‘There comes a moment in the life of a culture when it produces a literary figure whose means and meanings are of the future.’ – said Andrei Navorozov in The Guardian review of the 2004 Collected Poems by C. K. Norwid translated by Adam Czerniawski (Anvil Press). Slavist Roman Jakobson called Norwid ‘one of the greatest world poets of the later nineteenth century’. Norwid’s visionary capacity makes him often compared to William Shakespeare, William Blake, Charles Baudelaire or Emily Dickinson in how his creativity exceeded his time and anticipated the future.
Cyprian Kamil Norwid, now recognised as one of the greatest Polish poets, was born in 1821 near Warsaw and died forgotten in a shelter for impoverished Polish war veterans and orphans in Paris in 1883. He spent most of his life in exile, living in Rome, New York, London and Paris and only one slim volume of his poetry was published during his lifespan (in Leipzig in 1863) to no critical acclaim. The rest of his work (or whatever was found after his death) had to wait until it was rediscovered in the following century and fully appreciated first by Zenon Przesmycki (of the Young Poland Movement) in the 1900s and then followed, discussed or translated into English by Czesław Miłosz, Roman Jakobson, George Gomori, Jerzy Peterkiewicz, Michael Mikoś, Danuta Borchardt and Adam Czerniawski, among others.
2021 marks Norwid’s 200th birthday. We are proud to work with some of the UK’s finest artists to commemorate the life and work of this outstanding figure and reintroduce his artistic output to an English-speaking audience.
On 15th June we will showcase ‘VadeMecum’, a new short produced by the Palm-d’Or-nominated animators, Stephen and Timothy Quay. The film shows the life and works of Norwid and offers a great introduction to legacy ahead of the bicentennial of his birthday in September 2021.
The Brothers Quay say: ‘We took the challenge to make this film for an audience who will have probably never ever heard of Norwid; however, in the briefness of this film, we had hoped that we could still ignite the gentle curiosity of the imagination of the viewer towards the legacy that this man left in writing and in art that was simply never validated in his lifetime’.
Together with Modern Poetry in Translation, we have prepared an abundance of surprises for you:
21st June – Online publication of a translation of Norwid’s verse comedy of manners Pure Love at Sea-Side Bathing by Adam Czerniawski, with wonderful new animations
by Emma Brierley: Temporary Commons, produced in partnership with Golden Hour Productions.
2nd July – A translation of Norwid’s poem ‘The Last Despotism’ by Adam Czerniawski, along with two newly commissioned responses to Norwid’s poetry by UK poets Malika Booker and Wayne Holloway-Smith will appear in the printed version of the magazine.
Also, check our social media to hear Malika’s reading of her inspired by Norwid poem in a video she prepared for the occasion.
We have also supported a translation of prof. Józef Franciszek Fert’s book by Urszula Błaszak (USA), Stanisław Mickiewicz (UK) and Steve Rushton (UK) The Life of Cyprian Norwid (1821-1883), published by Literary Waves Publishing. The book is dedicated to Norwid’s life and work.