Poetry forces one to stop running, to look at familiar matters in a non-obvious way; it develops the imagination like nothing else, teaches concise expression and…. logic. Although many people associate poetry with archaic, pathos-laden phrases, cloying verses and a teacher who makes you guess “what did the poet mean?”, this is a completely misconception. Contemporary Polish poets prove how diverse and fascinating poetry can be.

Why reach for contemporary poetry created by women?

Poetry is the essence of the word, the mystery captured between the lines; good poems are more than the sum of the meanings of individual words: a performance that, with the help of metaphors and other stylistic figures, allows you to look “inside.” Above all, however, poetry is work in language, which is a tool much like a chisel in the case of a sculptor. In order to use it efficiently, you need the right “workshop”: reading, precision and consistency, discovery and imagination.

All these features can be found in contemporary Polish poetry created by women. Polish poets in their volumes show a variety of literary conventions and methods, they can be gentle or vulgar, play with language by breaking phraseologisms or reach deep into the human psyche. For some of them, poetry is a way to make a difference in the world, for others it is an end in itself

Marta Podgórnik – the rebellious and infernally intelligent “maiden” of Polish poetry

Born in 1979, Marta Podgórnik made her debut very early – at the age of just 17 she became the winner of the prestigious J. Bierezin poetry contest and published a volume titled “Attempts to Negotiate.” From the beginning she was considered the “rebellious ninny” of Polish poetry. At a time when women’s poetry in Poland was commonly associated with the “serious” erudition of Wislawa Szymborska and Ewa Lipska, Podgórnik was clearly part of the contesting current represented by Świetlicki and Wojaczek. She often shocked by writing about scrapes, failed relationships, loss of control over one’s life and lack of love (and these were by no means fashionable topics at the time).

Although Podgórnik writes very personal poems – with courage and uncompromisingness verging on exhibitionism, this is always accompanied by extraordinary intellectual discipline and refined form, and sometimes also irony, which can give the impression of distance from the subjects raised, or even emotional coldness. We can also find these distinctive features in the award-winning Sakharov Prize. Wislawa Szymborska’s volume “Mordercze ballady” (published by Biuro Literackie), in which the author, preserving a certain syllabic metre, plays with literary convention, cracking down on romantic and pop culture clichés.

Polish women's poetry: Marta Podgórnik "Murderous Ballads".
M. Podgórnik, Murderous Ballads, ed. Literary Office ,2019.

Yulia Fiedorchuk – a sensitive eco-poetess

Born in 1979 in Warsaw, Julia Fiedroczuk is a writer, university lecturer at the Institute of English Studies at the University of Warsaw, and author of translations published in, among others, “Literature in the World”. – She has translated the works of John Ashberry, Wallace Stevens and Laurie Anderson, among others. However, she became known primarily as an “ecopoet” and “ecocritic,” popularizing the concept of “ecopoetics” on Polish soil. She made her debut in 2000 with the volume “November on the Narew River.” Her greatest popularity, however, came with her “Psalms,” for which she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Literature. W. Szymborska for 2018.

Yulia Fiedorchuk reaching for the “pen” wants to create engaged poetry, in which she places great emphasis on showing the relationship between man and nature. It tries to transcend the anthropocentric vision of the world, to be a voice rebuking not only excluded people, but also vanishing species, landscapes or emotions themselves. The characteristic sensitivity is accompanied by subtlety of descriptions, focus on detail, insight in observing the environment, beauty. At the same time, the author does not fall into cheap sentimentalism; rather, like Wislawa Szymborska, she writes in a cool, distanced, sometimes gently ironic manner – this makes her sometimes compared to the Nobel Prize winner. This is intellectual poetry, in which one can see curiosity about the world and great respect for science.

J.Fiedorczuk, Psalms, ed. The Robert Schwartz Foundation. T. Karpovich 2017. - women's poetry
J. Fiedorczuk, Psalms, ed. The Robert Schwartz Foundation. Karpovich 2017.

Malgorzata Lebda – entering the forest

Nature also plays a very important role in the poetry of Margaret Lebda, born in 1985. a poet, university lecturer affiliated with the Pedagogical University of Frederic Chopin. National Commission in Krakow, a photographer and ultramarathoner. For Lebda, the nature described is not just a backdrop for the story, but its protagonist.

Many of the author’s poems happen “on the border of the forest,” in the Beskid countryside, which becomes the whole world in the universe of individual works, in an aura of magical realism. The images emerging from Margaret Lebda’s poetry often make up a story seen through the eyes of a child who experiences myths and the unusual, soaking them up, unable to subject them to logical order, to give them the meanings obvious in the adult world. There is a certain primal instinct in this, a mythologization of reality.

Margaret Lebda’s poetics are captivating in their simplicity and subtle imagery, skillfully capturing “moments.” They are accompanied by a peculiar religiosity “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Storm” – in which pagan influences are mixed with Christian motives, but devoid of theological correctness and any kind of appeal to the authority of the Church.

Women's poetry: M.Lebda, Mer de Glace, ed. Layers 2021.
M. Lebda, Mer de Glace, issue. Layers 2021 r.

Ursula Honek – emboldened and painful imagination

The work of Ursula Honek, born in 1987, is part of the current of “emboldened imagination.” – this term was coined by Marian Stala in the 1990s. of the last century to describe a trend in the poetry of Roman Honet and his imitators, who reach for oneiric and surrealist props. These inspirations can also be clearly seen in all of Honek’s volumes published to date (“Sporysz,” “Under Call,” and “Wintering”), as well as in the short story collection “White Nights.” The author’s individual texts are characterized by surrealism and strangeness, which serve to describe trauma and different types of loss.

The world of Ursula Honek’s poems is fairy-tale-like, somewhat dark, and to describe it the author uses very sensual, even dreamlike language, which has an extremely powerful effect on the imagination. In Honek’s texts, the fairy tale brutally encroaches on the everyday life of an unspecified (perhaps symbolic?) province, serves as a metaphor through which to tell about things that are the most painful, intimate, most deeply touching inside – about injustice, pain that even leads to madness. The author’s prose also deals with similar themes and has a similar intensity. Without a doubt, Ursula Honek creates worlds and characters that stay with the reader for a long time.

U. Honek, Under the Call, ed. RWPiCAK 2018. - poetry of women
U. Honek. Under the call, issue. WBPiCAK 2018 r.

Joanna Mueller – neolinguist – language, a deadly toy

The juxtaposition ends with a poet who has learned the possibilities of language like no one else. Joanna Mueller is the author who, together with Maria Cyranowicz and Jaroslaw Lipszyc, signed the “Neolinguistic Manifesto”; editor, essayist, feminist, mother of many.

Joanna Mueller’s poems are characterized by avant-garde form, wordplay, various kinds of games and wordplay. The author likes to experiment with sentence construction and pay attention to the visual form of the text as well. This is very evident in the 2015 volume Intima thule – the main metaphor organizing this collection is home. “Mueller’s ‘intimate world’ in this book is divided into sections that resemble the floors of a bourgeois townhouse. The individual poems touch on themes related to femininity, motherhood and carnality, and oscillate around feminist themes. In doing so, the author is distinguished by her great awareness and self-irony, which make her observations very insightful.

feminine poetry - very feminine poetry
J. Mueller, Intima thule, published by Biuro Literackie 2015.

Read also: Edward Stachura’s Freedom


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