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Migrating Poetic Cooperations

On the 7th of February eMigrating Landscapes Project hosted Grzegorz Wróblewski and Friends (Marcus Slease, Adam Zdrodowski and Piotr Gwiazda). The discussion focused on the recent poetry book by Grzegorz on migration, displacement and the experience of being a foreigner – Kopenhaga (translated by Piotr Gwiazda).

It was a final seminar of the 8 seminars planned for the first series of eML seminars run from march 2013 to February 2014. It was an amazing year with a lot of discussions, enthusiasm and energy from all engaged in eML Project. We wish to thank everybody, all the participants, fantastic writers and poets, academics, translators for being there for us. Most of all, we thank all the participants and funs for joining us with this adventure!

Thanks and follow us here, on the wen and of Facebook

On Saturday, 8 February, 2014, we celebrated the year of discussion the “migrating landscapes” at Rix Mix within Steven Fowler project (Wrogowie/Enemies), where 6 pairs of Polish and British poets read their collaborative work. Have a look at the video report at You Tube:

Amy Cutler & Ula Chowaniec http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6LdC442EKk
Angus Sinclair & Laura Elliott http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrH3G34BQ_M
Francesca Listette & Joanna Rzadowska http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZukpdL6Cxk0
Philip Terry & Adam Zdrodowski http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHzymaGAgPQ
Marcus Slease & Grzegorz Wroblewski http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yuRzUnOYXk
Photos at Steven’s account on twitter – https://twitter.com/stevenjfowler

eMigrating Landscapes presents In Search of Public Space with Joanna Rajkowska

Malgorzata Radkiewicz

Malgorzata Radkiewicz, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Audio Visual Arts at the University of Krakow. Her research interests and publications focus on gender representation in film and media as well as on much wider category of cultural identity She published a book about women filmmakers, and other on Polish cinema of 1990s. In her last book: “Female Gaze: Film Theory and Practice of Women directors and artists” she addresses the issue of women’s cinema and arts in terms of feminist theory.

Seminar on November 20, 2013

New Europeans: myths, dreams or sort of reality

Seminar with Grazyna Plebanek took place at University College London SSEES on March 20, 2013. The podcast of the event you can find here

New Europeans: myths, dreams or sort of reality

Grażyna Plebanek:

To accept differences, to embrace the fact that we’ll always be different: it’s a hard, fascinating, never ending work of defining and redefining. I’m grateful for it, I need this for myself and my writing…


1. Urszula Chowaniec: Grazyna, you came to London for the seminars which was devoted to your book “Illegal Liaisons” and the book of A.M. Bakalar “Madame Mephisto”, all around the theme of construction of New Europeans, do you in fact believe in the New Europe, this Europe, in the centre of which – in Brussels — you actually live?

GP: Actually I do. Maybe it’s the child in me that says “I do” but I let it speak. I benefited from the bringing together of European nations, a lot of people did, we can travel and work where we want. Obviously, it brings out nationalistic sentiments because the animals in us will always bristle at contact with strangers. But Europe is relatively small and the educated part of the younger generation already feels European.  There is always a question if the blending together of cultures will not deprive us the unique qualities of each individual culture. But life means motion, it’s a natural process, I’m the last person to defend “the old order”.


2. UCH: Let’s talk about “Illegal Liaisons”, your first book in English beautifully published by Stork Press, in a moment, but first I would like to go back to your earlier works. Before “Illegal Liaisons you have written three books. In free translation their titles are “Girls from Portofino” (to be honest my favourite), “Box of Stilettos” and “A girl called Przystupa”. All of them are very important in Polish contemporary literature. They are telling the story of women in Poland, from the times of communism to the transformation into a free-market economy, to the time of Euro-emigration (Przystupa) and the new Europeans — the generation of people who feel in equal part citizens of Europe as of the country they grew up in. Is this an intentional literary project to draw a picture of what happened in Poland in last few decades from the point of view of female characters?

