9 October 2010 Lyric Now! at the Conrad Festival

During the second edition of the Conrad Festival, a meeting devoted to the new American poetry will be organised. The Lyric Now! discussion will be conducted by Julia Fiedorczuk, with the participation of: Jennifer Ashton, Jacek Gutorow and Andrzej Sosnowski.

The Polish perception of contemporary American poetry has been shaped mainly by the activity of Literatura na Świecie – a periodical about foreign literature issued since 1971 – and by classical anthologies, such as Artykuły pochodzenia zagranicznego (Articles Of Foreign Origin) czy O krok od nich (One Step Away From Them) by Piotr Sommer.

The poets that are particularly recognisable in Poland are members of the New York School, including Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery. The famous “blue issue” of Literatura na Świecie became a foundation for the perception of that poetry, determining the direction and area of interest in American poets for a long time. Names of New York poets, which are often associated, although usually in a simplified manner, with narrations of particular Polish poets (e.g. Marcin Świetlicki in the case of O’Hara and Andrzej Sosnowski in the case of John Ashbery), left a distinct mark on Polish dictions. The New York School has recently been presented to a wide Polish audience thanks to the Literary Magazine of the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly, whose latest issue is devoted to New York and includes poems by Ashbery and O’Hara with a commentary by Grzegorz Jankowicz.

However, the topic of the meeting at the Conrad Festival will be the period following the New York School – the latest American poetry, which has been present in Poland so far only in translations of individual poems or – less frequently – volumes. Debaters hope to deliver short presentations of its main narrations, most important names and the possibilities of perceptions and connections with dictions already present in Polish poetry.

Jennifer Ashton, a lecturer at the University of Illinois in Chicago, a literature researcher, specialises in the 20th-century and present-day literature (particularly the issues of literary modernism and the literary output of Gertruda Stein); she is also a poet herself and has published six collections of poems until now.

Polish authors, like Gutorow, Sosnowski and Fiedorczuk, act in a similar double role at the Festival. All of them are authors of important critical publications and collections of poems.

Jacek Gutorow is one of the most widely recognisable and most important Polish literary critics, whose collections of essays – Niepodległość głosu (The Independence of the Voice) and Urwany ślad (The Disappearing Trail) – had a significant impact on reflections on the most interesting trends and phenomena in new Polish poetry. As a poet, Gutorow is, among others, the author of Inne tempo (Different Tempo), which was nominated for the Nike Literary Award. His contribution to the perception of the Americans is visible in many of his critical essays and translations, including poems Yellow Afternoon by Wallace Stevens (2008) or You Never Know by Ron Padgett (2008).

Andrzej Sosnowski is one of the most outstanding of living Polish poets. His literary output includes the famous debut Życie na Korei (Life in Korea) and numerous collections, such as Sezon na Helu (Season in Hel), Konwój (Convoy), Opera or Zoom. Among awards received by him there is the Silesius Award and the Kościelscy Award. His latest book poems (2010) is one of the most interesting publications of the last two decades. He has translated poems of many American authors, including Harry Mathews and John Ashbery, on whose perception and promotion in Poland he had a large influence. He collaborates with Literatura na Świecie. He published Najryzykowniej (In the Riskiest Way), a collection of essays which was acclaimed by critics.

Julia Fiedorczuk is an active critic and author of poetry collections (including Planeta rzeczy zagubionych /Planet of Lost Things/ and Tlen /Oxygen/). She is one of the persons who introduced concepts such as “ecopoetry” or “ecocriticism” into Polish literary debate.

The Lyric Now! discussion will be held on the fifth day of the festival, which will take place under the name Pogranicza (Borderlands).