with Unsound Festival (6.06).
These are not the only musical events announced by the organisers: the next two concerts will be part of the OFF programming stream. At this fixed point in the programme of the Krakow festival, the voice of the young generation of poets, as well as an experimental approach to poetic form, are particularly important. Performances by Jakub Kornhauser and Yury Zavadsky, as well as a presentation of works by Athena Farrokhzad (Shevchenko), Tatev Chakhian (Armenia) and Koraly Dimitriadis (Australia) will be accompanied by bold concert performances. The Alchemy Club on Saturday night will be loud thanks to the punk-lyrical SIKSA, who, rejecting verbal compromises, will shout to the sounds of a rumbling bass about what annoy her in the surrounding reality. Shortly afterwards, there will be a performance by the Landschaft duo: Grigory Semenchuk (Ukraine) and Ulrike Almut Sandig (Germany) will offer the audience an inter-genre mix: a combination of their own poetry with hip-hop music, electropunk and pop. Another Ukrainian theme of the OFF programming stream will appear at the Miłosz Festival on Saturday, the 8th of June at De Revolutionibus Books&Cafe: Yury Zavadsky, Grigory Semenchuk and Aneta Kamińska will take part in the discussion on the condition of our eastern neighbours’ poetry. This is not all that OFF prepared for the Miłosz Festival: during the programming stream, where dance and revolution mean the same thing, there will also be poetry slam competitions and the premiere of the new issue of the literary magazine KONTENT.
As every year, at the end of the Miłosz Festival, we will meet the winner of the Wisława Szymborska Award for a poetic volume published in 2018. The final gala of the seventh edition of the competition will take place on Sunday, the 9th of June at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre. On the eve of the award ceremony, we will meet with nominated artists: Kamila Janiak, Piotr Janicki, Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar, Robert Król and Marta Podgórnik. The main organiser of the event is the Wisława Szymborska Foundation.
The Miłosz Festival is organised by the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office and the City of Literature Foundation.