Croatian poet Monika Herceg wins the 2024 “European Poet of Freedom” Gdańsk Literary Award. The 34-year-old author is the youngest winner in the award’s history. Her translator, Aleksandra Wojtaszek, has also been recognised for her work. The jury noted that the poet’s volume, Lovostaj., stands out with its fresh outlook, contemporary character, and deft combination of the intellectual with the introspective. The official award ceremony will take place on 19 April during the European Poet of Freedom Festival (17-20 April).

The jury of the “European Poet of Freedom” Gdańsk Literary Award met in Gdańsk on 19 March 2024 to deliberate. Its members are Anna Czekanowicz, Krzysztof Czyżewski (chairman), Zbigniew Mikołejko (attending online), Stanisław Rosiek, Anda Rottenberg, Beata Stasińska, Olga Tokarczuk and secretary Andrzej Jagodziński (who did not take part in the vote). The jury selected the winner out of six volumes shortlisted for the 2022–2024 edition.

“I think the list of poets nominated for the award gives an incredible insight – unique in our part of Europe – into what’s happening in the world of poetry. I personally treat poetry as a very special type of intuition, which describes the most subtle and delicate vibrations of our collective consciousness. I feel honoured to participate in selecting the winner of the European Poet of Freedom competition,” said Olga Tokarczuk, member of the EPF Award Jury, during the press conference.

During the deliberations, the jury repeatedly emphasised the consistently high level of this year’s edition, noting the brilliant resonance between the poet-translator duos. Ultimately, though, the debate oscillated towards the “Balkan can of poetry”, as Prof. Zbigniew Mikołejko humorously referred to shortlisted volumes from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. After the discussion, the jury unanimously decided to grant the award to Monika Herceg and her translator Aleksandra Wojtaszek.

In the reasoning behind the verdict, we read:
“Monika Herceg’s poetry is a poignant cry of freedom, which transforms into a new and brave voice of the young generation. Once again, this voice comes from the Balkans, although this time, rather than on wartime trauma, it focuses on the fate of women. Despite frequent references to mythology, Monika Herceg’s poetic voice does not recount mythological stories but rather testifies to being ‘visited’ by the power of ancient gods and goddesses. Strongly laden with emotions, this voice blends in perfectly with scientific knowledge, hitherto rather rarely employed in poetry. It is also worth highlighting the extremely consistent and thought-out structure of the poetic volume, which enabled the artist to create an entire universe filled with deep reflection on the place of the lyrical subject and the identity of a woman. Monika Herceg’s poetry restores the young generation’s freedom to rebel against the current state of the world, bearing credible witness to this”.

Six poetry books were shortlisted for this year’s edition of the Award finale:
Darko Cvijetić, The snow was doing everything not to fall, transl. from Croatian into Polish by Miłosz Waligórski
Anja Erämaja, The singer’s papers, translated from Finnish into Polish by Katarzyna Szal
Monika Herceg, Lovostaj., translated from Croatian into Polish by Aleksandra Wojtaszek
Mirela Ivanova, Seven. Poems with Biographies, translated from Bulgarian into Polish by Magdalena Pytlak
Miriam Van hee, Loss of time. Poems from 1996-2022, translated from Dutch into Polish by Jerzy Koch
Arvis Viguls, Flea Circus. Poetry 2017-2020, translated from Latvian into Polish by Piotr Ruciński

About the Award
“European Poet of Freedom” Gdańsk Literary Award is awarded on a biennial basis. Its aim is to promote poetic phenomena that have high artistic value and raise one of the most important topics of the modern world – the topic of freedom. In each edition, the Prize is awarded to the author and translator of the distinguished volume.

Publishing series
The competition is accompanied by a publishing series that presents translations of poetry written by nominated authors. Currently, in the series almost 60 volumes were published.

European Poet of Freedom Festival
This year’s awards ceremony will take place on April 19th and will be a part of an interdisciplinary artistic event organised in the Urban Culture Institute (Targ Rakowy 11, Gdańsk). The ceremony will be a part of the European Poet of Freedom Festival (April 17-20). This year’s festival program is curated by Magdalena Kicińska and Małgorzata Lebda.

Previous winners of the Award:
Marianna Kiyanovska The Voices of Babyn Yar (2022), translated from Ukrainian into Polish by Adam Pomorski;
Luljeta Lleshanaku Water and Carbon (2022), translated from Albanian into Polish by Dorota Horodyska;
Sinéad Morrissey, On Balance (2020), translated from English into Polish by Magda Heydel;
Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir, Freedom (2018), translated from Icelandic into Polish by Jacek Godek;
Ana Blandiana, My A4 Homeland (2016), translated into Polish from Romanian by Joanna Kornaś-Warwas;
Dorta Jagić, A Sofa on the Market Square (2014), translated from Croatian into Polish by Małgorzata Wierzbicka;
Durs Grünbein, A Misanthrope on Capri (2012), translated from German into Polish by Tomasz Kopacki;
Uladzimir Arlou, A Ferry across the La Manche (2010), translated from Belarussian into Polish by Adam Pomorski.