Taming the language. The 3rd day of the Miłosz Festival

A foreign language is usually a language spoken in another country. However, it can also be a language of technology, politics, advertising or propaganda. Taming this kind of language and changing it into poetry was the subject of debates of authors and translators during the third day of the Miłosz Festival.

“Translation is a generic work, which requires only knowledge of the language, doing it does not require any talent”, people used to say back in the day. Today, the translator’s name appears more and more frequently on book covers, and translators themselves are often considered to be authors, deserving the attention of critics and literary awards. As Magda Heydel, Isabelle Macor and Jerzy Jarniewicz said during yesterday’s translation debate, translation is a high-stakes game.

 “When we translate a poem, we introduce it into the culture of a given country, which is an enormous responsibility,” Jarniewicz explained. “A good translation brings a new quality to the language. A bad one, on the other hand, creates a false image of the author and the literature of the country from which it originates.”

 “Translation means dissolving borders, eliminating artificial divisions,” Magda Heydel emphasised.

Sometimes these barriers need to be removed in one’s own language as well. Just like Ewa Lipska did in her trilogy, comprising: Czytnik linii papilarnych, Pamięć operacyjna and Miłość w trybie awaryjnym, in which she used terms known from the world of technology. Despite the fact that this universe seems to be the opposite of poetry, Lipska was able to seize power there and use it to describe extremely intimate experiences. “I have always tried to write about universal issues, which could be understood by the next generations, regardless of language forms,” she said. “Hence, despite the fact that I comment on the contemporary world in my articles and interviews, in my poems I avoid talking about politics. Such journalistic poems are like leaflets that may spark emotions, but soon afterwards they disappear and cease to exist.

Another festival guest’s work was also born out of the process of taming a foreign language – it was Simon Armitage. This poet, playwright and essayist, who has been diagnosing the social condition of the United Kingdom for more than three decades, talked about the beginnings of his work.

“I noticed how everyday language is used in advertising and politics, so I wanted to see if it could be used in poetry,” Armitage said. “I was looking for a language that would be outward-facing, clear and understandable even to those who do not deal with literature on a daily basis, one that would not require complicated explanations.

After all, explaining poetry can ruin everything.” This view is shared by Denise Riley, poet, political theory researcher and feminist, whose works are quoted by Judith Butler. The artist filled yesterday’s meeting with the festival guests with poems from her latest volume – Szantung, the stanzas of which are full of grief, anger, rebellion, but also love.

The third day of the festival was concluded not by words, but by music. All thanks to Mikołaj Trzaska, who together with the Sejny Theatre Klezmer Orchestra filled the interior of the Barbican with sounds.

Today is the last day of the Miłosz Festival. At MICET, the festival guests will help us discover the lesser-known poetic landscapes – we will listen to the works of Yiddish poets during the  “My wild goat. Yiddish poets’ anthology” meeting, we will rediscover the figure of Anna Świrszczyńska and we will get to know the second face of Alicja Rosé, who is mostly known as an illustrator. In the evening, at the ICE Congress Centre, we are going to find out who has won the Wisława Szymborska Award.