Poet, essayist, translator working from the French, born on 29 May 1970 in Opole.
He graduated from French Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and lives in Opole, where he taught French. He teaches French literature at the Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języków Obcych (editor’s translation: Teachers’ College of Foreign Languages) and at the University of Opole and he directs a creative writing course.
He is the winner of the 2004 Kościelski Award and the 2005 Nike Literary Award (for the lyric Dwanaście Stacji – Twelve Stations – nominated for the 2007 Nike Literary Award (for the volume Kolonie – Colonies – which made it to the top 7 works). In 2017, he was nominated for the Wisława Szymborska Poetry Award for Litery (Letters).
Różycki's poetry is easy to recognize owing to its diction. The poems are rhythmic and often rhymed, and he sometimes groups them into cycles of sonnets or songs in an apparent reference to early Polish poetry. Enumerations, references to horror vacui (the fear of void) and use of concepts are also evocative of the Baroque period. The pre-war staffage of the volume Chata Umaita shows that Różycki revisits other pasts, too.
Although Różycki's poetry is generally deeply rooted in literary tradition, his attitude to the past is in no respect slavish. His independence is confirmed by a number of ironic references which turn the meaning around, such as the one to an excerpt from Czesław Miłosz's Traktat Moralny (A Moral Treatise) – “An avalanche changes is direction / On the rocks on which it slides” – in the sixth poem of the cycle Kampania Zimowa 2003 (Winter Campaign 2003) from the volume Świat i Antyświat (The World and Antiworld). The original sentence was a positive, albeit a difficult and challenging proposal for slightly influencing historical dangers, which brutally shape the world. After the description of the destructive effect of an avalanche, Różycki recommends to “conform / slowly in habits and ways of acting // to the rocks spat out by a glacier / and not to enounce words, not to enounce words”. This is not a poetry which contents itself with simple repetitions of existing literary motifs, even though it clearly affirms them. This fact does not exclude a polemic approach or using quotes to tell his own stories treating about an entirely different reality (since his Kampania Zimowa does not refer to Polish politics of 1950s, unlike Traktat Moralny).
His two volumes stand out – Kolonie is a sentimental journey to the country of childhood dreams of pirates and distant lands (as unequivocally revealed in the titles of poems, which form a list of colonial artefacts) and Księga Obrotów (A Book of Turns) is a continuation of generalising representation. Różycki's poetry is the product of a gift of acute observation and love for specifics. This said, he usually transforms his reminiscences of the real world into nightmarish images evocative of damage and destruction, such as floods, climatic change, undefined historical disasters, power breakdowns and, last but not least, ambiguous situations conveyed by phrases like "the world has gone bad".
Love, art and journeys (often to Italy – another cultural sign that places Różycki within the neoclassical poetry) offer an escape from this nagging reality. The poems from the volume Świat i Antyświat bring, in turn, some references to anarchism ("they switched off the power / and the offices went down, the state stopped biting") and a "no" to consumerism invoked in grotesque pictures (“shops with nickel-plated ramps, perfumes and with them / women, fragrant, wrapped in foil”). However, this is not so much a Weltanschauung statement as another of the plentiful signs of alienation from, or a protest against, the current realities so infusing his poetry.
Różycki's characteristic gesture of appropriation of the past is best manifested in his grotesque poem Dwanaście Stacji, which was included in the Polish baccalaureate exam in 2007. Its key character, called Wnuk (Grandson), a descendant of inhabitants of Ziemie Odzyskane, the territories recovered from Germany after World War II, is given the task of organizing a family trip to the former Polish territories in the East. To prepare for that, Wnuk has to visit and gather the family, and this offers Różycki a pretext for presenting a gallery of peculiar characters torn between the current life in the Opole Silesia region and the past living in what he calls Ziemie Zabrane (Taken Away Territories), that is the territories joined to the Soviet Union after World War II. Różycki has chosen a theme which does not really belong to his generation, and perhaps would fit better with his grandparents. The author himself emphasises the ludic character of the work: "At first, I treated writing Dwanaście Stacji as a recreational side work and I wasn't thinking about publishing it."
Some say that the poem includes allusions to the Polish national epoch, Pan Tadeusz written by Adam Mickiewicz. In fact, some references can be found in single structural procedures, as demonstrated by Andrzej Skrendo in his text Ów Różycki (The Różycki). However, because of the pretextual character of the plot, Dwanaście Stacji would better belong to the tradition of Romantic digressive poem. The author himself admitted that the apostrophe referencing Mickiewicz’s epoch was written last, however the division into 12 parts mirrors that of Pan Tadeusz.
The exclusion of Różycki from the dictionary and anthology of young Polish culture Tekstylia: O Rocznikach Siedemdziesiątych (Textile: About the 1970s Generation) may imply that his works do not possess the characteristics which are usually associated with young poetry. It is probably the growingly ornamental character of Różycki's poetry that has made him an alien. Simultaneously, he eschews historical and geographical grounding. The shift can be clearly seen in his book of poetry, Księga Obrotów.
