Announcing the programme of the 2024 Miłosz Festival | Miłosz Festival

Announcing the programme of the 2024 Miłosz Festival

Celebration of the poet’s birthday, outstanding international authors and the most important figures of the world of Polish poetry!

 Cynthia Haven, Yang Lian, Monika Herceg, Katja Gorečan, Dmitri Strocev, Yolanda Castaño and Hinemoana Baker are just some of the poets joining us for this year’s Miłosz Festival. The event is slated to start on 30 June – the birthday of Czesław Miłosz. The programme of Rescue – this year’s celebration of poetry in Kraków, features meetings with authors, debates, performative readings, discussions on the works by Czesław Miłosz, Anna Świrszczyńska, Adam Zagajewski and Andrzej Sosnowski, as well as talks with numerous Polish poets of the younger generation. This is the most important event of the Year of Czesław Miłosz!

 “The Miłosz Festival starts on 30 June, birthday of the author of ‘The Land of Ulro’. This year’s edition is going to be particularly long – it will run until 7 July,” says the Festival’s curator Szymon Kloska. Like every year, the event will be an interdisciplinary celebration of poetry. Once again, war and violence will be among the festival themes. Rescue is a volume that features some of Miłosz’s most important poetic texts written during the occupation. These accusatory and ruthless works ask questions about the attitude of those who witness violence, about passivity and opposing evil.

The book Czesław Miłosz: A California Life, the Polish edition of which will be officially released during the festival, will be showcased by its author Cynthia Haven. The acclaimed scholar will not only speak at a meeting concerning the Californian period of Czesław Miłosz’s life, but will also give a masterclass. These are not the only events dedicated to the poet’s oeuvre during the festival!

We will talk with Croatian author Monika Herceg, laureate of this year’s European Poet of Freedom Literary Award of the City of Gdańsk, about her Okres ochronny. In her poems, this acclaimed Croatian artist of the young generation weaves a story about her personal experience of war and being a refugee. In addition to poetry, she writes plays and works as an editor and screenwriter.

Yang Lian, one of the most important authors of contemporary Chinese poetry and a well-known advocate for freedom of expression will showcase his work to the festival audience. Recently, he won the Zbigniew Herbert International Prize for Literature.   It showcases a vast vision, a poetry so dense and rich that it evokes a sense of strangeness. It is a precious feeling and a challenge to encounter the unknown sensibility, to plunge into a new world,” was how poet Krystyna Dąbrowska, a member of the Award Jury, described his work.

During the eight-day festival of poetry in the heart of Krakow, participants will meet artists from different cultural backgrounds. We will be hosting Syrian poet Rasha Habbal (who will talk about her new book Czego jeszcze nie zaczęliśmy), Slovenian author Katja Gorečan, Belarusian author Dmitry Strocev, as well as Latvian poet Inga Gaile and Latvian poet and translator of Czesław Miłosz’s works Māris Salējs. Spanish author Yolanda Castaño, Hinemoana Baker from New Zealand, Riga-born Semyon Chanin and German authors – Birgit Kreipe and Nadja Küchenmeister – will also join us during the festival.

As part of the Critical Balance stream, we will meet the doyens of Polish poetry who will talk about their latest volumes and their creative endeavours to date. The list of invited guests includes Joanna Oparek, Marcin Sendecki and Marcin Baran. The festival also offers an opportunity to discover the latest volumes of poetry. Some of the premieres include volumes by Agata Puwalska, Anna Matysiak, Mariusz Grzebalski, Marcin Podlaski, Paweł Stasiewicz, Marcin Melecki and others.

The year 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the most important Polish poets of the 20th century – Anna Świrszczyńska. It is also the best opportunity to revisit the work of this distinguished author, who was promoted by Czesław Miłosz himself both in Poland and in the English-speaking world, especially in view of a resurgence of her poetry, which will be covered in detail by Katarzyna Szopa, author of the phenomenal monograph Wybuch wyobraźni. Poezja Anny Świrszczyńskiej wobec reprodukcji życia społecznego.

Andrzej’s poetry will feature prominently in the event’s programme. His poems will be read by Joanna Łępicka, Agata Puwalska, Przemek Suchanecki, Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało and Radosław Jurczak, and the poet will talk about his work with Joanna Orska and Radosław Jurczak.


