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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 28, 2011
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International Tribute to Mi這sz
April 28, 2011   
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Almost 200 writers, poets, translators and academics will take part in the Second International Czes豉w Mi這sz Literary Festival May 9-15 in Cracow to pay tribute to the great Polish poet.

The Polish parliament decided that 2011 would be the Year of Czes豉w Mi這sz and the festival, entitled Native Europe, is the culmination of 12 months of events linked to the poet, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980.

Guests invited to take part in the festival include Caribbean writer, poet and 1992 Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, and Bei Dao, a Chinese poet who in recent years has been several times tipped as a possible winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Other confirmed guests include Natalya Gorbanevskaya, a Russian poet, journalist and translator of Polish literature, American poet Robert Hass, American literary critic Edward Hirsch, French-language Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, British writer Zadie Smith, and Lithuanian poet, essayist and translator Tomas Venclova.

The festival program comprises an academic conference, poetry soirees, concerts, panel discussions and translation workshops. The festival will open May 9 with an international conference entitled Mi這sz and Mi這sz, with speeches to be delivered by over 70 experts on Mi這sz’s work including Hass, along with Polish writer Stefan Chwin.

The festival guests will share their memories of Mi這sz on the evening of May 10. The speakers will include Hass, Venclova, American literary critic Helen Vendler, and Polish poet Adam Zagajewski.

The leading theme of the festival, Native Europe, is the starting point for panel discussions that will examine the role of identity and religion in the contemporary world and will also focus on Russia.

Four poetry soirees will be named after works by Mi這sz: “A Book of Luminous Things,” “The Unencompassed Earth,” “City Without a Name,” and “The Grand Duchy of Poetry.” Poets at the festival will also meet with audiences at individual meetings. As part of the festival there will also be a translation seminar for translators of Mi這sz’s poems from almost 20 countries, all of who have scholarships from the Book Institute in Cracow.

Stars of this year’s festival concerts are bagpipe virtuoso Liam O’Flynn, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, an Irish poet who writes in Irish Gaelic, and Ray Manzarek, one of the founders of legendary group The Doors, who will perform together with American beatnik poet Michael McClure. The festival will mark the first Polish performance of a Mi這sz-inspired oratorio written by Lithuanian composer Onuta Narbutaite.

At the end of festival on May 15, popular Polish jazz singer Aga Zaryan, accompanied by a group of friends, will sing compositions written to poems by Mi這sz at the Cracow Philharmonic.

The festival will be accompanied by an overview of documentaries about Mi這sz, multimedia shows and book launches by several publishing houses. The new publications include a biography of Mi這sz written by Andrzej Franaszek and a Collected Poems volume. Festival audiences will also be able to read letters between Mi這sz and writer Jaros豉w Iwaszkiewicz and Jerzy Giedroy, a long-time editor-in-chief of Kultura, a Paris-based magazine which was one of the most important Polish periodicals published abroad during the communist era in Poland. Letters on show during the festival will also include Mi這sz’s correspondence with Konstanty Jele雟ki, who for many years wrote essays and articles for Kultura.

The festival is organized by the Cracow Festival Office and the Book Institute together with the Jagiellonian University. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage has contributed zl.1.1 million for the event.

During the Year of Mi這sz, the Cracow Festival Office will carry out several other projects, including one called Mi這sz Liberated. One of the most important events of the year is a project by Jenny Holzer, an American artist who won an award at the Venice Biennale in 1990. Holzer will come to Cracow in June and together with lighting director Charles Passarelli, will show off a light installation project inspired by and referring to the work of Mi這sz. The project will see images projected onto the walls of the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill in Cracow.

On the 100th anniversary of Mi這sz’s birth June 30, a five-meter-high steel box will be mounted on a square in Cracow. This giant camera obscura will allow viewers entering it to see moving images of the surroundings. People entering the box will hear a poem by Mi這sz read by the poet himself and, in English, by Robert Hass. The camera obscura is one of two Year of Mi這sz projects by artist Aleksander Janicki, the other one being a Zen Garden on a square in front of the National Museum in Cracow, where Janicki wants to use gravel to make a huge image of Mi這sz’s thumbprint.

Texts of poems by Mi這sz will be shown on a screen in a tram in Cracow. Thanks to clubs and caf廥 in the city, excerpts from the poems will be printed on napkins, coasters and even cookies. The Mi這sz celebrations will include a “Poetry Carriers” project, with excerpts from poems by Mi這sz printed on T-shirts. Participants at the Ninth Sacrum Profanum Festival in September will perform Mi這sz-inspired pieces written by five Polish contemporary classical music composers: Pawe Mykietyn, Agata Zubel, Wojciech Ziemowit Zych, Aleksandra Gryka and Dobromi豉 Jaskot. The concerts will be aired on radio and will be also recorded for a subsequent DVD release.

Apart from Poland, Year of Mi這sz events will be held in Lithuania, the United States, France, China, India, Israel, Russia and several other countries. Conferences, discussions and exhibitions about Mi這sz will be held in a variety of places from Krasnoyarsk in Russia to Vilnius, Cracow, Paris, New York and San Francisco.

The celebrations will take on a special dimension in Lithuania. “We will show that our cultures have a lot in common,” Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, the director of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature, said in Vilnius while presenting a program of Mi這sz-related events. The Lithuanian parliament, like its counterpart in Poland, decided that 2011 would be the Year of Mi這sz. Kvietkauskas said such events would mostly take place in towns and villages which had ties to Mi這sz. “We want as many people as possible to visit Seteniai, where Mi這sz was born, the Kedainiai area and the manor house in Krasnogruda where Mi這sz spent summer vacations in his school and university years,” said Kvietkauskas. “This is where Lithuanian and Polish intellectuals will meet.”

Mi這sz spent his school and university days in Vilnius and it was in Vilnius that he made his debut as a poet. He survived World War II in Warsaw, in part due to assuming Lithuanian citizenship. After the war, he initially accepted the new communist system and even worked in the diplomatic service of communist Poland in the United States and France. In 1951, however, he asked for political asylum in Paris and nine years later, he left for California. For the following 20 years, he taught Slavic languages and literature as a professor at Berkeley university. Until 1989, he published most of his works in Kultura magazine in Paris and in Polish samizdat publications. Mi這sz died Aug. 14, 2004, in Cracow.
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