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A SALT WIND: CROSS CURRENTS IN POLISH AND BRITISH POETRY

7th September 2017

Allen-Prowle

Join us on Tuesday 19 September to celebrate the online publication of a new set of poetry commissions to celebrate literary connections between the UK and Poland.

The launch features readings from Jacek Dehnel, Krystyna Dabrowska, George Szirtes, Ruth Padel and David Harsent. Join us to begin a conversation about the mutual influences between our two literary cultures. 


A Salt Wind: Cross Currents in Polish and British Poetry

Last year after the referendum there was a spike in attacks on people perceived to be ‘foreign’. Whilst the victims of the attacks came from many ethnicities and nationalities, Poles were often targeted: Polish-owned properties and shops were vandalised and burnt down and Polish people – UK residents – were abused, verbally and physically. It felt to many of us like the beginning of a harsh and unwelcome age in which the old demons of xenophobia and nationalism resurfaced in new guises. 

The Poles and the British have a long history of living together and helping each other, and this spirit of mutuality is nowhere better expressed than in literature. So a small group of us decided to build a small but beautiful project, involving eight Polish and British poets who have each written about the importance of the literature of the other culture for their own poetry and poetics. We’ve gathered all this work into a web resource which can be used for the pleasure of reading new work and to demonstrate once again the cross-fertilisation between cultures. Here you can read Vahni Capildeo’s Nine Variations on the delicate and unnerving work of Krystyna Miłobędzka, Ruth Padel’s long elegy to her mother, infused with Czesław Miłosz’s ‘romantic irony’ and Jacek Dehnel’s commentary on Philip Larkin’s sense of futurity. Alice Oswald has written on a poet of the Warsaw Uprising, Anna Swirszczynska; George Szirtes responded with a set of elegant variations on Leopold Staff and Tara Bergin has written a powerful essay on a poem by Tadeusz Różewicz. The work is varied and powerful and a testament to the lifeblood of ‘foreign’ literatures and translation for our own limited sense of culture and literature.

We are not powerful: we know that poetry’s reach is limited and we are often preaching to the converted in the world of literature (after all what reader needs to be reminded of sympathy for the other?) But we feel that only an agglomeration of small acts of mutuality will improve our situation now. After all every Salt Wind carries word of the sea. 


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