They speak their own language even when the language officially ceases to exist. They tear down barriers. They point out uncomfortable issues, shouting them in the audience’s face. Who doesn’t believe this should definitely come to this year’s Miłosz Festival. But hurry up – the event has already reached its halfway point.
Who is Magdalena Kicińska? Most readers would be able to answer this question with “a journalist, author of Pani Stefa and the editor-in-chief of the Pismo monthly. During the second day of the Miłosz Festival, however, she became known as a poet. And although it might seem that lyricism and journalism are two separate worlds, she sees many similarities between them. “For me, poetry is the purest non-fiction genre, the most honest view of the world. It is a record of people, emotions and situations without any oversupply of words,” she said yesterday. Kicińska created her debut volume – Środki transportu – based on, among other things, reflections written on scraps of paper during her travels, her work on a book, moments when, as she says, she went “beyond her main role.” The result is a collection of works which, although seemingly set in specific cities such as Krakow, Warsaw or Hebron, refer to universal stories and emotions.
The history and geography are also intertwined in the works of two other poets: Elena Fanailova and Ferida Duraković, who met with festival guests yesterday. The first of them is Russian, the second one is Bosnian – they both come from places where “the seizure of power” had a literal, cruel dimension. Fanailova said yesterday that she wanted to use her poems to build a bridge between Russia and Europe. “My colleagues don’t always understand it. In Russia, we like to look at those who are far away while ignoring our neighbours. And yet it is thanks to relationships with those close to us that we can learn something about ourselves the easiest,” she explained. “Elena is a kind of a hooligan” said Leszek Szaruga, who hosted the meeting. “These poems have a great deal of energy and power in them.”
Just as Fanailova is not afraid to oppose imperialism and aggression of the authorities, Duraković says directly – I live in a beautiful country, but in a terrible state. A state that was once great and now is divided by a wall into different parts and languages. In her poetry, Duraković tries to find her place in language, but also in society. “A few years ago I realised that as a poet I did not have an older, writing colleague who could be a role model for me”, she said. “Back then I thought that I would like to launch some kind of a solidarity movement between writing girls in the Balkans, that I could be a kind of poetic mother for a new generation. I am pleased to say – some claim that I have succeeded.
The female voice on the second day of the festival sounded particularly strong thanks to Siksa, who, as part of the Off Miłosz stream talked about the need for rebellion and where it comes from, as well as satisfying it by finding one’s own voice. “Perhaps matters such as patriarchy, sexual violence, nationalism and so on would be better presented through pop music, thus reaching a larger group, but I can’t do that. Punk is my voice and that’s what I use,” she said during the meeting that preceded her evening performance at Cheder.
Although references to the work of the festival’s patron appeared during almost all yesterday’s debates – both Fanailova and Duraković emphasised his influence on their poetry, among others, the lecture “Lesser known Miłosz” was dedicated to the Nobel Prize winner. During the lecture, Prof. Aleksander Fiut spoke about the recently published collection of works entitled W cieniu totalitaryzmów.
Today we are in for yet another day of the celebration of poetry. Among the most noteworthy events are a meeting with Ewa Lipska, who will talk about her latest volume of poetry Miłość w trybie awaryjnym, as well as a discussion with Denise Riley, poet and political theory researcher. Make sure to leave some time in the evening for Mikołaj Trzaska, whose concert at the Barbican will be joined by the Sejny Theatre Klezmer Orchestra. There will be no shortage of attractions for children: on Saturday morning, the youngest participants will learn about how to draw a cat and other animals – and why (a workshop around Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz’s Kocia książka), as well as create a dictionary for a new language during the Language games art and language workshop. As you can see, poetry can be captivating – regardless of age.