The European Poet of Freedom Literary Award is a special honour – it has been designed to promote European poetry, the medium of great importance, yet often marginalised in our world. In each edition of the contest seven European authors are nominated. And it is translators who name the finalists and simultaneously proffer their own translations of the authors’ works. The victor then is chosen by a jury comprising translators, poets, writers, critics and representatives of other arts. Alongside the awarded poet, granted 100 000 zlotych, his translator is also honoured, which is of great significance since we tend to forget about those without whom we would be locked within the restricting borders of our mother tongues.
At the very foundation of the European Poet of Freedom Literary Award lies the idea of connecting and popularising various communities, languages and literary visions of our world; however, what makes the European Poet of Freedom so exceptional? In order to understand the phenomenon we should have a closer look at the three words comprising the title.
Firstly, ‘European’. The adjective obviously referring to geography; yet geography, especially in this day and age, may prove complex. Europe, to which the Poet of Freedom refers, is not just a teritory; it is a project of community. The community, particularly in the context of modern-day Europe, cannot be discussed in isolation from politics, although not the politics understood as local tentative interests of one group or another. The politics of the European Poet of Freedom is aimed at creating and shaping new ways of coexistence for millions of people. This community is more than just isolated ambitions of individual politicians.
Secondly, ‘poet’. Even more difficult to define. Who is the poet, especially the European poet, the poet of freedom? We see poets as those who have not given in and who still believe that the world can be shaped by means of literature and especially poetry. Poetry is an exceptional labolatory where new forms of language are created in order to make it possible for us to communicate and to comprehend the reality that surrounds us. Poets gift us with new languages and prevent the world from ossifying in the form of overused clichés.
And last but not least, the most difficult word: ‘freedom.’ There surely are many often contradictory ideas of what possibly freedom is. Freedom in the title of the award stands, above all, for the courage to cross boundaries: of culture, of language and of politics. The courage to shape poetic visions, which may prove difficult and indeterminate in many instances. The courage to oppose forms existing in the language and in politics. The European Poet of Freedom is an honour granted for the courage to build, by means of poetry, a new vision of European community.