GP: I wrote “The girls from Portofino” because I was fed up by the myth of the Solidarity movement being monopolised by men. That’s why one of the characters smuggles illegal newspapers and distributes leaflets, because women did it too. I wrote the story of political and economic transformation from the perspective of girls and then young women, because we were there too, as active as men. On the other hand, I wanted to recreate a different world, the girly one, with all its quarrels, small intrigues and, above all, friendship. At the end of the day it is friendship that allows my four characters to survive. Girls from the same street in a typical district of blocks of flats survive in a reality dominated, on the one hand, by communist school, and, on the other, by the Catholic Church and the pressure of the traditional upbringing on top of that.  The main character of “Box of Stilettos” Marta, who struggles to make a career in Poland after the transformation, in an era of “wild capitalism”, becomes pregnant and realises that her life doesn’t belong to her any more. Motherhood is not her private matter because as a pregnant woman she belongs to the society more than ever. She is forced to play a role, to fit into an image of the Mother, especially Mother Pole. She feels trapped. At the same time she fights to survive financially and professionally in a reality where women tend to get fired when they get pregnant. In “A Girl Called Przystupa” a twenty year-old woman from a small village leaves Poland to work as a cleaning lady in Europe. The story is written mostly from her point of view, or rather that of the Narrator, who follows her closely, commenting on New Europe’s reality like narrators did in a picaresque. It would be very difficult to write these stories from a male point of view. I felt that they belong to women and they were untold. I wanted to tell them. On the other hand, the main character of “Illegal liaisons” is Jonathan, a writer, a stay- at-home father, a man who fulfils a traditional female role. Women in this novel are strong, they work, earn money, they are successful. Megi, Jonathan’s wife is a lawyer working for an EU institution, but she takes an active part in the upbringing of their kids. Andrea, a journalist and Jonathan’s lover, uses her freedom as a woman; she doesn’t feel obliged to fulfil any traditional roles of wife or mother.

In my next novel I come back to a female perspective. The main character is a European by upbringing (she’s thirty years old, she’s too young to remember communism). She lives in Poland and in Europe, for her it’s not a question of “leaving her country”, it’s more a question of being mobile and following her own needs. Her sense of patriotism is very different from that of the older generations of Poles.

3. UCH: Coming back to “Illegal Liaisons”: this is your first book translated into English. Why did you choose this one?

GP: My English publisher, Stork Press, has chosen this novel because it’s a universal story of love and passion which can be understood everywhere. And it is understood, from what I hear now, a year after “Illegal liaisons” came out in England and last month in USA and Canada. Last week I was a guest of the International Festival of Authors in Toronto, now I have a promotion tour – Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, New York. Readers’ comments are similar to those in Poland, people find their own emotions in this story, they feel strongly about it.

4. UCH: Jonathan is constructed a bit as a background to emphasize the emancipation of women: professionally and economically successful Maggie and sexually liberated Andrea. Jonathan himself seems to be weak, submissive and indecisive (oh, I really did not like this character!) Can you tell me a little why did you decided to make him a protagonist? What was his main function? Perhaps I misread this character?

GP: Several days ago I talked to Lewis DeSoto, a writer who also was the guest at IFOA. We discussed “Illegal Liaisons” and at some point he told me: “Men are a mess!”. I must say that I don’t envy men nowadays. It is a time of transformation for them. Clearly they lost the certainty of what manhood means and they are in the process of defining it again. It’s a very interesting process in the post-feminist world but I believe it must be painful in everyday life. Jonathan is a man in transformation.

5. UCH: It is a spoiler but I disclose that the book has a sort of happy ending: the family stays together. Isn’t that a bit optimistic given that the New Europeans are more likely to end up in divorce than any other generation before, especially because the economic reasons to stay together are less and less important? Also, isn’t the ending a bit in line with a bourgeois morality?

GP: But we are also more attentive parents than we were ever before. In previous generations people had more children and parents didn’t have time to concentrate so much on them. Now kids are in the centre of our attention. Jonathan is one of these fathers who cut the umbilical cord, who is very active in the process of upbringing. Paradoxically, the love affair with Andrea makes him an even better father, it opens him up emotionally. It could also be “the guilt factor” so typical for Poles – a “bad” husband, Jonathan compensates by being a good parent. That’s why he’s not able to take responsibility for destroying his family. It’s not a weakness; it’s the overwhelming sense of responsibility in which we, parents, live nowadays.

