20.04.2023 Events, Literature

“Nowa Fala”—The New Wave in Polish Poetry with Katarzyna Zechenter

S3E4 and all video recordings are available at:
Polish Cultural Institute New York YouTube

Encounters with Polish Literature is a video series for anyone interested in literature and the culture of books and reading. Each month, host David A. Goldfarb will present a new topic in conversation with an expert on that author or book or movement in Polish literature. More about the Encounters with Polish Literature series and the timeline.

The New Wave in Polish poetry or Nowa Fala describes a generation of poets mostly born around the end of the Second World War who became active in the political upheavals in Poland in 1968 and were prominent voices in the 1970s, through the Solidarity era, and beyond. Unlike the avantgarde movements of the interwar period, they did not form around an aesthetic manifesto written by a charismatic leader, and were not such a tightly defined group, but they were motivated by common ethical and political concerns around truth, censorship, freedom of speech, and individual freedoms in general. To be sure, there were manifesti, such as the collection of essays, The Unpresented World by Adam Zagajewski and Julian Kornhauser and certain poems like Ewa Lipska’s “We,” but they serve more to define ethical principles in a historical moment, rather than a unifying aesthetic idea. Their major influences in the immediately preceding generations are Czesław Miłosz particularly for his dedication to poetic form, Zbigniew Herbert for his ethics, and Tadeusz Różewicz for his commitment to everyday language.

In English, the New Wave as a movement falls through the cracks of the major histories of Polish Literature, coming at the tail end of the period covered by Czesław Miłosz’s History of Polish Literature, and not getting a chapter of its own in the more recent collections Being Poland or The Routledge Companion to Polish Literature, though some of the major poets, such as Adam Zagajewski are covered. There is a good overview, however, by Tadeusz Witkowski published as an article in Slavic and East European Journal, listed in the bibliography below with link, which can be retrieved through JSTOR at a university or public research library.

In this episode we offer an outline of the period and explore some of the major poets of the era, focusing on Stanisław Barańczak, Ryszard Krynicki, Ewa Lipska, Adam Zagajewski, mentioning some others along the way, such as Julian Kornhauser, Bronisław Maj, and others. Our guest offers some personal reflections on literary life during this period when she was a student, and reads one of her own recent poems.

Works by the New Wave poets and history of the movement:

Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh, ed. and tr. Polish Poetry of the Last Two Decades of Communist Rule: Spoiling Cannibals’ Fun. Intro by Helen Vendler. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991.
W. Martin, ed. New Polish WritingChicago Review 46: 3-4 (2000).
Stanisław Barańczak. Breathing under Water and Other East European Essays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990.
Stanisław Barańczak. The Weight of the BodyChicago: Another Chicago Pr., 1989. (best obtained through interlibrary loan)
Julian Kornhauser. Been and Gone. Tr. Piotr Florczyk. Intro. by Adam Zagajewski. Washington, D.C.: Marick Press, 2009.
Julian Kornhauser. I’m Half of Your Heart: Selected Poems, 1967-2017. Tr. Piotr Florczyk. Foreword by Paul Vangelisti. Afterword by Jacek Gutorów. Sandpoint, Idaho: Lost Horse Press, 2018.
Ryszard Krynicki. Our Life Grows. Tr. Alissa Valles. Afterword by Adam Michnik. New York: New York Review Books, 2017.
Ryszard Krynicki. Magnetic Point: Selected Poems. Tr. and ed. Clare Cavanagh. New York: New Directions, 2017.
Ewa Lipska. Dear Ms. Schubert. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2021.
Ewa Lipska. The New Century. Tr. Robin Davidson and Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2009.
Ewa Lipska. Poet? Criminal? Madman? Tr. Barbara Plebanek and Tony Howard. London: Forest Books, 1991. (best obtained through interlibrary loan)
Ewa Lipska. Sefer. Tr. Barbara Bogoczek and Tony Howard. Edmonton, Alberta: AU Press, 2012.
Ewa Lipska. Such Times. Tr. John Robert Colombo and Wacław Iwaniuk. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1981. (best obtained through interlibrary loan)
Adam Zagajewski (See bibliography for “Encounters” S1E4)
Witkowski, Tadeusz. “The Poets of the New Wave in Exile.” The Slavic and East European Journal 33, no. 2 (1989): 204–16.

Dr Katarzyna Zechenter

Katarzyna Zechenter is an Associate Professor at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. She has published articles on contemporary Polish and Polish-Jewish fiction with the emphasis on memory and post-memory, and a monograph The Fiction of Tadeusz Konwicki: Coming to Terms with Post-War Polish History and Politics. She has also published two volumes of poetry (In the Shadow of the Tree, Krakow 2012) and There and Here, winner of the prize for Best Poetry Book from the Union of Polish Writers Abroad for 2019. She is working on a third volume of poetry entitled An Illustrated Atlas of Scientific Poems. Her poems have appeared in journals in Poland, France and the USA and some have been translated into English and Spanish.

Bartek Remisko, Executive Producer
David A. Goldfarb, Host & Producer 
Natalia Iyudin, Producer

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