Poets take the world’s temperature

Staring in the darkness at the film portrait of Ryszard Krynicki, we collected our reflections after another dose of festival experiences. The poet himself says that he is a peripatetic – in order to write, he much travel, and the film is about the path he has travelled. The day passed under the sign of poetry. There were fewer conversations on social and political topics. We listened to the music of poetry and observed the artists.

“I’ll read in Arabic, because I want to read in Arabic”, said Ashur Etwebi with a smile when he and the meeting host, Krzysztof Siwczyk, could not agree on the choice of the poem. This time it was mainly about the melody of the language. We delighted in the melody as well when Olga Sedakova took Etwebi’s place. Back straight, smiling gently, looking just over the heads of the audience or closing her eyes, she recited her poems in Russian almost entirely from memory. Sedakova let the poetry speak above all. And through poetry, she gave voice to poets – she called up Dante, Rilke, Khlebnikov and others as masters. A while later, during another meeting, Julia Szykowiak asked in her poem: “Whom do I write with, whom will I read this?”

Krzysztof Siwczyk and Ashur Etwebi searched for a poetic tradition that linked them and debated over what drives a poem – sensuality and an ecstatic experience of the world, or perhaps the tension between the concrete and tradition? There was no escape, however, from a conversation about what takes place at the intersection of politics and the human condition. Etwebi spoke about his experiences in emigration. After the outbreak of the Arab Spring (which he would rather referred to a coil rather than a season), he had to leave Libya and travel to Norway. Emigrants are exhausted people, filled with a voice, often reduced to a mere number in the administrative apparatus, he said. “I wouldn’t wish this fate even on an enemy, and I never thought it would be my fate”. At the same time, he also spoke about saving what is most important to him – “I think and live in the future”.

The unusual dialogue between artists was maintained at many levels throughout the day. “Poets do not give the world a fever, but they take its temperature”, said Wojciech Bonowicz, paraphrasing the famous saying about philosophy during a meeting at the Church of St Martin.

At the same time, when poetry was being read at the Church of St Martin, the Czapski Pavilion slowly transformed into a summer cinema. The space in front of the pavilion was filled with loungers and chairs, some of them still damp from the rain. In the twilight, Andrzej Wajda sat in one of them. There was a flash – not lightning, but someone taking a picture. The screening presented I Still Return / Nadal wracam, a documentary film about Ryszard Krynicki directed by Adam Sikora. The film was especially moving because the poet, as Andrzej Franaszek, screenwriter and host of the meeting, revealed, did not want to be in front of the camera. Reportedly he suggested that a famous actor play him in the film. “I don’t like myself from the front. Or from the back,” he says in the film, standing in front of the apartment block where Stanisław Barańczak lived in Poznań.

The film was projected on the façade on which the signature of Józef Czapski, the symbolic patron of the location, was visible the whole time. Today, join us for more meetings with festival guests: Breyten Breytenbach, Stefan Hertmans and Adonis, as well as a meeting dedicated to Zuzanna Ginczanka. See you there!