Poetic releases

A number of book premieres, including volumes of poetry, will await the festival goers. The Land of Urlo and Rescue, reissued by the Znak publishing house, are true treasures for lovers of Miłosz’s poetry. The readers will also have the opportunity to read the collection of the poet’s letters to Tymoteusz Karpowicz, written in 1965-2003. Volumes by international authors, including Hinemoana Baker, Natalia Belchenko, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Louise Glück, Katja Gorečan, Rasha Habal, Dmitri Strocev and Pablo Neruda, will also be available for purchase. The festival will also see the releases of publications by Polish authors, including  Marcin Baran, Zygmunt Fick, Wojciech Kopiec, Joanna Oparek, Agata Puwalska, Marcin Podlaski, Marcin Sendecki, Andrzej Sosnowski, Paweł Stasiewicz and Adam Zagajewski.


Admission to all events is free of charge with a complimentary pass available two weeks before the festival at and via the KBF: PLUS app. The full programme for the event will be available soon at The festival centre will be located at the Potocki Palace.

The Miłosz Festival is organised by: The City of Kraków and the Krakow Festival Office, operator of the Kraków: UNESCO City of Literature programme.


An uninvited guest is changing our world beyond recognition. It reshapes the scenery of everyday paths and derails the routine of experiences on which we build our personal and collective sense of security. The Miłosz Festival is responding to this (dis)order with a new focal point – on word, meaning, and emotions. The ninth edition of one of the most important poetry events in Poland is moving online and will start on 4 June. The festival will open with a poetic and musical polyphony with the participation of Ewa Lipska, Ryszard Krynicki and Adam Zagajewski, among others.

“New Focal Point” is the title of this year’s edition of the Miłosz Festival. And although Krakow will be the centre of the poetic ferment, this time the festival geography should be treated as imaginary. Moved entirely online, the Miłosz Festival will reach everywhere that web browser windows open to poetry. The main venue for meetings with authors important for Polish and foreign poetry will be the festival fanpage on Facebook. Starting on 4 June, the planned opening day of the on-site festival at the hospitable Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre, lovers of poetry will be able to enjoy the rich festival programme online. Its first event, which cannot be overlooked, is the poetic-musical meeting “Republica Poetica” with the participation of Polish poets. The Miłosz Festival programme, which will last until the Autumn, will also include five premieres of poetry volumes, focused writing workshops with Barbara Klicka, Mikołaj Grynberg and Tomasz Cieślak-Sokołowski, a series of literature podcasts, the Young Poetry Competition for poets who have not yet made their debut and events under the patronage of the OFF programming stream. During this unusual edition of the festival, an attempt to capture the state of the poetry of the “here and now” will meet with a searching look into the past through the presentation of archival film materials dedicated to Polish literary creators.

New Focal Point

The coronavirus epidemic has forced a change in professional relations, the way we spend time, communicate, create and partake of cultural goods. The organisers of this year’s edition of the festival – Olga Brzezińska, Programme Director, Krzysztof Siwczyk, the Artistic Director, and Izabela Helbin, Director of the Krakow Festival Office – explain the concept of the festival in a letter addressed to the festival audience: “The new focal point means a multi-layered change: we will move the Miłosz Festival programme to the public spaces of the Internet, we will concentrate on literature, we will meet at the fibreoptic intersections and above all, we will focus on word, detail, meaning and emotions. This strange situation of living ‘in-between-time’, in the suspension and uncertainty of tomorrow, sharpens our attention to what – we hope – is only temporarily lost. Poetry has used new forms of communication for many years. It is not an adamantine language. It reacts in its infinite diversity, to the tiniest of movements in the great dictionary from which we draw, describing the world. Sometimes it contributes to major changes in this dictionary, restoring words to their basic meaning. What we gain from the experience of the pandemic consists in the sharpened attention with which we treat our surrounding reality”. Finally, poetry is a language of hope that reacts vividly to social and cultural processes, seeking words to name what lies ahead. The several-month-long adventure with poetry will open with a unique meeting whose title should not deceive anyone.

