photo: Łukasz Jarocki / The Book Institute

"Poland - a country of poets?" - discussion at the International Book Exhibition in Taipei

Polish poetry, including the work of Czesław Miłosz, Zbigniew Herbert, and Wisława Szymborska, was discussed by participants in Saturday's discussion "Poland - a country of poets?". The meeting was organised during the Taipei International Book Exhibition.

From Tuesday, the Taiwanese capital hosted the Taipei International Book Exhibition TIBE, one of the most important events of its kind in the Far East. This is the first time Poland has taken the role of Guest of Honour. The event included meetings with Polish artists and concerts. The fair ended on Sunday.

Poet Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar, deputy director of the Book Institute Krzysztof Koehler (moderator) and Chinese poet and publisher Bei Ling participated in the discussion on Polish poetry.

According to Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar, poetry in Poland has always been more important than prose. Bei Ling agreed with her. "Yes, Poland is a country of poets and poetry, but it is also a country of music," he stated. However, the deputy director of the Book Institute said that "this is a bit of an overstatement. It is true that during the period of martial law, in the 1970s and 1980s, poetry was the most powerful form of expression of these different things related to the political situation, to community awareness."

He added that at the time Czeslaw Milosz, who was living in the US, spoke of how 'American poetry or the poetry of the West is somewhat about nothing'. "The most important questions people ask themselves in life are no longer answered by anyone. It seems that Polish poetry at the time carried serious questions, hence it was needed and important, it was translated, and it held the position it held," he said.

In his opinion, contemporary Polish poetry 'has become similar to Western poetry and is probably no longer a poetry that carries the essential structure of thought'. "Perhaps a big, good novel takes on these questions, but in fact Polish poetry has unfortunately become the poetry of a country where there is a lot of consumerism and living from day to day," Koehler assessed.

Czesław Miłosz, Zbigniew Herbert, and Wisława Szymborska were also discussed during the debate. Participants in the discussion shared personal memories related to them with the audience.

Bei Ling said that Wisława Szymborska became very famous in Taiwan and China after receiving the Nobel Prize for literature. She has a very large readership there. "Her poetry is easy to understand, humorous, and full of irony," Ling assessed.

The main organisers of the Polish presentation are the Book Institute and the Polish Office in Taipei. They are partnered by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the National Library, the Pilecki Institute, and the International Cultural Centre. The project was co-financed by funds from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the task 'Poland as Guest of Honour at the TIBE 2023 International Book Exhibition in Taipei'.

source: Polish Press Agency (PAP), Katarzyna Krzykowska