6. UCH: One thing about the geography of the book: the new, liberated generation is located in Brussels, which is a symbol of New Europe, but also one of the cities with a big complex of its colonial past. Is this ideological dynamic important for your thinking about what is happening around you? In Illegal Liaisons there are no direct link to post-colonial theory, but there is the idea of Europe above a nation as a direct opposition to colonial ideas. (perhaps New Europe is a result of colonial failure?)

GP: I write about the colonial past and its consequences for daily life in Europe, and especially in Brussels, in my next novel. My main character meets both Belgians and Congolese people. She’s deprived of her “colonial virginity” in a painful way.

7. UCH: I would love you to elaborate a bit on the idea of contemporary writing and being a writer. You write and publish in Polish, hence in the traditional categories you are labelled as a Polish writer, also thematically your novels are linked to Poland, you comment on contemporary Poland etc. But you have been living abroad for years, and – as you explained it – it is your choice, mainly dictated by your curiosity of the world. Does this choice influence your writing?

GP: I react immediately if somebody wants to label me as an émigré writer. I travel because I feel a nomad. And because I like and because I can travel — the transition from communism gave us this precious opportunity, I’m grateful for this. I visit Poland whenever I like. There is no regret, no homesickness, no nostalgia. The same in “Illegal liaisons”, Megi and Jonathan do not miss Poland, because Poland is so close. They didn’t lose their country by leaving it. There is a fundamental difference between the generation of people who entered their adult life after 1989 and the earlier generations. The only influence on my writing manifests itself through a broadening of the subjects that interest me. I meet people from different cultures in Brussels, our contacts are deep enough to inspire me to write more than just about Poles and their mentality. This is the case of my latest novel (to be published in 2014). The question is if leaving our own cultural context makes us credible as storytellers. Musicians, painters and other artists don’t have this problem, writers are judged more strictly.

8. UCH: Do you feel an emigrant or migrant, a contemporary vagabond?

GP: A contemporary vagabond. Full stop.


9. UCH: To be away from your own culture often gives you a certain distance, clearer view: sometime you may find out that you actually do not like your own country and your own countrymen. Is there anything about Poland you particularly don’t like?

GP: Being away from my own culture gave me an important lesson – not to generalise, not slip into stereotypes, always have bigger perspective. Therefore I can say what I don’t like in particular Poles, but not in the whole Poland.

10.  UCH: Ok, is there anything you miss about Poland? Does being abroad make you long for anything Polish (and please, do not refer to Polish cuisine, I do not believe a word about the mythical Polish delicatessen and I am a daughter of a fantastic cook)

GP: Sometimes I’m surprised that my Polish friends feel so strongly about something – politics, behaviour, a film, weather – and I don’t care… This realisation that “I don’t belong there in 100 per cent” brings about a bit of nostalgia. But as a matter-of-fact, without regrets.


11.  UCH: You were a student of Izabela Filipiak, an excellent Polish writer and a very important voice against taboos and bad practices in Polish culture (for example in her columns in various magazines, later published as the Culture of the Offended). Did she influence your way of thinking about writing, the choice of subjects, the way you construct the narrative?

GP: She introduced me to the theory of feminism. I wrote my MA thesis from a feminist perspective when gender studies didn’t exist in Poland. When I joined Filipiak’s group several years later, gender studies were already formed. What I knew instinctively before and I analysed in my MA thesis, I found in the theory books I had to read for Filipiak’s classes. That was reassuring. She liked my first short story, it was important. She was also very supportive when I published my first novel. She was one of these teachers who inspires, triggers something in students. A rare, precious gift.

12.  UCH: Who are your teachers of fiction writing? Who influenced you most?

GP: In June 2013 I published a volume of essays “The Robber Maid’s Daughters” about my teachers of fiction writing. I can add here several more: Nabokov, Calvino, Eco, Marquez, Irving. Polish female writers: Jadwiga Żylińska, Zofia Nałkowska.