The works which were later included in the already-mentioned Księga Obrotów would appear in the press under the unpretentious title Wiersze z Cyklu Ósemki (The Poems from the Eight Cycle; "Teatr" 9/2009). Różycki continues to amuse himself by inventing literary genres. In comparison, in Świat i Antyświat, apart from elegies and hymns, he also included "hypothiques", poems based on a hypothesis with the word "if" appearing repeatedly. In turn, the word "eight" sometimes appears in the poems themselves: "habituated to false instruments / the hand rolls a false eight from the darkness" (or, a thief’s lockpick). Thus, the poetic space is revealed to be a medial domain of overtly named falsehood, a kind of crime and silky darkness shrouding everything. The audience is dealing with a conscious and poetically-designated turn from describing a concrete world. Różycki moves towards an analysis of fiction-conjuring mechanisms of produced art and simultaneously towards a theatralisation of the creative act. The topic can also be found in Kolonie, in which the first verse of many poems is the phrase "When I started writing, I did not know…"
Księga Obrotów is first and foremost about watching (personally, I associated the title with the turns of eyes, which replace the dynamics of external movement present in the previous books). The object of observation is an enigmatic "bloke who bought the world" and now mopes around his different planes without a clear aim (but what aim could one have after such a transaction?). At times, it is landscapes that are watched – sometimes they are atmospheric, at other times they become visions lauding the strength of the poet’s outlook. The turn towards autothematism can be regarded in different ways. For example, it is easy to long for the physical, material dimension of the world so vividly present in the previous books of poetry of the author from Opole. It goes without saying that it proves that Różycki did not freeze in a specific poetic style and he is still looking for new procedures.
In 2013, Różycki published Tomi: Notatki z Miejsca Postoju (Tomis: Notes from the Place of Stopover), with the title referring to the city where Ovid was exiled. The book of poetry is a composition of notes aimed at looking for sense. Krzysztof Cieślik wrote:
The author of Dwanaście Stacji doesn’t need to move to discover. A change of place – and his oeuvre transports us to Moscow, Petersburg, Vienna, Lviv, Kaliningrad – is rather his canvas for painting erudite stories, referencing family history and submerging in the past rather than a pretext to describe specific places. His knowledge about literature and art is impressive, as is the depth of his thought and the diversity of themes he approaches in the essays. It is not possible to skim the records in Tomi. A real journey obliges to contemplate and reflect. This splendid book works the very same way (Polityka, 16.07.2013).
In the 2016 Litery the sentence "It is a shame that you are not here" is a chorus which provides rhythm for Różycki’s lyrical meditations on loneliness, loving, identity and poetry. The book includes 99 poems distributed in three equal parts – Kolonie had 77 of them, while Księga Obrotów 88. Jarosław Mikołajewski wrote in his review:
Litery is a rare example of a book of poetry about the world and life in general. His approach to attainable experience and the considerations of a person allow us to see things, recreate feelings. He invokes the need of understanding with the natural questions stemming from the excess of sensations, under the touch of a moment. Litery shocks with its formulations and the way of starting a conversation (Gazeta Wyborcza, 30.11.2016).
- Vaterland, Stowarzyszenie Literackie im. K.K. Baczyńskiego, Łódź 1997,
- Anima, Zielona Sowa, Kraków 1999,
- Chata Umaita, Lampa i Iskra Boża, Warszawa 2001,
- Świat i antyświat, Lampa i Iskra Boża, Warszawa 2003,
- Wiersze, Lampa i Iskra Boża, Warszawa 2004 (reprint of the contents of Różycki's first four volumes of poetry),
- Dwanaście stacji, Znak, Kraków 2004,
- Kolonie, Znak, Kraków 2006,
- Stephane Mallarmeé, Rzut kośćmi nigdy nie zniesie przypadku, transl. Tomasz Różycki, Korporacja Ha!Art, Kraków 2005,
- Księga obrotów, Znak, Kraków 2010,
- Tomi. Notatki z miejsca postoju, Zeszyty Literackie, Warszawa 2013,
- Litery, Wydawnictwo a5, Kraków 2016.
- Maria Cyranowicz, Poezja umaita, Studium 2/2002,
- Jacek Gutorow, Niepodległość głosu. Szkice o poezji polskiej po 1968 roku, Znak, Kraków 2003,
- Andrzej Skrendo, Ów Różycki, Odra 12/2004,
- Paweł Kozioł, Dekolonizacja, Wakat 1/2006,
- Magdalena Rybak, Rozbiórka. Wiersze, rozmowy i portrety 26 poetów, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2007.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, September 2008. This profile was written for an Internet project An Anthology of Polish Poetry from the Middle Ages to 21st Century. The project was designed by Piotr Matywiecki. Update: AP, July 2019.