Ryszard Krynicki, a notable poet, a translator, a publisher and a co-creator of a5 Press became a laureate of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literature Prize – announced The Zbigniew Herbert Foundation on 9th March. The prize is presented since 2013, however it’s the first time that a Polish poet is awarded with this prestigious distinction.
The awards ceremony will take place on 12th May 2015 in Polish Theatre in Warsaw.
The news, that I’ve become a laureate of The Zbigniew Herbert Prize, especially after such poets like William Stanley Merwin and Charles Simic, has greatly surprised me – said Ryszard Krynicki. – I still find it difficult to believe in, I don’t feel worthy, but I am very touched, and very happy. On such a joyful day I think of another cheery day in my life, when nearly exactly 40 years ago, in February 1975 in Poznań, during an official congress of Polish Writers’ Union, in an apartment of my friends Anna and Stanisław Barańczak, I received, again, unexpectedly, from the hands of Zbigniew Herbert, an independent Poets Award, funded by a dozen or so Polish poets from an initiative of Zbigniew Herbert and Antoni Słonimski. I treated it as a grand distinction and primarily as a gesture of solidarity with an author silenced by the authorities. I would like to thank all the excellent poets of The Zbigniew Herbert Prize jury, I would like to thank the Foundation of His Name, I would like to thank the faith for another unexpected gift – because above all, meeting Zbigniew Herbert was one of the greatest gifts of all.
Ryszard Krynicki, born in 1943, debuted with a collection Pęd pogoni, pęd ucieczki / The Impulse to Pursue, the Impulse to Flee (1968). His poetic diction changed as the decades passed. It evolved from fierceness and unrest to meditational focus and asceticism. On the basis of the change lies his personality, his spiritual fervency, peculiarity, which often caused him to choose poetic silence. Ryszard Krynicki published over 15 volumes of poetry. In recent years he’s published Kamień, szron / Stone, frost, Wiersze wybrane / Selected Poems, Przekreślony początek / Crossed-out Beginning and Haiku. Haiku mistrzów / Haiku. Haiku of masters.
One of Ryszard Krynicki's poems, Język, to dzikie mięso / Tongue, that wild meat, was dedicated “For Zbigniew Herbert and Mr. Cogito”:
The laureate of this year’s prize was appointed by a seven-membered, international jury, among which sat poets, essayists, translators and publishers: Lidija Dimkovska (Macedonia/Slovenia), Edward Hirsch (USA), Michael Krüger (Germany), Jarosław Mikołajewski (Poland), Mercedes Monmany (Spain), Agneta Pleijel (Sweden) and Tomas Venclova (Lithuania/USA). Jarosław Mikołajewski, a poet and translator, justified:
Tongue, that wild meat growing in a wound,
in an open wound of the mouth, the mouth that feeds on deceitful truth,
tongue, this bared heart beating outside, this naked edge
that is a defenseless weapon, this gag suffocating
the defeated uprisings of words, this beast day by day tamed
by human teeth, this inhuman thing growing in us and
surpassing us, this beast fed with the poisoned meat of a body,
this red flag which we swallow and spit out with blood, this
divided something that encircles us, this real lie that seduces,
this child that learning the truth, truthfully lies
- translated by Grażyna Drabik
The international jury appointed Ryszard Krynicki as the winner of the third edition of The Zbigniew Herbert Prize in recognition of the highest ambition of word, integrity in seeking for truth (…). In respect to the long poetic road, which from a verbal experiment and sensitivity to social problems has lead him to an overwhelming empathy towards everything that lives, from a pictorial to a reticent poem, where the poet hides behind what is bigger than him.
The Zbigniew Herbert International Literature Prize is a distinction on a global scale, in particular in the field of poetry. It is awarded since 2013 for notable artistic and intellectual accomplishments, which relate to the idea that accompanied the author of Pan Cogito / Mr. Cogito and Raport z oblężonego miasta / Report from the Besieged City. An American poet and the chairmen of the jury Edward Hirsch added:
Krynicki responded to Zbigniew Herbert’s message, by creating poetry on the highest level of seriousness, striving for condensation and asceticism. Not shunning from vivid engagement, it stood away from what Herbert called “gabble from tribunes”, “black froth of the newspapers”, and – on the contrary – headed towards an almost sacral language. Especially at the early stages of his creativity Krynicki is a so-called linguistic poet, whose sophisticated language resists the ideological “newspeak”, official phrases and feelings enacted by the communistic authorities.
Katarzyna Herbert, poet’s wife, has also commented on jury’s justification:
I am certain that Herbert himself would be very happy to learn that Ryszard Krynicki became the laureate of the award. From the moment they’ve met in person, and it was over 40 years ago, my husband valued Ryszard’s output and his civil and moral attitude, an at the same time he had nearly paternal feelings towards him – because of the spiritual resemblance they became dear friends. Not without a reason one of his poems is a letter addressed to Krynicki. Myself I respect Ryszard’s poetic consequence immensely, I am also very grateful that Zbigniew Herbert’s poems found a haven and the best care at a5 Press, established by Krystyna and Ryszard Krynicki.
Andrzej Franaszek, a critic and the jury secretary, summarised:
It can be said that this prize is a complement or a capstone of the long road which Zbigniew Herbert and Ryszard Krynicki travelled together. At its very beginning, at the threshold of the 70s, there is critique of Herbert’s works by poets joining the literary world, the so-called New Wave. However very soon Herbert became someone fundamentally important for Krynicki, a master, a moral and a poetic model, and traces of that are easy to identify in Krynicki’s poetry, in poems where he directly summons ‘Master / Mr. Cogito / Prince of Poets’. Let’s not forget about the difficulty that Krynicki – as an editor – went through to decipher Herbert’s manuscripts, which made it possible for his volume Wiersze rozproszone / Uncollected poems to be published.
Grzegorz Gauden, the director of The Book Institute, didn’t hide that:
The news about the next laureate of The Zbigniew Herbert Prize has pleased me greatly. I’m glad that this year the jury decided to honour an artist from our country, as it were to reminisce that thanks to great writers like Miłosz, Herbert, Różewicz and Wisława Szymborska – Polish poetry stands in the centre of world’s contemporary literature. Also the output of their followers is present in the world, which I know because The Book Institute supports translation of Polish literature. But the choice of Ryszard Krynicki has also a personal value to me: I know him, I have respected and admired him for years now. I think that his repeatedly renewed acknowledgment of the power of truth and goodness should be a life guidepost and commitment for all of us.
The award will be presented to Ryszard Krynicki on 12th May 2015 in Polish Theatre in Warsaw. The prize, funded by PKN Orlen – the sponsor of The Zbigniew Herbert International Literature Prize, comprises of a statuette and a check for USD50 000. The Zbigniew Herbert Prize project was co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the Natonal Library of Poland and the Polish Theatre are partners of The Zbigniew Herbert Foundation.
Author: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, transl.: Agata Dudek 10/03/15.