13.  UCH: A word for conclusion?

GP: I feel like I “entered Europe” more than decade ago when I moved from Poland to Sweden but only now I feel that I see more of it. I found a space in my mind, in me to understand people from different cultures. To accept differences, to embrace the fact that we’ll always be different: it’s a hard, fascinating, never ending work of defining and redefining. I’m grateful for it, I need this for myself and my writing.

For all the information and calendar of events see: Grazyna’s website


Samples of Irit Amiel’s poetry:

Irit Amiel (Irena Librowicz) is a translator, poet and writer. She was born in Częstochowa in 1931. Both her parents died in Treblinka in 1942. Just before leaving Ghetto for the concentration camp, they managed to hide little Irena in the secure place. After war she emigrated to Palestine, later she settled in Israel, where she lives and works





Every time I play with my grandchildren

my parents stand and watch over us in silence.

They stare with severity, without a shadow

of a smile, of love or of joy.

Father’s head as bald as any knee.

Mother’s dress as grey as ash.

And often I ask myself the question:

are they simply judging me

for existing still?






I am eleven years old, standing by the window,

hidden carefully behind a curtain,

watching the street and the passing

grey wave of battered people and see

her among them – six year old Sylwia

in a navy blue velvet dress

with a white sailor-boy collar,

her head gilded with blonde locks,

like a little Shirley Temple straight out of our cinema.

She walks along and, crying, calls out Mummy!

and her mother too, hidden behind a curtain in the window,

forces her fists into her eyes and ears so as not to hear,

not to respond, not to run after.

She wants so much to live,

walking along, that golden-haired Sylwia, alone

on the road without return and only

the sound of her voice and calls

pulses through my blood

and will echo until

the very end.




Purpurowy szalony bąk, celuloidowa lala z wyprawą.

Nagi różowy brzdąc, ukochany mięciutki jednooki miś,

fikający wesoło pajacyk na sznurku, drewniany konik.

Gumowa głupia gąska, kolorowa twarda piłka,

pełen czarów kalejdoskop, pierwszy zegarek tykający

bezlitośnie bezpowrotny czas dzieciństwa z ubiegłego stulecia.


Wszyscy odjechali pociągami w odwrotnym kierunku

niż ja i latami tęsknili za mną na wygnaniu.


Dziś powracają i nocą siadają na krawędzi łoża starości.

A ja zakrywam kocem siwy łeb bo cuchną obcością i złem.




Dla Henryka G.

Obmapywać dzieciństwo



W berka graliśmy na Berka Joselewicza

Na Katedralnej bawiliśmy się  w chowanego

A potem mała Marylka chowała się tam

w piwnicy między workami ziemniaków i węgla

gdzie ją na końcu zastrzelił starszawy Niemiec

Do Ziemiańskiej zabrali mnie raz rodzice na five o`clock

i w aksamitnej sukience bordo tańczyłam solo

Widziałam motyla jak bujał wśród wzgórz

Potem nie było już ani motyli ani wzgórz

Zimą  w ośnieżonej 3 Aleji zjeżdżaliśmy z górki na pazurki

W kinie Luna na rogu Aleji Wolności a 3-Aleii

oglądaliśmy boską Shirley Temple

Na  kompletach na Krótkiej czytaliśmy Mówią Wieki

ale nam nic nie powiedziały i bardzo krótko trwały

Na Strażackiej bawiliśmy się w łuny  pożarów

W bunkrze na Garncarskiej wisiała na ścianie kartka

Stary niedżwiedż mocno śpi

My go nie zbudzimy

bo sie go boimy

Jak się zbudzi to nas zje

No więc zbudził się i zjadł

Na podwórku Stary Rynek 24 w przeddzień akcji

 tańczyliśmy kółeczko się kręci i wciąż się obraca

wesoło wokoło  Lucek się obraca

A nazajutrz ulicą  Prostą  Lucek razem

ze wszystkimi poszedł prosto do wagonów

I koniec  Kropka


 See also poems read online;

Law of Genetics


My Father

My Mother




Biografia Irit Amiel po polsku:

