We know the nominees of the 2020 European Poet of Freedom Literary Award of the City of Gdańsk

The jury of the European Poet of Freedom Award, chaired by Krzysztof Czyżewski, has announced the nominees of the Award’s 6th edition. The selected poets come from eight European states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Georgia, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia and Malta. The winner will be chosen in March 2020 during the European Poet of Freedom International Literature Festival in Gdańsk.

The main rationale behind the European Poet of Freedom Literary Award funded by the City of Gdańsk is to introduce Polish readers to communities, languages and literary visions of the world from all over Europe. The nominated poetry volumes are submitted by eminent literary translators, thanks to whom we may not only discover new authors and their states, but also new cultural contexts of our European community.

The jury composed of Krzysztof Czyżewski – chairman, Paweł Huelle, Zbigniew Mikołejko, Stanisław Rosiek, Anda Rottenberg, Beata Stasińska, Olga Tokarczuk and secretary Andrzej Jagodziński (who did not take part in the vote) has selected the following candidates for the 2020 Award:
Darko Cvijetić (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – for Ježene kožice (2017) [Goosebumps], translated into Polish by Miłosz Waligórski;
Balša Brković (Montenegro) – from Crno igralište (2017) [Black pitch], translated into Polish by Agnieszka Schreier;
Zviad Ratiani (Georgia) – for Only You Are Allowed (2015), translated into Polish by Magdalena Nowakowska (2015);
Sinéad Morrissey (Irleand) – for On Balance (2017), translated into Polish by Magdalena Heydel;
Agnė Žagrakalytė (Lithuania) – for Štai (2017), translated into Polish by Agnieszka Rembiałkowska;
Jean Portante (Luxembourg) – for Aprés le tremblement (2013), translated into Polish by Wawrzyniec Brzozowski;
Inga Gaile (Latvia) – for Lieldienas (2018) [Easter], translated into Polish by Agnieszka Smarzewska;
Antoine Cassar (Malta) – for Erbgħim Jum (2017) [Forty days], translated into Polish by Zuzanna Gawron, Urszula Zielińska.

All nominated volumes will be translated into Polish for the first time, published and presented during the European Poet of Freedom Festival in March 2020. The main prize, awarded during the event, is PLN 100,000 for the poet and PLN 20,000 for the translator.

Fragments of justifications given by translators who submitted the nominations

The poems of Darko Cvijetić (Bosnia and Herzegovina) stir our lazy memory, which is prone to generalizations. By putting himself in the position of victims, perpetrators, and even murder weapons, the protagonist adopts their point of view, thus eluding the triviality of collective narratives. He demonstrates that thanks to perspective, we might approximate the individual experience of another human being, and together enter the ‘freedom sector’ – explains Miłosz Waligórski.

Texts contained in Balša Brković’s (Montenegro) volume constitute an intimate account of a journey, on which the author keeps embarking: the journey towards freedom of choice. His poetry is the territory of liberty and autonomy; the poet is not limited by any obligations towards the nation, history, or national history – says Agnieszka Schreier.

Poems by Zviad Ratiani (Georgia) revolve around the fundamental questions of the function of man in the modern world, intently looking for a meaningful recipe for dignified existence in a reality that is dominated by various forms of aggression – physical, psychological and material – elucidates Magdalena Nowakowska.

Morrissey’s (Ireland) poetry is poetic par excellence; employing a repertory of forms and techniques, and an entire gamut of sensual effects, she refers to the senses, and – through them – to the readers’ empathy and sense of humour. Her poems, though immersed in history, are not locked in it, but open up to the enormous sphere of imagination and freedom of thought – writes Magdalena Heydel.

The publisher presents Agnė Žagrakalytė’s (Lithuania) volume as “poems about love that is devoid of narcissism”. Lithuanian critics describe the underlying theme as “a reflection on femininity, its various forms and transformations”, an exploitation of the cultural stereotypes associated with women and women’s art, and – as the dominant feature of her style – they cite sensuality, a near-erotic energy of her message, sometimes of explicit nature (though never overusing vulgar language) – says Agnieszka Rembiałkowska.

Jean Portante, who made his literary debut at 33, lives in Paris, but cultivates strong ties to Luxembourg, where he was born in 1950 to a family of recent immigrants from Italy. He wanted to secure “freedom” for himself in a language, in which he did not feel completely at ease, and which he made more flexible and adapted to his own poetry through the very skilful use of phrases borrowed from other languages (though, regrettably, this is not always translatable) – clarifies Wawrzyniec Brzozowski.

Inga Gailes poetry volume published in Latvia in 2018 is an example of a vivid and involved voice in contemporary Latvian literature. The poet takes up the subject of personal freedom, posing questions about freedom of expression, the boundaries between “myself” and “others”, and about liberty in perceiving the outside world. The author boldly takes up feminist and LGBT+ subjects, juggling political allusions and references to Latvia’s most recent history, peppered with her irony and sense of humour – sums up Agnieszka Smarzewska.

Forty Days by Antoine Cassar (Malta) is an example of the strength of a human being to face up to – and conquer – demons of the past. This poem retraces a journey towards healing and love to oneself and the world, without any excessive baggage in the backpack. A genuine way out from the soul’s darkness and joy at the birth of a new day – elaborate Zuzanna Gawron and Urszula Zielińska.

The European Poet of Freedom Literary Award of Gdańsk supports and promotes European poetry. Each edition features nominated poets from eight European states. The nominees are put forward by translators, who also propose their own renditions of the given author’s work. The winner is selected by a jury of writers, critics, translators and representatives of various art disciplines. Apart from the awarded poet, who receives a prize of PLN 100,000, the translator also receives a prize of PLN 20,000.

Previous winners: 2010 – Uladzimir Arlou (Belarus), 2012 – Durs Grünbein (Germany), 2014 – Dorta Jagić (Croatia), 2016 – Ana Blandiana (Romania), 2018 – Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir (Iceland).