A recording today from the archives of PEN (PEN America’s digital archives), an evening, in 1986, with Polish poets, Julia Hartwig and Artur Miedzyrzecki. Allen, in his capacity as Vice-President of American PEN, introduces, and, following readings by both poets, monitors a lively Q & A. The evening begins with a brief introduction by Bob Rosenthal of the Committee For International Poetry, one of the two co-sponsors of the event.
The full audio for the evening is available – here
Bob Rosenthal: Well, welcome, welcome to the PEN Club, my name is Bob Rosenthal, I’m with the Committee For International Poetry. The Committee For International Poetry and the PEN Club are jointly sponsoring this evening’s poetry reading and I’d just like to very briefly say something about the Committee For International Poetry. It’s an organization of poets who..(which) has been in existence since 1982. We’ve sponsored international poetry readings and festivals, (nine festivals in half as many years), and this year we’re engaged in compiling a radio magazine of international poetry in a bilingual format that’s going to be nationally distributed, and we have several other small readings. We invite you to take a brochure and sign up on our mailing list, and also it’s really a great pleasure tonight to introduce Allen Ginsberg who’s going to introduce the poets for you and he’s the PEN representative, so, known in USA and Poland, Allen Ginsberg
AG: Well, it’s good to be back in Central Europe, with this company and particularly happy to be introducing poets whose interests and backgrounds are, as far as I’m concerned, the major twentieth-century poetic interests – that is to say (Guillaume) Apollinaire and the modern movement, open-form verse, and international style (which has developed all over the world), which really begins, somewhat, with Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and an opening up of Modernism. The Polish poets of the early part of the century were particularly international and American poetry has slowly begun to catch up with that sophistication. American poetry is also very slowly beginning to catch up with the sophistications of political disillusionment and realization of our own nation as a.. not a major world power but one dependent on the cultures and the armies and minds of other nations. The Polish experience of occupation and resistance and triumph over the material conditions with some kind of spiritual expansion, expansiveness, (having to relate to disillusionment, having to relate to being conquered (either internally or externally)), is an experience that America is slowly beginning to realize for itself. So it’s particularly useful for us now to have an exchange of consciousness with Polish poets who have been on the forefront of literary modernism as well as up in the front ranks of physical and social suffering and activity. Both poets tonight, Artur Miedzyrecki and Julia Hartwig, fought in the war (Julia Hartwig with the Polish home army, and her husband with the Polish army in North Africa). They were members and officers of the Polish Writers Union (Arthur himself is still Vice-President of Polish PEN, which is now dissolved by the government or blocked by the government). Both have worked, as well as the social labor war, engagement in the difficulties of being citizens in the war world, have also worked with that opening of imagination and autonomy that we experienced in America in the ‘Sixties (as it was experienced all over the world), and in which Poland led the way, re-experiencing with its autonomous citizenry via the community of Solidarity (“Solidarność – sic). So it’s particularly interesting for me to hear them and to hear what has developed in their imaginations and in the literary forms that they’ve evolved. So, I’m very happy as the Vice-President of American PEN and as one of the directors of the Committee For International Poetry, to introduce them to you (tho’ you may know them much better than I do) .
The American poets who will be working with them – Rochelle Kraut will be reading Julia Hartwig’s poetry in English and…who will be reading the?…oh, Simon Pettet, will be reading the Artur Miedzyrzecki’s poems in English. So I turn things over to the poets
The procedure should be each poet reading about half an hour from their work and then we’ll have a little break and then if there is any conversation useful we can have questions and answers
Julia Hartwig reads her poems in Polish, each one followed by Rochelle Kraut reading the English translation:
JH: “In Your Eyes..” (“In your eyes, Europe, we are history’s reservations…”….”even tho’ yesterday it seemed rather tight”) – “But of Course” (“But of course, you too would make a good martyr..”… “…that blood won’t trickle from your beaten face”…) – “Above us” (“Boys kicking a ball on a vast square beneath an obelisk..”…”…lost in thought with a finger to its lips”) – “What can they?” (“What can the interrogator and the interrogated tell each other? What is the common language they can talk?’….”…”before it’s cut short, by whom? by what? when?”) – “Towards the End” (“Towards the end you don’t really care…”….”Regret is the only form of payment for what you have received”) – (and thr last poem) – “Before Dawn” (“Who do they work so hard for? who do they call to so stubbornly?…”…”I can only strain my ears while I lie still in the dark..”)
Artur Miedzyrzecki reads next, similarly with the English translation following the Polish original
AG: Artur Miedzyzrecki’s work will be read in English by Simon Pettet
AM: “These translations, as well as the translations of poems read by Julia Hartwig, are out of the work of Stanisław Barańczak, and, as a matter of fact, we follow his choice (in Polish Poetry of the last Two Decades of Communist Rule). This is the choice of Stanisław Barańczak and we simply follow the translated Polish poems, I think, with Polish texts of course. The first of the poems I would like to read to you is called.. in English “29.77.02” – (“Realistic dreams with a whiff of terror /I’ve got to call a number 29-77-02”…. “I turn on the lamp, I write down the phone-number/Tugboats call out to each other in the fog”) – This poem is entitled (“They”) and it was written in 1948.. 1984” (“Don’t think it’s your character they don’t like/Your weakness, your terrific disposition”…”…”..And who the killers of God are/ and the destroyers of peoples” – The next poem is entitled “This War of Nerves” and it was written in the period 1981-1982. It belongs to the booklet entitled..(The War of Nerves) – (“The War of Nerves is a natural phenomenon/Dogs wage it with cats, birds with bees…” …”…you’ve got to keep your inner balance”) – “And from the same period, a poem entitled… “What Does the Political Scientist Know?” – (“What does the political scientist know? /The political scientist knows the latest trends..”….”.The capacity for wonder/And a sense of humor”) – “And the next poem, “Can you imagine?”” – (“Can you imagine absence, not as the opposite of something that lives and breathes”…”something that’s not there, that’s not there anywhere”) – “The next poem was published on 1979 and its called “The Golden Age”. (“So what if clowns and gnomes/ Run the show at the royal court…”… “…the grand old duke on horseback or the jester Hudson with his dog”) – “The next poem is from the ’70s and its called (At the Cave”), and to this audience I should mention that it is an ironical poem… but I… It is an ironical poem – (“At the Cave” ) – (“You can come to terms with anyone/ Even a troglodyte/ You only have to keep your head/ To be patient..” …”Show kindness, sympathy/ Not provoke him”). – “Fate, the Clerk, Lays Down a New. Set of Bylaws” – (“Fate the clerk sets down a new set of by-laws/ It used to be the elements decree now it’s a decree of the authorities.”…..“but now it’s a hit-or -miss and get-out-if-you-can”) – “And these are two last poems, The first one’s a three-lined poem – (“Let It Talk”). (Let the tree talk which has grown big within you/…”…”Let the birds talk among its boughs”) – “And the last poem … “The Reason For Existence” (“The eternal quarrel/ between the existence of reason and the existence of brute force..”… “it comes from the black breath of the contrary spirit/from evil hovering.”)
to be continued – tomorrow