Luminous things and farewells | Miłosz Festival

Luminous things and farewells

Two poetry evenings during the Miłosz Festival will be particularly unusual and filled with metaphysics. The first one – Księga olśnień [The book of luminous things] – will take place on Thursday. The second one – Requiem dla poetów [A requiem for poets] – will be held in memory of the late poets on Friday.


Księga olśnień is the Polish version of the English title of the anthology released by Czesław Miłosz in the USA in 1996. It is both the slogan under which this year’s edition of the Miłosz Festival is held and the title of the poetry evening with the participation of all festival guests.


On the 14th of May, at 8.00 p.m., in the Ludwik Solski State Drama School in Krakow, poetry will sound in various languages. Księga olśnień is a multilingual description of the world and a real celebration of poetry. The audience will hear English, Byelorussian, Swedish, Slovenian, Lithuanian, Catalonian and Polish languages. How will this be possible? During that unique poetry evening, guests of the Festival from Poland and abroad will read their poems. Altogether, 21 poets from various parts of the world will be present.

The host of the evening Jerzy Illg commented on Miłosz’s anthology: ‘While presenting the poetry that speaks “in favour of existence and against nothingness”, The Book of Luminous Things was to be a “useful” work defending the reader against nihilism, the feeling of a loss of sense and essential “deprivation” – spiritual ailments of the end of the 20th century. Miłosz’s proposal was an attempt to negate the popular conviction of the hermeticism of poetry, which discourages people from having contact with it. Thanks to poets contradicting widespread beliefs that poetry must be a foggy and inaccessible thing …, an outlet leading to poetry for all may be opening in the wall surrounding poetry for the chosen few.’


The previous edition of the Miłosz Festival took place two years ago. Those last two years were a period of intensive preparations and a joyful anticipation of another celebration of poetry. However, this time was not devoid of difficult and sad farewells. At the end of the last year, on the second day of Christmas, we received the sad news about Stanisław Barańczak’s death. No one is ever prepared sufficiently for their friend’s departure. In the last few years, there have been too many farewells like this. Each of them deserves a memory and a story.


The Friday evening of the 15th of May, at 9.00 p.m., will be devoted to the memory and work those who are already gone: Stanisław Barańczak, Juan Gelman, Seamus Heaney, Philip Levine, Tadeusz Różewicz, Mark Strand, Tomaž Šalamun, and Tomas Tranströmer. The friends of Czesław Miłosz and guests of previous editions of the Festival to whom we said farewell in the last few years will return through their poems – they will be read and recollected by their friends and translators.


This exceptional evening Requiem dla poetów [A requiem for poets] is hosted by Adam Zagajewski in Krakow’s Ludwik Solski State Drama School and will be attended by Miłosz Biedrzycki, Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough, Magda Heydel, Jerzy Illg, Ryszard Krynicki, Leonard Neuger, Anthony Miłosz, Charles Simic, Abel Murcia Soriano and Joanna Zach.

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