Republica Poetica: ‘A Song On the End of the World’

If the end of the world comes, it will happen imperceptibly: everything will remain in its place, life will go on with its usual rhythm, as always. “There will be no other end of the world”, Czesław Miłosz writes in his poem from the volume Ocalenie (“Rescue”), published in 1945. Or maybe the end of the world is happening now, before our eyes? On 4 June, at 7 p.m., during the opening of the ninth edition of the Miłosz Festival, renowned Polish poets will participate in a poetry and music evening inspired by “A Song On the End of the World”. Together, Miłosz Biedrzycki, Wojciech Bonowicz, Małgorzata Lebda, Ewa Lipska, Ryszard Krynicki, Joanna Oparek, Krzysztof Siwczyk and Adam Zagajewski will seek a new focal point for lyrical matter. The meeting will be hosted by Marta Eloy Cichocka, and double bass player Marcin Oleś will  create the musical setting. The stanzas of this “song” will be constructed from poems by festival guests read in Polish, English, French and Spanish. The event will be broadcast on the Facebook fanpage of the Miłosz Festival and on the YouTube channel of the Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre.

Regular Features of the Festival

As is does every year, the festival will premiere poetry volumes. Together with the a5 Publishing House, the Rafał Wojaczek Institute of Mikołów, the Ha!art Corporation, the Borderland Publishing House and the Publishing House of the Voivodeship Public Library and Animation Centre in Poznań, the organisers have prepared five exceptional poetry books. They will be released on 4 June, the opening day of the festival, with their authors and translators reading excerpts on the festival’s Facebook fanpage. During this year’s edition, “off” stream elements will appear again. Under the auspices of the experimental OFF stream, there will be a series of poetry slams jointly organised by KONTENT magazine and the Krakow School of Poetry. Other festival events will soon be announced, including the 5th Young Poetry Competition for poets before their debut and the recruitment for writing workshops.

The Miłosz Festival is organised by the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office, the operator of the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature programme, and the City of Literature Foundation.

Dear Friends of the Miłosz Festival,

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have held out hope that we would all manage to meet in Krakow in June. However, the development of the situation makes it necessary to above all think about the safety of our audience, guests, creators, and organisational team. To ensure this, we have decided that this year, the Miłosz Festival will not take place in its traditional form and at the planned time. We are currently working on a new formula for this special edition, which will allow all readers to have lively contact with poetry and permit us to maintain the bond between creators and audience.

Poetry is and always has been important to us; in this time, when we all face a new challenge, we still see a special role and place for it. Although we will not be able to meet in person at festival events, we will meet in the space of literature, for which we will find a form and field of expression. We will keep you informed of all changes.

Thank you for all the kinds words and gestures of support that reach us. It is because of them that we know what we do is important.

In conclusion, with the hope that we will meet again soon, we dedicate to you a poem by the Festival Patron:

Czesław Miłosz, Hope

Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you’re sure it’s there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

(translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass)

Warmest regards,

Olga Brzezińska
Programme Director of the Miłosz Festival

Izabela Helbin
Executive Director of the Miłosz Festival

Krzysztof Siwczyk
Artistic Director of the Miłosz Festival

Should poetry talk about current events? What is discovering one’s own language all about? What makes us include some artists into the canon, while forgetting about others? Poets talked about all this during the four festival days.

“The Seizure of Power” – this motto, taken from Czesław Miłosz’s 1953, was the main theme of this year’s edition of the festival. Despite the fact that some could expect it to convince the guests to make declarations concerning their views and to comment on current events, the festival conversations somehow managed to avoid contemporary politics and other world events.

To understand the contemporary world

The invited artists seemed to agree with the words of Ewa Lipska, who during the meeting with the festival audience said that poems do not talk about politics. “Such pieces are like leaflets that may spark emotions, but soon afterwards they disappear and cease to exist”, she explained.

This does not mean that poets turned their eyes away from difficult topics and changes taking place in the contemporary world. Quite to the contrary. Bosnian poet Ferida Duraković talked about building oneself anew while one’s own language and homeland are falling apart into pieces, while Russian poet Elena Fanailova touched upon building intellectual bridges between the West and the East, and Alicja Rosé, a Polish poet, devoted her time to the condition of contemporary Europe. “When I set out on a journey across the continent, many friends accused me of escapism. They said I was running away when so many important things were happening in the country. All while I wanted to leave to understand what is happening with Poland and Europe, and then to talk about it with my own voice,” she explained.

Taming the language

Most festival guests understood the seizure of power primarily as taking control over the language. Both a foreign one – which was touched upon by translators during their debate – as well as a native one. The latter ability was mastered by all the poets; however, some of them decided to challenge themselves even more, just like Ewa Lipska, who decided to put technical dictionaries to use in her poetry, or Simon Armitage, who draws upon colloquialisms and language of everyday life. “In the 1980s, when I started doing poetry, 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.

