Born in a labor camp outside of Vienna in 1943, Ryszard Krynicki was surrounded by persecution and hardship, which led him to find his voice and utilize the power of his words.
An avid reader as a young man, Krynicki was inspired by the likes of Poe and Kafka and eventually studied poetry at university. He came of age at a time of deep civil unrest and violent uprising, which no doubt shaped his worldview and inspired him to speak out against the injustices he saw around him.
Krynicki found his calling. He spoke out against the political repression and censorship of the press and the arts that surrounded him, and was even driven to publish underground or in exile at various points in his career. It’s hard to imagine such a sentence being levied today, but in 1976, it was illegal in Poland to even mention his name in print. Thankfully this never deterred Krynicki — in fact, it inspired him and fellow Polish writers (like Adam Zagajewski and Stanisław Barańczak) of his generation. They became known as “New Wave Poets.”
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“The New Wave poets were very different from one another, but they all felt a need to confront the lies, cruelties and injustices of the Communist regime directly, and some of them felt that the poetry of the previous generation had so far failed to do so,” says critic Alissa Valles.
Zagajewski has this to say of his fellow New Wave Poet: “Krynicki has a rare gift of naming things even in the shortest poems, he goes straight to the essence. Among Polish poets and readers he has the reputation of a master, of an archer who never misses.”
Also a translator and publisher, Krynicki is still relevant today. Recipient of myriad literary awards (notably the 2005 Nike Award for “Stone, frost,” published in 2004, the Polish Poets’ Award, the Koscielski Foundation Award and in 2015 the Zbigniew Herbert International Poetry Prize), he lives in Kraków with his cats, but travels the world to share his message of critical thinking.
On April 17 at 7 p.m. Krynicki will be taking part in a reading called “Poland Spring” at Poet’s House (10 River Terrace), and on April 19 performing in a reading entitled “Cry, the Beloved Country” at 7 p.m. at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street).
For more information, visit worldvoices.pen.org
Here’s an excerpt from his work “Much Simpler”
“fingerprints circulate in unfathomable space
card indexes faded, were burnt or shredded
your you is astonished at your I
nothing’s for sure took the elevator down
while everything’s possible
was laboring up the stairs”