Grzegorz Kwiatkowski

Poland

Grzegorz Kwiatkowski (1984), poet and musician, member of the band Trupa Trupa. Author of the script to Duety nieistniejące (“Non-existent Duets”) by Dada von Bzdülöw and Mikołaj Trzaska (2011). Two-time nominee for the Polityka Passport award (2009, 2010). Ministry of Culture scholarship holder (2012). Winner of the Splendor Gedanensis Award (2011) and the City of Gdańsk for Young Creators Award (2009), among others.


Grzegorz Kwiatkowski (1984), poet and musician, member of the band Trupa Trupa. Author of the script to Duety nieistniejące (“Non-existent Duets”) by Dada von Bzdülöw and Mikołaj Trzaska (2011). Two-time nominee for the Polityka Passport award (2009, 2010). Ministry of Culture scholarship holder (2012). Winner of the Splendor Gedanensis Award (2011) and the City of Gdańsk for Young Creators Award (2009), among others.

 

His first volume, Przeprawa (“Crossing”) surprised readers with its minimalistic diction, maturely set voice, described as new and intriguing in its way of combining expression and simplicity. Poet Józef Baran speaks of a “predatoriness combined with intellectual sophistication”. Critic and poet Marcin Orliński adds that Kwiatkowski is contributing a further chapter to the avant-garde-resistance movement of Poland’s newest poetry. “He targeted what probably bothered him most: the way in which various narratives (Christian discourse, journalism, sensation novels…) affect everyday language. Irony, often bordering on pathos, is mixed with pure lyric poetry and though, at times, Kwiatkowski allows himself to be taken by the issues he examines, the worlds he presents X-ray one another, creating an interesting space of various solutions”. This distinct debut caught my attention as early as typescript stage. On the cover of the volume, I wrote: “To have challenges (in childhood and onward) is not the same as to participate in an expedition, or a “crossing over”. The reader’s confusion arises with the awareness of this difference. The protagonist, despite his traumatic experiences, still believes in the possibility of crossing over to the other side of a greater sense, a coherent fate. Here writing poems evidently serves a purpose and takes part in something. Kwiatkowski is beyond word games. I sense a believable perplexity and real searching”.

 

This search has led the young poet to creating the poetics of a quasi-testimony, a lyrical document of someone’s presence and alienness. In Eine Kleine Todesmusik (2009), “the voices that resound (…) belong to many people. They are full of passion, terror and disgust which an evident irony does not stifle,” wrote critic Anna Nasiłowska as she questioned whether this was appropriate in our times and in contemporary art. “Maybe we have grown unaccustomed to this? Maybe we are convinced that passion is dead and all that is left is a whisper? Not true. Poetry should use the voice of that which is ‘stifled’”. Józef Baran interpreted this attitude as a conscious provocation, labelling the author the “enfant terrible” of Poland’s newest poetry, “the master of turning reality inside out” and recalling his “sophisticated turpist games of the imagination”. Henryk Bereza considers the artistic risk taken by the poet, the breaking free of formal traditional lyrical poetry to be more important. The celebrated critic pointed to the need for the reader to cooperate, to reject stereotypes and habits to capture the message embedded in the irony. “The poems of Grzegorz Kwiatkowski are like the cacophony of a street, a bazaar or a prostitute marketplace. They are like drunken song, where we hear lifelessness in the human collective and the expressed feelings of anyone who is alive. Anyone could be its creator or addressee; this poetry, though impossible and insane, can reveal its strength and truth to anyone. It can be accepted if only it is heard clearly and if one discovers it within”.

 

Hunches and hopes were confirmed by subsequent volumes by the Gdańsk poet: Osłabić (“Weaken]” (2010), Powinni się nie urodzić (“Should Not Have Been Born”) (2011), and especially Radości (“Joys”) (2013). The young critic Marcin Szerszyński has placed this last volume amongst the most outstanding poetic endeavours of recent years. “Kwiatkowski’s short and crude poems remain chiselled into the memory for much longer than is necessary for one to feel good. But were they created to bring joy? Of course not. The poet asks (and remembers). The answers we give ourselves are disturbing enough to rid us of what self-confidence we had left. By allowing the dead to speak, Kwiatkowski not so much conjures ghosts and brings to life past events, rather he reminds us of unresolved – or unresolvable – contemporary issues. This poetry is characterized by a total absence of moralizing, yet the author is not testing us. Rather he is himself trying to face the essence of humanity, which, on the one hand, creates beautiful and important ideas, while on the other is capable of inhumane cruelty.” The volume caught the attention of none other than Agnieszka Holland, who pointed to the rarely successful art of making the impression of a very personal statement despite having removed one’s self from the poem: “His poetry is restrained and at the same time painfully brutal. This is because it is so very personal, even though there is not one mention of the author’s lyrical ego”.

 

The strength of this poetry lies in having given the floor over to Inny (The Other One). It is good to give the floor over to someone else in order to domesticate alienness. It is good when a poet is able to do something about his egotism. In this volume, by unleashing still thriving “historical” emotions, something happened that transgresses the traditional expanse of the lyric role or mask. To whom does the poet usually give the floor? To the murdered, the degraded, the forgotten. Critic Mikołaj Gliński writes in his review of Radości: “Amongst the speaking figures, there is a pair of German ski jumpers, Ernst Becker-Lee and Walter Steiner (the former died in 1940 during a failed jump in Gdańsk), the wife of poet and mystic William Blake, Catherine Blake (died 1813), as well as Dora Drogoj (died 1941), Buzia Wajzner (died 1943), and Sylvie Umubyeyi – victims of pogroms, the Holocaust and ethnic slaughter in Rwanda, but also dead animals… Death, often abrupt and drastically depicted, rises to the rank of main protagonist; it becomes the rule of this poetry and of life in general”. “The conciseness, roughness and ostentatious anti-coquettishness of the poetic parlance in the poems of this volume remains at the service of a kind of poetic study of the world”, wrote Eliza Kącka in her review of Kwiatkowski’s latest collection, while the aforementioned Mikołaj Gliński emphasized that “the source of this poetry lies in an authentic dissension with the violence and death that are present in our world and in their continual updating in poetry”. In an interview with Gliński, the author himself reiterates, “it is only then that tragedies surprise me. Maybe what I’m saying is perverse or unethical. But if you present something in a particular way, it shocks and it works”.

 

 by Karol Maliszewski, translated by Zuzanna Ananiew