The PEN Ten is PEN America’s weekly interview series. This week, PEN America’s senior director of Free Expression Programs Summer Lopez speaks with Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, author of Crops (Rain Taxi, 2021).
On Saturday, April 2, the French publishing house La rumeur libre éditions will premiere the book “Joies”. The book, translated by Professor Zbigniew Naliwajek in French, will inaugurate the new “Centrale / Poésie” series by Guillaum Métayer of the Sorbonne. The book’s preface is by Professor Claude Mouchard. The premiere will take place in Paris at the Maison de la Poésie. Claude Mouchard, Audrey Kichelewski, Mateusz Chmurski and Guillaume Métayer will take part in the premiere meeting.
The Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts had just published my book “Žetev”. The afterward was written by the book’s translator, Simona Klemenčič, and by Oto Luthar.
Cold water in the face is too mild a description for the effect of Grzegorz Kwiatkowski’s poems. What they present is simultaneously so human and so barbaric that nausea may be the truest response—coupled with, for me anyway, a contradictory compulsion to keep reading, a desire not to look away.
This interview was conducted via e-mail in November 2021. Grzegorz Kwiatkowski was in Gdańsk and Sanford Jacoby in Los Angeles. They met through Grzegorz’s poetry and discovered that they shared K.Z. Stutthof, a concentration camp in Poland, as a presence in their lives. The prisoners included ethnic Poles and Jews (the latter self-identified or categorized as such by the Nazis). It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of its 110,000 inmates were murdered until the camp was closed in May 1945, the last camp liberated by the Allies. Here Kwiatkowski reflects on the violence perpetrated in Poland during the Second World War, and the dualities of the Polish experience. Is it possible for art to reckon with the darkness, free of melodrama and kitsch?
The poem, “world”, was included in ‘the Palaeolithic Grotte du Lazaret in Nice’, as part of the project by The University of Texas at Dallas and the LabSynthE studio of professor Xtine Burrough. The poem, “world”, taken from book, “Crops”, translated by Peter Constantine, can be heard starting at 48 seconds.
The great writer Hanya Yanagihara and The New York Times Style Magazine invited Grzegorz Kwiatkowski to take part in their “TMicronovel” series.
“People in the know know him.” That’s what his English translator, Peter Constantine, told me. Grzegorz Kwiatkowski is becoming an important poetic voice from today’s Poland, with six volumes of poetry, and translated editions on the way. His translator added, “He has a strange poetic voice, very original and stark.”
A conversation with Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, a Polish poet, and Trupa Trupa, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. Interviewer: Jacek Hajduk.
JACEK HAJDUK: During the 2019 SXSW Music Festival you dedicated the performance of your group, Trupa Trupa, to the memory of the late Gdańsk mayor, Paweł Adamowicz. Let us then start with Gdańsk. How much of this city is with you today? And how was it before? Which faces of this multi-layered urban centre are close to your heart?