Michał Szymaniak was born in 1992, three years after the collapse of communism, in the center of Warsaw on Wspólna Street, not far from the Palace of Culture.
All my life up to and including high school was spent on Wspólna Street. It’s also one of the better known streets for prostitution in Warsaw, especially for the old and ugly ones who you can see standing there even in the dead of winter.
When he was a student in High School he began writing poetry and attending poetry slams hosted by the neolinguists, a well-known association of poets and writers that run a space in the historic Old Town. It was here, in the company of much older poets that he began to find his voice and gain early recognition.
I am interested in poetry that is outside the historical tradition, somehow out of space and time. The anarchy and freedom of the poetry slams were a great environment for me to experiment, and it was a much better situation for drinking.
The association was impressed enough with his poems that they published them in a book that was favorably reviewed by the influential underground magazine Lampa edited by Paweł Dunin-Wąsowicz. Later, they were selected for review by the Nike Prize committee, Poland’s most prestigious literary awards. Although they were not nominated, it was an important recognition for such a young poet.
After finishing High School (a year late), he applied to the film school in Lodz and was accepted into the screenwriting program.
I decided to study screenwriting, but I quickly became bored with the style and format we had to write in. It was impossible to write screenplays in a language that I found interesting. Film is all about images, and images are more powerful than language. Language always loses when you have something interesting to look at.
Bored and frustrated he began writing rap lyrics that he set to hip-hop tracks he downloaded from the internet.
I was rebelling, trying to find a free space not bound by the rules of screenwriting.
These rap experiments led him to write his first play #jaś #i #małgosia, which was developed at TR Warszawa in Warsaw as part of the Teren TR project under the guidance of the curator Roman Pawłowski. In the play, a brother and sister, living in an upscale suburb of Warsaw, live virtual lives on the internet while their parents work in corporations. The boy, Jas, tries to become a gangsta' rapper while becoming completely submerged in virtual reality and video games while the daughter, Malgosia prostitutes herself as a webcam girl. When the parents intervene by unplugging the internet router, their world explodes into intergenerational conflict, and ultimately violence.
The piece expresses the reality of my generation. Fed on ambition and the promise we could be and do anything thanks to the hard fought victory of our parents over communism, we found ourselves unable to find a job in the new economy and in competition with our parents. Our only outlet to express ourselves is online.
While he finishes his degree in screenwriting, he has decided to continue his work in the theatre, and although he has only one play to his name, this young poet has already established himself as one to watch.