2 November 2010 About poetry at the Festival

During this year’s Conrad Festival, there will be two meetings devoted in particular to poetry. On the fifth day of the Festival (6 November, Saturday), a discussion “Lyric Now!” about the new American poetry will be held with the participation of Jennifer Ashton, Julia Fiedorczuk, Jacek Gutorow and Andrzej Sosnowski; apart from that, Piotr Śliwiński will host an author’s meeting of Piotr Sommer, a poet and translator, on the evening of the same day.

Piotr Sommer is the laureate of this year’s Silesius Poetic Award (for his entire literary output) and other prestigious literary awards (including the Kościelscy Award); the chief editor of the Literatura na Świecie magazine and one of the most influential Polish translators of English poetry. It is one of the first meetings with this poet since the granting of the Silesius awards in April. It will be hosted by Piotr Śliwiński, a recognised literary critic who has kept track of Sommer’s writing carefully for years.

The debate hosted by Fiedorczuk, in which Ashton, Sosnowski and Gutorow will participate, is an attempt to expand the Polish perception of American poetry (based particularly on the New York school) with latest poems and names of youngest authors. The literary output of all authors includes both critical texts and poetry books. Andrzej Sosnowski is one of the most interesting contemporary Polish poets; his volume Po tęczy (After The Rainbow) received the Silesius Award in 2008.

Jacek Gutorow is an expert in English poetry and one of the most important Polish critics of contemporary poetry; he has published collections of essays Niepodległość głosu (The Independence Of The Voice) and Urwany ślad (The Broken Trace). As a critic and researcher of literature, Julia Fiedorczuk is responsible for entering the terms “ecopoetry” and “ecocriticism” into the dictionary of the Polish literary criticism. Jennifer Ashton, a foreign guest invited to the discussion, is a poet and researcher of modernist and post-modernist American literature. Her interests focus on the subject of the body in poetry. She often draws inspirations from Gertrude Stein’s writings, which were also the subject of courses conducted by her at the Cornell University. Currently she is a lecturer at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she explores subjects such as trends of development of contemporary poetry and controversies in the poetics of postmodernism.

Obviously, poetry will also be the main subject of the festival block Bachmann – Celan 2010. The meeting Paul Celan’s Fugue Of Death will include the following participants: Ryszard Krynicki (co-founder of the a5 Publishing House, translator of Celan, has made a strong contribution to the promotion and reception of Celan’s literary output in Poland for many years), Adam Lipszyc (philosopher, translator and essayist, expert in Jewish philosophy and theology, author of the book Ślady judaizmu w filozofii XX wieku /Traces of Judaism in the 20th Century Philosophy/, which was nominated for this year’s Gdynia Literary Award), Krzysztof Czyżewski and Piotr Paziński (laureate of the Passport of Polityka). The poem which gave the title to this meeting – The Fugue Of Death (Todesfuge) – is one of the most recognisable texts of Paul Celan. Published in 1948 and initially rejected by readers, it is regarded as one of the best poems written in the 20th century; remaining an untranslatable work in the opinion of many persons, it is one of the most elevated and most difficult works of Celan. Just like a “shibboleth” described by Jacques Derrida in his famous essay Shibboleth for Paul Celan, it has become a symbol of uniqueness of contact with poetry and the poem itself.

Relations between Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann and inspirations by their writings will be discussed on 6 November by Helmut Böttiger, Peter Hamm, Andrzej Kopacki, Ryszard Krynicki, Małgorzata Łukasiewicz and Łukasz Musiał (host of the meeting); a show of films referring to the life and literary output of both authors is also planned.

Apart from that, on Thursday 4 November a panel discussion will be held under the title Historie rodzinne (Family Stories). One of the participants will be Bożena Umińska-Keff, a poet and researcher of literature, the author of The Poem About The Mother And The Homeland, which was nominated for the NIKE 2009 Literary Award.