AMIEL Irit Amiel (nazwisko panieńskie: Irena Librowicz, „na aryjskich papierach”: Krystyna Iwańczak, Krystyna Hankiewicz) – tłumaczka, poetka, prozaiczka. Urodziła się 15 maja 1931 r. w Częstochowie w zasymilowanej rodzinie żydowskiej – Leona Librowicza i Natalii z domu Hassenfeld. Ojciec był współwłaścicielem sklepu bławatnego w Częstochowie. Oboje rodzice zginęli w 1942 r. w Treblince. Przed wywózką z getta częstochowskiego zdołali umieścić córkę w ukryciu. Amiel przebywała „na aryjskich papierach” w Warszawie oraz w okolicznych wsiach. Po wojnie, drogą nielegalną, wraz z organizacją Bricha (przez obozy dipisów w Niemczech, Włoszech i na Cyprze), 19 grudnia 1947 r. przedostała się do Palestyny. Po wojnie wyzwoleńczej i powstaniu państwa Izrael żyła w kibucach: Bejt Haszita i Palmachim (brała udział w budowie tego ostatniego w roku 1950). Studiowała filologię, historię i historię literatury na Otwartym Uniwersytecie Izraela w Ra’anana. Natomiast w latach 1981–1985 odbyła studia dla tłumaczy w Bejt-Berl College w Kfar Saba. Irit Amiel jest jednocześnie poetką języka hebrajskiego (wydała zbiór wierszy Miwchan beszoa, מבחן בשואה , Egzamin z Zagłady; Tel Awiw 1994, 2 wyd. 1995, 3 wyd. 1998) i języka polskiego (Egzamin z Zagłady, Oficyna Bibliofilów, Łódź 1994, 2 wyd. 1998; Nie zdążyłam, Oficyna Bibliofilów, Łódź 1998; Wdychać głęboko, Świat Literacki, Izabelin 2002). Tom opowiadań Osmaleni (Świat Literacki, Izabelin 1999), cieszący się dużym zainteresowaniem czytelników i krytyki (posłowie do książki napisał Michał Głowiński), został nominowany do Nagrody Literackiej Nike w roku 2000. Został też wyróżniony na Poznańskim Przeglądzie Nowości „Jesień ’99”, organizowanym przez Bibliotekę Raczyńskich w Poznaniu. Pozycja ta została przetłumaczona przez samą autorkę na hebrajski – Cruwim (צרובים , Wydawnictwo Karmel, Jerozolima 2002). Natomiast na węgierski przełożył ją Peter Hermann – Megperzseltek (Wydawnictwo Poligraf, Budapest 2002), a na angielski (z hebrajskiego) Riva Rubin – Scorched (Vallentine Mitchell, London 2006).

Utwory z debiutanckiego tomu prozy to krótkie teksty prozatorskie w formie notatki autobiograficznej lub opowieści napisane na podstawie cudzych biografii (często są to też kompilacje życiorysów kilku osób). Fabuła przebiega w nich według ustalonego wzorca – bohaterowie (tzw. osmaleni, czyli „skazani na ocalenie”) to europejscy Żydzi dotknięci ogniem Zagłady (lub ich dzieci, a nawet wnuki), relacjonujący swoje historie. Osmalenie jest więc w prozie Amiel kategorią ponadczasową, która nie dotyczy tylko osób bezpośrednio doświadczonych tragedią Szoa. Autorka zwraca uwagę na to, że doświadczenie zagłady Żydów dało początek ogólnoświatowemu kryzysowi cywilizacyjnemu – swoistej dehumanizacji kulturowej. Przywiązanie do polskości stanowi zaś źródło bólu. Zarówno dla narratorki, jak i dla jej żydowskich bohaterów relacja z Polską to rodzaj nieodwzajemnionej miłości.

W podobnym tonie została utrzymana następna książka Amiel – Podwójny krajobraz (Prószyński i S-ka, Warszawa 2008), ze wstępem Henryka Grynberga, także nominowana do Nagrody Nike w roku 2009. W tomie tym prawie wszystkie opowieści mają charakter autobiograficzny i widać w nich – podobnie jak w Osmalonych – ogromny wpływ Zagłady na ludzką codzienność ponad pół wieku po tej hekatombie. Książka została przełożona na włoski – Fratture (Keller Editore, Rovereto

2010), tłum. M. Borejczuk.

