When I look inside myself, I see the whole world | Miłosz Festival

When I look inside myself, I see the whole world

Why writing about worn shoes of your son? Is menopause the right theme for a poem? Can you see universal truths looking at yourself? This is what the guests of the first day of the Milosz Festival discussed yesterday.

”Beginning with My Streets” is the motto of this year’s edition of the Miłosz Festival. The organisers began their literary journey from the closest streets situated right across our southern border. The first festival meeting was devoted the Czech Petr Hruška. Critics say that his poems created from fragments of everyday talks, notes and e‑mails are severe and naturalistic. The poet says that for him it is a way for taming the world and a clue to its secrets. “There are poets who can write about big things. I don’t. I don’t know how to write about politics, war or crisis, so I write about my son’s worn shoes” – said the poet at yesterday’s meeting. “But I’m sure that if you write well and at the same closely watch yourself, you can reach universal truths, close to everyone”.

Antjie Krog reaches even deeper layers of privacy in her poetry. The poet comes from RSA. She published her first poem when still a high schools student, and caused a scandal with her strong protest against the Apartheid policy. Today, Krog is 65 years old and still shocking. She writes, among other things, about the aspects of female physicality that are generally considered embarrassing: menopause, the passing of beauty, decrepitude “For centuries the theme of femininity has been neglected by male poets. Love , death, religion – this is what they think important” – said Krog at the meeting with the readers. “Women, even if they take up those themes, write about them in a completely different way, setting those issues in a human scale”.

These words of poets were supplemented by theoreticians’ reflections. During the debate Intimate languages – do they still remain?” Dorota Kozicka, Zbigniew Mikołejko and Zbigniew Libera discussed the role of intimacy in our times. Kozicka considers it merchandise – as can be seen from best-selling biographies of stars, the fashion for coaching or psychological guides; Mikołejko considers intimacy as something that helps us to tame the world, whilst Libera associates it with physicality, something that happens behind the closed doors of the bathrooms and bedrooms.

Professor Tadeusz Sławek set festival reflections in a wider context. In his Miłosz Lecture, the professor interpreted the leading theme of this year’s festival edition. He noted that the street of Miłosz, who claimed to be ”an inheritor of Gothic cathedrals and baroque churches”, was simply Europe. So perhaps the poet’s idea of ”beginning with my streets” was to encourage reflection on the condition and directions of development of our continent.

The first day of the festival included not only lectures and meetings but also practical activities. The youngest participants had the opportunity to take lessons of typography under Anna Kaszuba-Dębska. Justyna Sobolewska and Michał Nogaś introduced the older participants into the complexities of the literary critic profession (economic, formal, and societal).

In the evening Mayor Jacek Majchrowski read bedtimes stories the youngest participants under the: Reading Stories before Sunset series. Grown up participants ended the day with a poetry performance in Cafe Szafe and a concert given by Julia i Nieprzyjemni, the premiere performance of the group’s record Wojaczek.

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