Sometimes, the festival guests seized power over memory by recalling characters and names of long-forgotten authors. This was the case with the discussion dedicated to Anna Świrszczyńska – a poet who, although once mentioned alongside the greatest, today remains outside the main circulation. The festival also recalled Yiddish poets, whose works resounded during the reading of the My Wild Goat anthology.

More than discussions

Although meetings with poets were a staple of the Miłosz Festival, they were not its only point. During the four festival days we listened to a master lecture by Tomasz Venclova entitled “Despair and Grace.” The most outstanding living poet from Lithuania explained what is the key to understanding Miłosz’s work. “His works are imbued with knowledge about humanity, devoid of exaltation, sometimes they seem to be a cry of mad despair tamed by reason. It  is what poetry is for, so that we can cope with despair.” The lectures were complemented by the “Vita Activa ’19” debate. For more than an hour, Tadeusz Sławek and Karolina Wigura sat with Krzysztof Czyżewski and debated on the condition of society in a politicised world, putting forward the thesis that the fear of the return of totalitarianism, which dominated in the 20th century, was replaced by the fear of the future, of the unknown to come.

The programme also featured the Off Miłosz stream, dedicated to avant-garde lyrical trends, concerts, events for children and an open-air book fair.

Mordercze ballady win the Wisława Szymborska Award.

The festival concluded with the Wisława Szymborska Award gala. The distinction went to Marta Podgórnik for her volume Mordercze ballady. “Poetry can reach the last bastions of emotion, empathy, discord with the world – it can also accompany us, in a simultaneous and authentic delight in its fragments. It is able to oppose the dictates of politicians and fashion, literary conventions, as well as the press and publishing circles, in its power, it is also able to overwhelm the artist who created it,” said Dorota Walczak-Delanois, a member of the award committee, during the Sunday gala. And although these words are a part of her praise, they might as well be a summary of this year’s edition of the Miłosz Festival.

The Miłosz Festival is organised by the City of Krakow, Krakow Festival Office and the City of Literature Foundation.

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).

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.

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.

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.

More than 50 meetings of the main programming stream, the OFF stream and accompanying events, 4 concerts and nearly 100 guests – this is what this year’s edition of the Krakow poetry celebration looks like in numbers. The Milosz Festival, the largest event devoted to contemporary poetry in this part of Europe, will take place on 6-9 June under the slogan “The Seizure of Power”. But this is not about numbers – Krakow will be ruled by words!


The Seizure of Power, the first novel by Czesław Miłosz, is not only about Stalinism installing itself in Poland, and it is not only a novel with a personal key”, explains Krzysztof Siwczyk, Artistic Director of the festival, talking about the main theme of the 8th edition of the event. “Above all, it conveys the concept of seizing power at the level of imagination, appropriation of spiritual aspirations of human beings using a specific model of narration of the world that is offensive to these aspirations”. The organisers invite you to join the lyrical resistance – together, we will expose the language of the description of reality and use poetry to search for what lies beneath its surface.

The Miłosz Festival repoeticises the city. The strongest lyrical radiation will be felt in the festival centre, a role that will be played by the Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre. It is there that most of the festival’s meetings with the most interesting poets of our times will take place. Simon Armitage (UK), Svetlana Cârstean (Romania), Kholoud Charaf (Syria), Saleh Diab (Syria), Ferida Duraković (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Elena Fanailova (Russia), Athena Farrokhzad (Sweden), Denise Riley (UK) and Tomas Venclova (Lithuania) – for four days in June, Krakow will be the centre of what is intriguing and new in contemporary poetry. The poetic polyphony will be joined by a representation of the Polish poetic scene. Krystyna Dąbrowska, Piotr Florczyk, Magdalena Kicińska, Ewa Lipska, Maciej Melecki, Antoni Pawlak, Uta Przyboś, Alicja Rosé and Tomasz Różycki have all accepted invitations to the festival. Two festival debates will also take place within the walls of the National Stary Theatre: “The Power of Poetry, Power Over Poetry” with the participation of Anna Kałuża, Magdalena Piotrowska-Grot, Paweł Próchniak and Piotr Śliwiński, who will discuss the phenomenon of strong idioms, dominant in the Polish poetic tradition, which fought for years for power over our reading tastes (7.06), and a translation debate in which Paulina Małochleb will talk to Magda Heydel, Isabelle Macor and Jerzy Jarniewicz about translation as a mediation between different literatures and cultural codes alien to each other (8.06). Workshops conducted by outstanding Polish translators – Jerzy Jarniewicz, Agata Kozak and Leszek Szaruga – will also be devoted to translation from English, French and Russian (6 and 7.06).