Amiel przełożyła z polskiego na hebrajski teksty: Miriam Hochberg-Mariańskiej i Mordechaja Pelega-Mariańskiego Wśród przyjaciół i wrogów (Mi-chuc le-chomot ha-geto: be-Krakow ha-kwusza, מחוץ לחומות הגטו: בקראקוב הכבושה; Jad Waszem, Jerozolima 1987), Mieczysława Frenkla To jest morderstwo (Ha-recach ha-nazi be-Lwow, ;הרצח הנאצי בלבוב, Wydawnictwo Fundacja Reisfeld, Jerozolima–Buenos Aires 1988), Lei Rozenzweig Treny (Kinot, קינות; Wydawnictwo Saar, Tel Awiw 1993), Abramka Koplowicza Utwory własne (Miszel acmi, משל עצמי; Wydawnictwo Jad Waszem, Jerozolima 1995). W izraelskich czasopismach literackich „Iton 77” oraz „Moznajim” opublikowała przekłady opowiadań: Leo Lipskiego (Sarni braciszek, Św. Paweł, Pradawna opowieść, Mały Emil, Ewa i księżyce), Marka Hłaski (Szukając gwiazd), Hanny Krall (Tylko króciutko, Dybuk), Henryka Grynberga (Sielanka-Siaj) oraz wierszy: Wisławy Szymborskiej (Miłość od pierwszego wejrzenia, Pierwsze zdjęcie Hitlera, Pierwsze zdjęcie). Z hebrajskiego na polski przełożyła utwory poetyckie najważniejszych współczesnych poetów izraelskich. W wydaniu książkowym ukazało się jej tłumaczenie wyboru wierszy Dana Pagisa Ostatni (Wydawnictwo Studio EMKA, Warszawa 2004). Jej przekłady wierszy Icchaka Laora, Heziego Leskliego, Nurit Zarchi weszły w skład antologii Nowa poezja hebrajska (wybrała Miriam Akavia, Oficyna Bibliofilów, Łódź 1995). Amiel przełożyła także utwory Jehudy Amichaja („Zeszyty Literackie” 2007, nr 1). Jest również autorką tłumaczeń na język polski hebrajskich dramatów: Requiem Hanocha Lewina oraz Adam Zmartwychwstały Jorama Kaniuka (Teatr Cameri z Tel Awiwu wystawił obie sztuki w Warszawie i Łodzi). Utwory Amiel ukazywały się również w różnych czasopismach, w Izraelu np. w tygodniku „Nowiny-Kurier”, w almanachu „Kontury”; w Polsce np. w „Słowie Żydowskim”, „Midraszu”, „Arkuszu”, „Czasie Kultury”, „Odrze”, „Tece”; we Francji – w paryskiej „Kulturze”. Publikowała również w edycjach zbiorowych. Wiersz Miasto rodzinne ogłoszony został w tomie Poetycka Częstochowa (wraz z okolicami) 1945–2005, cz. 1 (red. W.E. Piekarski, Częstochowa 2005).



