On poetry and power, or day one of Festival is behind us

Who is the poet? Why does the world need poetry? The first day of the 8th edition of the Miłosz Festival saw discussions about the role of poetry in the context of power and society.

The stakes of the meeting with the first foreign guest were very high. Syrian poet Saleh Diab, together with Isabelle Macor and Agata Kozak, talked about the difficult role of poetry in the context of power. The discussion was an attempt to answer the questions: does a poet in society remain someone withdrawn from power and live on the margins? Or is the opposite – can or should the poet influence the authorities?
A volume of poems by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, entitled Spotkanie innego rodzaju, premiered on the first day of the festival. The meeting featuring Ryszard Krynicki, who selected and translated the poems by the German poet, took place around a discussion about the artist himself and the translation of poetry into other languages. It is good for a poem if it exists in different translations. The perfect solution is to release the original poems with translations. This way, we wouldn’t be replacing the poems, but building a dialogue between them.

In the spirit of Czesław Miłosz

Above all, the master lecture “Despair and Grace” by Tomas Venclova, a friend of Czesław Miłosz’s, was also not to be missed. In addition to speaking at length on the subject of Miłosz’s life, the most outstanding living poet from Lithuania today explained what is most important in the work of the Polish poet. “His works are imbued with knowledge about humanity, devoid of exaltation, sometimes they seem to be a cry of mad despair tamed by reason. This is what poetry is for, so that we can cope with despair.”

The author’s meetings were complemented by the debate “Vita Activa ‘19”. For more than an hour, Tadeusz Sławek and Karolina Wigura, in a conversation with Krzysztof Czyżewski, discussed the condition of society in a politicised world. The pretext for the discussion was Czesław Miłosz’s novel The Seizure of Power, the title of which became the main theme of this year’s edition of the festival. During the multifaceted conversation, the participants agreed that today’s society has changed the fear of totalitarianism into fear of the future, and that the creation of the grammar of intergenerational dialogue is a salvation.

Multicultural Poetry Evening

The Miłosz Festival is also about music. The first day of the festival ended with a joint reading of poetry by this year’s guests accompanied by music by Hubert Zemler, a Warsaw drummer, composer and improviser.

Today, 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, while punk vocalist and poet SIKSA will take the stage at Alchemia Club. The debate “Power of Poetry, Power Over Poetry” about the phenomenon of poetic trends dominating in the Polish tradition will conclude the second day of the festival.