Inspiring differences, or how poets read their work

The second day of the Miłosz Festival was abundant in what poetry lovers like the most – direct meetings with poets, who have spoken about their creativity in prose. “My works are a game of light and dark,” said Marie Lundquist, while Charles Simic admitted, that for him, a poem is a small and intricate watch, in which every word has its place. This is why he edits some of them even five times – in later editions of his volumes.

The day saw a symbolic meeting between Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska – the nominees for the Wisława Szymborska Literary Prize were announced during the festival named for the author of The Captive Mind. The jury selected five writers from among the 214 submitted entries – one of them will receive the prize in October.

The nominees were: Roman Honet, Jakobe Mansztajn, Mirosław Mrozek, Jacek Podsiadło and Maciej Robert. Abel Murcia Soriano, member of the jury, emphasised that the selected poets differ from one another in absolutely everything, and it was this distinction that the jury focused on.

Justyna Czechowska also asked Marie Lundquist about the differences. Her work – extremely feminine and intimate was daringly translated from Swedish by Zbigniew Kruszyński. Is a man able to properly interpret poetry created by a woman? Marie Lundquist admitted, that in their new form, her poems take on a new colour and she herself has started to look at them differently.

The Swedish poet emphasised that since her debut, she has been accompanied by a sense of strangeness – her first poems were published in Danish in one of the local literary magazines. “Perhaps this is why I am still sceptical about the language I use in my poetry,” she added, although she admitted that it could be a matter of Scandinavian nostalgia.

Charles Simic, in turn, confessed that he did not consider himself to be a poet for a long time. “I’ve always wanted to be a painter,” the Serbian-American artist said. Perhaps this is why he works on his poems with such a precision, so he can improve them again and again even after publication.

Charles Simic’s poetry evokes strong reactions – his Greek hairdresser decided to devote a series of oil paintings to it, and one of his anxious readers sent him a copy of the Bible, worried about his salvation. The poet admitted to knowing that at least one marriage was entered into under the influence of his poem, “Crazy About Her Shrimp.”

The festival does not cater only to its adult readers. In cooperation with the Festival of Literature for Children, the organisers invited children and Miś Fiś to play. The author of the book, Wojciech Bonowicz, presented the newest adventure of the beloved character to the youngest members of the audience, causing peals of laughter.

A more bluesy mood was brought to us by Adam Zagajewski and his guests, who, along with pianist Joachim Menzel, presented the Requiem for poets. Thanks to this meeting poets who have passed away returned in a moving encounter through their poems.

What will the third day of the poetry celebration in Krakow bring? Fans of the work of Robert Haas and Alice Oswald will be able to meet them in person during author meetings. On Saturday, readers will also meet Ryszard Krynicki, laureate of the 2015 Zbigniew Herbert Literary Award.

Following further footsteps of the work of Czesław Miłosz, on Saturday, we will look for his connections with haiku – during the International Haiku Conference. The evening will end with the Republica Poetica meeting – an incredible marathon, with participating poets from Poland, Spain, Mexico and Chile, accompanied by Marcin Oleś, one of the most outstanding Polish jazz bassists.