M. Cieślik, Skazani na życie, „Polityka” 2000, nr 15; M. Cuber, Nieustająca opowieść, „Nowe Książki” 2008, nr 10; P. Czapliński, Odzyskiwanie Zagłady, „Przegląd Polityczny” 2003, nr 61; P. Czapliński, Pomazani śmiercią, „Tygodnik Powszechny” 2000, nr 11; J. Drzewucki, Świadek Zagłady, „Rzeczpospolita” 08.01.1995; H. Gosk, Albo się żyje, albo się umiera, „Nowe Książki” 2000, nr 1; N. Gross, Wdychać głęboko, „Nowiny-Kurier” 29.08.2003; N. Gross, Sadza na sercu, „Nowiny-Kurier” 31.12.1999; H. Grynberg, Pokolenie Szoa, „Odra” 2002, nr 4; R. Grzela, Egzamin z zagłady, „Literatura” 1998, nr 7/8; I. Kiec, Bez powrotu do codzienności (o bohaterach Irit Amiel), „Twórczość” 2001, nr 4; A. Kozioł, Ślad ognia, „Dziennik Polski” 1999, nr 271; A. Kozioł, Wielokrotna podwójność, „Dziennik Polski” 03.06.1998; J. Leociak, Krajobraz po Zagładzie, „Midrasz” 1999, nr 12; T. Nyczek, Osmaleni, „Wysokie Obcasy” 25.03.2000; S. Podobiński, Rola języka i języków w kształtowaniu się świadomości i budowaniu więzi społecznych – żydowskie antecedencje traumatyczne z częstochowskiego getta w „Osmalonych” Irit Amiel, [w:] Z dziejów Żydów w Częstochowie, red. Z. Jakubowski, Częstochowa 2002; L. Skompska, Od róż do liter, „Tygiel Kultury” 1996, nr 10/11; J. Sokołowska, Świadek Irit Amiel, „Kresy” 2009, nr 4; W. Susid, Wieczór autorski Irit Amiel, „Słowo Żydowskie” 03.12.1999; L. Szaruga, Świat poetycki (XX), „Zeszyty Literackie” 2003, z. 3; A. Szymańska, Wiersze z brzucha, „Nowe Książki” 1998, nr 8; R. Wasita, Ocaliła mnie polszczyzna, „Słowo Żydowskie” 23.08.1996; R. Wasita, Ocaliła mnie polszczyzna. Spotkanie z Irit Amiel, „Literatura na Świecie” 1996, nr 10; (wp), Częstochowa – miłość bez wzajemności. „Osmaleni”, „Dziennik Zachodni” (wydanie lokalne: Częstochowa) 28.12.1999.





eMigrating Landscapes Interview / Maria Jastrzebska

June 2013


1 / Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came to be writing poetry in the UK?

I came to London as a young child with my family who were escaping post-war Communism and who saw the UK as the land of freedom and democracy. I always wanted to write and started early, even before I was actually literate. At one point, I thought I’d be writing short stories, but poetry somehow claimed me and it ain’t letting go!

2/ Having a non-English name, is that something which has ever had an influence on your career as a poet? Do people ever comment on it or do we live in a society where multiculturalism really is now the norm?

Is it more of a norm in London? I think my Polish surname with both a z and an ę in it has made a big difference. People baulk at it, commenting constantly wherever I go in the UK and every time I meet someone for the first time. If not for my name, I’d pass for English as I lost my accent early on. Not only does hardly anyone introducing me at poetry events ever pronounce it even half-right, but on a deeper level I think it does create a barrier of sorts. People can’t say it, spell it… or remember it. I’ve written about this at greater length in the following blog entry. I do think it has contributed to my work being marginalised. But I won’t change it!

3 / What is your relationship with the Polish language? How do the two coexist in your creative mind/processes?

English is my dominant language, so I feel much less confident in Polish, but on the other hand it has a profoundly emotional resonance for me. I ‘think’, ‘hear’ or start my poems in English, but sometimes I check a word or a line in Polish. And Polish words sneak in. I miss hearing it more as I live and work with English speakers nowadays. Brakuje mi czegoś.

4 / Your work involves a lot of collaboration with other artists and orgs, often on an international level, can you tell us more about this aspect of your practice?

I love collaborations! I hope to do more. Having actors bring my drama Dementia Diaries to life was a real highlight as well as working with the composer and the director of course. I am also excited by other art forms and the cross-fertilisation when you work with someone else. I’ve co-translated a book of Slovenian poetry and loved that as a way in to a ‘cousin’ culture. The international aspect is vital for me. Otherwise I feel trapped in English insularity. I’m currently involved in a queer oral history project in Brighton as an editor and I have done a lot of work with a youth group here as well as teaching some emerging Polish poets. It’s good to get out of the ivory tower/isolation of working on your own stuff. I love working with groups and teaching comes quite naturally to me though these days I am more focused on my writing.

5 / How do you feel when being defined as a “migrant writer”? Does that label work for you, or is it something you feel needs to be challenged?

It’s like with any label. Interestingly reviewers seem to be picking up on the ‘immigrant’ aspect of my new book. See for instance here, though it’s certainly not the only theme in the collection.