The poetic radiation in the vicinity of Szczepański Square will be strengthened in other festival locations. On the first day of the event, the 6th of June, in the Copper Room of the Krzysztofory Palace, we will hear the Miłosz Lecture – a master class lecture entitled “Despair and Grace”, which will be delivered by Tomas Venclova, the most outstanding living poet from Lithuania today, listed in one breath with Josif Brodski and Czesław Miłosz. Just after the lecture, there will be a debate entitled “Vita Activa’19”, featuring Tadeusz Sławek, Karolina Wigura and Krzysztof Czyżewski, who will seek answers to the question of how to “seize power” for good in times of consumer hedonism, post-truth and politics reduced to a fight for power.

At the heart of the festival events will be the main festival bookstore, operating under the sign of the Księgarnia Młoda. On level -1 in the space of the MICET Old Theatre, you will be able to buy, among other things, premiere poetry volumes by the festival guests, translated into Polish, issued on the occasion for the festival. In addition to volumes of Simon Armitage’s poetry (translated by Jacek Gutorow and Jerzy Jarniewicz), Saleh Diab (translated by Agata Kozak), Ferida Duraković (translated by Magdalena Koch), Elena Fanailova (translated by Leszek Szaruga) and Denise Riley (translated by Jerzy Jarniewicz), a selection of Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s poems titled Spotkanie innego rodzaju will have its premiere during the festival. The author of this selection and translation is Ryszard Krynicki, who will talk about his work on the volume by the German poet in an interview with Justyna Sobolewska (6.06).

Two exceptional concerts await us in the main stream of this year’s Miłosz Festival. On the 7th of June, 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. On Saturday evening of the festival, the 8th of June, within the walls of the Barbican, the Sejny Theatre Klezmer Orchestra will perform, accompanied by one of the most renowned saxophonists of avant-garde jazz, Mikołaj Trzaska. Tickets for both events can be purchased at, InfoKraków and selected music shops. Music will also be present during a special evening with the participation of all poets invited to the festival. A multilingual poetry night led by Olga Brzezińska and Michał Nogaś will be accompanied by Hubert Zemler, an outstanding Warsaw drummer. We would like to invite you to this event together with Unsound Festival (6.06).

These are not the only musical events announced by the organisers: the next two concerts will be part of the OFF programming stream. At this fixed point in the programme of the Krakow festival, the voice of the young generation of poets, as well as an experimental approach to poetic form, are particularly important. Performances by Jakub Kornhauser and Yury Zavadsky, as well as a presentation of works by Athena Farrokhzad (Shevchenko), Tatev Chakhian (Armenia) and Koraly Dimitriadis (Australia) will be accompanied by bold concert performances. The Alchemy Club on Saturday night will be loud thanks to the punk-lyrical SIKSA, who, rejecting verbal compromises, will shout to the sounds of a rumbling bass about what annoy her in the surrounding reality. Shortly afterwards, there will be a performance by the Landschaft duo: Grigory Semenchuk (Ukraine) and Ulrike Almut Sandig (Germany) will offer the audience an inter-genre mix: a combination of their own poetry with hip-hop music, electropunk and pop. Another Ukrainian theme of the OFF programming stream will appear at the Miłosz Festival on Saturday, the 8th of June at De Revolutionibus Books&Cafe: Yury Zavadsky, Grigory Semenchuk and Aneta Kamińska will take part in the discussion on the condition of our eastern neighbours’ poetry. This is not all that OFF prepared for the Miłosz Festival: during the programming stream, where dance and revolution mean the same thing, there will also be poetry slam competitions and the premiere of the new issue of the literary magazine KONTENT.

As every year, at the end of the Miłosz Festival, we will meet the winner of the Wisława Szymborska Award for a poetic volume published in 2018. The final gala of the seventh edition of the competition will take place on Sunday, the 9th of June at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre. On the eve of the award ceremony, we will meet with nominated artists: Kamila Janiak, Piotr Janicki, Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar, Robert Król and Marta Podgórnik. The main organiser of the event is the Wisława Szymborska Foundation.

The Miłosz Festival is organised by the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office and the City of Literature Foundation.

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