Marta Podgórnik wins the Wisława Szymborska Award! The 4th day of the Miłosz Festival

The poet was honoured for Mordercze ballady. Yesterday’s gala concluded this year’s edition of Miłosz Festival, which has been taking place since Thursday.

“It is quite a daunting task to create a new volume that will be original at the same time. Marta Podgórnik, the author of many books of poetry, managed to do so in a great and recognisable style, which features the regular components of her poetic technique: gripping enjambments, a specific syllabic metre, playing with literary convention, a unique, completely lyrical awareness and the courage to share the sometimes difficult intimacy,” said Dorota Walczak Delanois, member of the Wisława Szymborska Award Jury during the gala at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre.   “Don’t let a murderous epithet fool us. Mordercze ballady is about life.”

Mordercze ballady, a volume published by Biuro Literackie, is the 8th – or the 11th, if we count collective publications – volume of poetry by Marta Podgórnik. When talking about the book, critics highlighted its musical rhythm, irony and perverse phrasing.

“I can’t believe this is happening. Perhaps it is a dream that I will soon wake up from, but even if it is, I won’t regret it. Right now, I am thinking about Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz, the patron of this amazing festival, whom I consider a source of strong emotions and excitement,” said Marta Podgórnik after receiving the award. “I can’t say anything more than that poetry really changes the world.”

The Wisława Szymborska Award, which consists of a statuette and 100,000 PLN, was awarded for the seventh time. In this edition, the list of nominees included, apart from Marta Podgórnik: Kamila Janiak (Wiersze przeciwko ludzkości), Piotr Janicki (Psia książka), Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar (Nawigacje) and Robert Król (Polka).

The evening gala came after a day filled with festival meetings and discussions, which this time could be described as a journey through less known or slightly forgotten literary milieus.

Bella Szwarcman-Czarnota, Joanna Oparek and Marta Eloy-Cichocka, reading fragments of the collection of poetry entitled Moja dzika koza. Antologia poetek jidysz took the festival audience to a world which until recently was kept behind a double wall: the walls of language and gender. “These works play with tradition in a way that breaks the mould, usually associated with Jewish and Yiddish poetry,” said Szwarcman-Czarnota. The poems were interspersed with stories about the fate of writers, often as fascinating as their works.

A meeting devoted to Anna Świrszczyńska – a poet who does not exist in the literary canon, despite being one of the most important and interesting artists of the last century, was yet another debate dedicated to an outstanding figure. “The language and message of her poems still hit you like a truck, she delights with her minimalism, sensitivity to language, and the validity of her feminist postulates,” said Anna Marchewka, who hosted the discussion. “However, in spite of this strength and validity, she still did not break through to the broader audience.” Who knows, maybe it is due to the fact that Świrszczyńska was always alone and never enjoyed being around others?

“A lone poet” is a term that would also suit Alicja Rosé. This artist, mostly known for her illustrations, yesterday sat on the stage of the Miłosz Festival as a poet, telling the story of her volume Północ. Przypowieści. The book, which is an attempt to understand what it means to be a contemporary European, was written during her trips to Estonia and Norway, which lasted for several years. “I travelled on a train or ship; I didn’t use planes because I didn’t want to miss anything in a hurry. I went back to the same places many times, and when I came back, I stayed there for longer, trying to capture and analyse the changes taking place on our continent,” she explained.

The final day and this year’s edition of Miłosz Festival was concluded with a meeting with Tomasz Venclova – one of the most outstanding living Lithuanian poets, often compared to some of the greatest poets in the world, such as Josif Brodsky and Czesław Miłosz.

Although the festival has run its course, the poetry of its invited guests remains with us thanks to the volumes, the publication of which accompanied this edition of the event. These include: Saleh Diab Odległy dzień (translated by: Agata Kozak) Elena Fanailova, Szybki numerek w hotelu Europa (translated by: Leszek Szaruga), Ferida Duraković, Serce ciemności (translated by: Magdalena Koch) and Denise Riley Szantung (translated by: Jerzy Jarniewicz).