I don’t think we can do away with labels at this point in time, but of necessity they are limited. It all depends how they are employed – whether to signal something of interest or to pigeon-hole – and so belittle – a writer. A similar problem arises with other terms woman writer etc etc. No one wants to be ghettoised or have their work side-lined. At the same time, eMigration informs my work and this will have a particular resonance with other i/emigrants as well as more general appeal. I am deliberately avoiding the term ‘universal’, as I think it’s a fiction, defined by whoever runs the show.

6 / How did you choose which language to write in and what difference has it made to your creativity/writing career?

I do wonder how differently I might be writing if my early reading had been more steeped in Polish literature as opposed to the mere glimpses of it I had growing up in the West. But then I’m grateful for some of the so called Western influences I did enjoy. I am also curious as to whether I’d have got to being a writer sooner or even later if I’d been living in Poland. I’m glad of the counter-culture of the 1970’s here. But this is a much longer topic…


At the Library of Memories by Maria Jastrzębska

Waterloo Press 2013

At the Library of Memories leads the reader from the ghost of one room to another, via the senses and catching at fragments of stories. This is an invitation to examine not only individual, arresting memories – at once familiar and disturbing – but the process of remembering itself. How we come to terms with our own past and what collectively we make of it are questions running in and out of these vivid, exciting poems.

“In Maria Jastrzębska’s new collection memory is a powerful and truthful tool, admitting fallibility and never exceeding its prerogative, yet evoking a whole world of tastes and smells, longings, anxieties and human needs. This is vivid, thoughtprovoking poetry that takes us by stages to the heart of the immigrant experience and leaves us with urgent questions which imperceptibly have become our own.” Susan Wicks

“Maria Jastrzębska’s epic new collection is fabulous,
audacious and compelling; here are dazzling conjurings of lost times and places, tremendously moving elegies, and astonishing fragments of intricate stories recovered from lost worlds. This exceptional collection is the work of a poet at the height of her imaginative powers.” Nick Drake

Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw, Poland and came to England as a child. At the Library of Memories is her third full-length collection. She is co-translator of Elsewhere by Iztok Osojnik with Ana Jelnikar (Pighog Press, 2011) and has co-edited several anthologies. Her poems feature in the British Library project Between Two Worlds and are widely anthologised: from The Virago Book of Wicked Verse to This Line Is Not For Turning, Contemporary British Prose Poetry (Cinnamon Press 2011). Her drama Dementia Diaries toured nationally in 2011. A founder of South Pole artist’s network and Queer Writing South, she lives in Brighton.

Maria is available for readings / workshops/festivals during 2013
to coincide with the release of her third collection.
Further information about her work:

At the Library of Memories – published 2013 by:
Waterloo Press, 95 Wick Hall, Furze Hill, Hove BN3 1PF
ISBN 978-1-906742-57-7
With grateful acknowledgement of assistance from
Arts Council England and Polish Cultural Institute.

13 May, 2013: Poetry of Wioletta and Genowefa – Interview at the Borders of Language

UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies

eMigrating Landcapes Project 


(Photo by Bogdan Frymorgen)

Wioletta Grzegorzewska


Genowefa Jakubowska-Fijałkowska


at the Borders of Language


(Poetical Debate on Language led by Sophie Mayer)

Monday 13 May 2013, 5-7 pm.

Room 431

Reception: Room Senior Common Room, 4th floor

UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW

Registration: https://emigratinglandscapes.org/registration/

For further details please contact dr. Urszula Chowaniec: u.chowaniec@ucl.ac.uk

Poster: Seminar 3_Wioletta Grzegorzewska and Genowefa Jakubowska Fiałkowska

Blog Wioletty (in Polish)  here

Articles on Genowefa (in Polish) Literackie pl., Literatura jest sexy

Sophie’s blog here

Blog Marek Kazmierski, translator of Wioletta and Genowefa here


Soon on our website:

  •  Selected poems by the authors,
  • The detailed programme of the meeting on May 13th 
  • Questionnaire for everybody who would like to ask questions in advance (all questions will be answered either during the meeting or later on the website!)