“Poems must have a voice.” Lublin girls vote for Ukrainian poets

Joanna Jastrzębska

Ukrainian poets call it indescribable tragedy. She writes poems about the war, and Lublin girls record their translations and upload them to the Internet.

“Nobody told me how to live it” – this sentence read at the Cultural Center opened the series of poetry and film “Poets of the War”. It is from an anonymous poem by Oksana Gajiy. It was read by Jolanta Prochowicz, the initiator of the action and co-editor of the anthology “Poetry for the Age of Plague”, which is closely related to the video campaign.

– The book was a response to a difficult period in our activities: a pandemic, but also a more widely understood plague. In marketing terms, the book sold surprisingly quickly. As for poetry, the circulation was large: 1,000 copies, three times the average circulation of a poem in Poland. WBPiCAK has decided to release a second edition, and we have decided that we want to react to what is happening in the world if we have the opportunity – explains Prochowicz.

The reaction to the war in Ukraine was to increase the number of works collected in the anthology, in addition to six works, each written by Ukrainian poets.

– I thought to myself: stupid, these are our closest neighbors and we know very little about their literature. Now they come to us, and it would be good to get a little idea of ​​their culture. I am a teacher and decided to read a poem by a Ukrainian poet in philosophy classes. I asked the students if they had ever read what people from Ukraine had written. If it’s not poetry, maybe they’ve seen a story, a book, or maybe at least a movie. In each of the four classes, no one, absolutely no one answered yes – adds Prochowicz.

However, the growing interest in Ukrainian poetry is felt by translator Aneta Kaminska, who has translated six texts selected by the editors of the anthology. He has been translating for years and has completed work on at least a few dozen poems since February 24. The collection of texts worth translating is growing several times a day.

– Now everyone wants to read Ukrainian poetry – says Kurye. Kamińska keeps in touch with Ukrainian authors and creators, emphasizing that this interest is very important to them. However, he admits that many authors are not writing the next poems, but fighting with guns or helping those in need. Kamińska is convinced that he should not wait now to translate the poems he has written. – It is important for me to translate them immediately and continuously, because thanks to the media we live on the other side of the screen at the same time. The poems not only allow us to understand the feelings of Ukrainians, but also express our emotions, adds Aneta Kamińska.

The second edition of the anthology includes, among others, Irina Szuwalova, Oksana Gadjij, Daryna Hładun and Hałyna Kruk. What poem is this?

– There is little heroism in this. Poems close to the body, close to everyday life. Among them are high-heeled shoes, animals that are known to be unable to survive, and children who do not want to go to the shelter. There are no big words and no national pride, there is an ordinary, small life – says Jolanta Prochowicz.

He co-edited the anthology with Bartosz Wójcik, who looked at poems written in the middle of the war as documents.

– We have many outstanding texts in the literature about the Second World War. Of course, they have not lost their emotional power, but after many years we perceive them differently, because we understand the event better. Of course, not all literary critics want to work on contemporary Ukrainian poetry, because they believe that the subject should be “reduced.” But I think that one of the functions of literature is public intervention in what is happening. Although we do not know everything. We do not know whether the people mentioned in the poems are still alive. This poetry is very unique, because we are not dealing with typical literary characters, but with the participants of a real war, – says Wójcik.

Camera, motion

The coordinators of the Poets for War project are Jolanta Prochowicz of the Camera Femina Foundation and Magdalena Krasuska of the House of Words. They selected 20 works translated by Aneta Kaminska (including poems published in the anthology) and invited 20 girls from Lublin to read them.

– We report to very different girls: from cultural institutions, artists, journalists, offices. It never happened that one of us refused, says Magdalena Krasuska.

So far, six audio recordings have been published. So far, in addition to the coordinators, Lublin poets and the director of the museum took part in the filming.

– Our reading, of course, is a symbolic gesture of solidarity, but today, in addition to collections, donations, volunteerism, we also need them. A friend of mine wrote that the Russian crimes in Ukraine take away our words and we forget what to call evil. Maybe sometimes, when there is a lack of words, let the poems speak, let them say evil, – says Sara Akram, winner of the 15th edition of the “Jurawi – Lublin Cultural Awards” and “Połów” Creative Studio. He chose a work that did not have the name of Iryna Wikyrczak, but began with the words “You are a poet, they say, we are waiting for an answer from us.” , but he became invisible as he stood farther away. I was reciting poetry and people were entering the frame, no one was looking at me, ”Akram explains.

“It seemed symbolic to us in some ways,” added Magdalena Krasuska, who was also at the station during the recording.

The poem was also read by Alexandra Canar, winner of the second edition of the National Poetry Slam Championship. He chose Irina Szuvalova’s “The Poet Can’t Write About War.”

– Participating in the project was an invaluable experience for me, especially the opportunity to get acquainted with the voices and perspectives of the poets who lived in the dramas, which I had the privilege of not knowing personally. This poem disturbed my peace, took me out of my daily work, gave me a point of view. In my opinion, literature in general is a way of subduing the unknown and the most difficult, at least in part; to understand how tragedy is handled through writing, not the tragedy itself. Let’s read a Ukrainian poem, says Kanar.

The list of readers of Ukrainian poets includes, among others, the director of the Lublin National Museum Katarzyna Mieczkowska, President of the Homo Faber Association Anna Dąbrowska, Lublin poet Jagoda Graboś and Alicja Sienkiewicz from Galeria Labirynt. In addition to people and poems, there are important places in the writings.

– We thought that we could show a little more than the girls themselves in the audio recording read by the girls. We decided to film in different places related to the war and refugees. Thus, among others, notes were made near the Cultural Center, where the Lublin Social Committee for Assistance to Ukraine is located, and at the PKS bus station, where the refugees fell, explains Krasuska.

The articles were published on the Facebook page of the City of Poetry. The curators of the series are aware that in this way they reach not only the people of Lublin, but also word lovers.

– Poetry is just one way: on the one hand, to reach people, to build relationships with them, on the other hand, to reach the world. Of course, not everyone likes this method, I found it a few years ago and stick to it. In this case, the world is spoken by Ukrainian poets, says Krasuska. Why did they decide that it is worth promoting the poetry of Ukrainian women through video recordings? – We just want them to be heard. The authors of the poems probably planned meetings with the authors, festivals where they would recite poems, and other events. The outbreak of war completely prevented him. They read these poems under their names because they can’t share them with the audience, he adds.

The project will end on May 28 during the Lublin Poetry Stage Festival. But before that, a meeting dedicated to the series will be held on Wednesday, April 13 at 6 pm in Dom Słów. His main point will be to read poems together.

– There is something else in the poems recited aloud. They just sound different from what we read in our brains. Poems should have a voice – says Magdalena Krasuska.

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