Krakow is a picturesque city steeped in the rich cultural history of Central Europe. Formerly the country’s capital, the city is the beating heart of the Polish language and the birthplace of the country’s literary soul. In 1978, by the decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Krakow was inscribed on the first list of the most valuable objects in the world. In 2000 the city was honoured with the title of the European Capital of Culture for that year, with an array of cultural events featuring literature, theatre, music, and folk traditions taking place throughout the year. Krakow is also a member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) for persecuted writers.
Krakow is the cradle of the Polish language and literature. Some of the most important Polish and international writers were and are connected with the city, including Joseph Conrad (born Józef Korzeniowski), Stanisław Wyspiański, Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, Tadeusz Kantor, Stanisław Lem, Sławomir Mrożek, Adam Zagajewski, Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz. It is their influence and the unique literary atmosphere of Krakow that have brought together important and pioneering literary trends. The first scriptoriums appeared here as early as the 11th century. The first prints in Poland were published in Krakow, first in Latin, and later in Polish as well.
The city’s history is packed with stories of Polish Nobel Literary Prize-winners. Krakow magazine Czas featured episodes of the novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905. Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont, author of The Promised Land and The Peasants, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1924. Czesław Miłosz, known for his talent as a poet, prose writer and essayist, wrote a host of popular works including The Captive Mind and Family Europe, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. Wislawa Szymborska, author of Calling Out to Yeti and People on the Bridge won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.
Krakow is home to a thriving book market of almost 80 bookshops and 30 antiquarian bookstores, as well as a host of publishers. The oldest bookshop in Europe was founded in the city in 1610, now known as Bookstore Empik, part of Poland’s largest chain of booksellers. The store offers a wide selection of books, including adult fiction, children’s fiction, comic books, travel books and much more. Another interesting literary outlet is Massolit Books and Café, an independent English-language bookshop in the heart of the beautiful Old Town. Other popular bookshops in the city include De Revolutionibus Books and Café, Lokator, Karakter, Austeria and many others. Krakow also produces more than 3,000 titles annually, the result of the large number of printing houses within the city and including academic publishers, publishers of fiction, poetry, as well as religious and children’s publishers. Krakow’s publishers include Znak, Universitas, ha!art, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Karakter and Austeria, to name but a few.
More than 200,000 students a year choose to study in Krakow, testament to its beauty and lively cultural life. Twenty-three institutions of higher education operate within the city, with Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 by Casimir III the Great, providing students interested in literature with the opportunity to join the Department of International Polish Studies.
DROP THE MIC – NORDIC BALTIC SLAM POETRY NETWORK
The ‘Drop the Mic’ Project aims to engage the overlapping worlds of songwriting and poetry in an effort to advance participative and kinetic literary arts; integrate communities; increase social and cultural cohesion and understanding; engage youth; contribute to the development of leadership and cultural management skills; build a strong international community of poets and event organizers; and create a sustainable Nordic-Baltic network for knowledge/talent exchange and mentorship via slam poetry.
Traditional forms of writing often confine literature to text-based narratives. However the interplay between the mediums of spoken word, slam, rap and hip-hop, songwriting, and poetry traverses linguistic, cultural and artistic barriers and develops infinite narrative possibilities that are often more ‘democratic’ and approachable for audiences.
The Nordic-Baltic Slam Poetry Network Project aims to build an international platform of cooperation between writers, poets, and songwriters, as well as the festival organizers and promoters of slam poetry and performative literature that support them, in order to discuss existing work and trends; support one another; promote work to a greater audience; identify the similarities and differences between slam poetry traditions in the participating countries and develop a sense of regional community as a result; and work towards common international cross-cultural projects in the future.
ENGAGE! YOUNG PRODUCERS
Engage! Young Producers is an educational project that addresses the need to engage youth in the development of readership and literacy programs as well as in literary life on a regular and consistent basis. The program is first and foremost designed to open conversation and motivate participation among young people. The participants of the project also achieve management skills and are asked to programme, organize and coordinate one event in the program of OFF Miłosz.
The project encourages creative expression among youth to promote thoughtful dialogue, to engage with youth on subjects related to freedom of expression, democracy and community, as well as those that they consider most relevant to the development or impediment of those subjects. The program is an effort to advance popular education methods; promote participative and kinetic education; weave the arts into classrooms where the connection is not yet used to its potential; integrate outlying communities and increase social cohesion; engage youth marginalized from culture; contribute to the development of leadership, entrepreneurial and cultural management skills among young people; build a strong international community of youth, educators and community leaders; and create a sustainable network for knowledge and talent exchange and mentorship.
The program is first and foremost designed to open conversation and motivate participation among young people. On the practical level, the aim of program is to change the pattern of communication between literary event organizers and young audiences from a top-down model to a horizontal and co-creative model.
Organized since 2009, the Conrad Festival involves not only discussions, lectures and workshops, but also film screenings and performances, exhibitions and concerts. The Festival’s guests represent various cultures, nations, professions, and generations. Prose writers, poets, and reporters, literary scholars and directors from all over the world talk about literature. Thus the Festival’s patron is Joseph Conrad, a writer who succeeded on the international arena, writing in a foreign language.
Every year, the event constitutes the opportunity to meet creators from various countries who use different languages on a daily basis, and belong to different cultures and world views. The interrelationships of literature with fields of art such as film, theatre, music, and art are also promoted as part of the Festival.
The Miłosz Festival, as an extension of Meeting of Poets of the East and West initiated by Nobel Prize winners, Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska, sets as its task to challenge public perception about poetry, to create a programme that showcases the interdisciplinary application of poetry in all art forms, and to use it as a prism through which we can understand and interpret the world. It places poetry at the centre of ever-evolving discussions about the role of art in society, philosophy, politics and the environment, and seeks to inspire reflections on the condition of the world that we occupy.
The Festival, organized since 2009, attracts writers from all corners of the world representing diverse cultures and literary and intellectual currents. It has hosted Zadie Smith, Adonis, Gary Snyder, Michael Ondaatje, Robert Pinsky, Antjie Krog, Seamus Heaney, Charles Simic, Breyten Breytenbach, Duo Duo, and many more.
The Krakow UNESCO City of Literature Residency Program is dedicated to emerging writers from the Cities of Literature of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The Program was created with the belief that the Network provides an excellent opportunity to develop interconnections, boost mobility, and offer professionalization services for writers. It aims to promote the Cities of Literature Network, provide writers with a platform to showcase their work and talent to a Central European audience, support greater diversity of voices and literatures on the Polish and Central European book market, and offer local writers the chance to create links with international writers as well.
The Residency Program is a strategic project of the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature Program, operated by the Krakow Festival Office, which will fulfill the priority of strengthening international cooperation in the field of literature and the creative industries.
The Residency Program in Krakow offers writers a two-month stay at the Villa Decius, official partner of the project with years of experience running international residencies, including the Visegrad Literary Residency and the ICORN residency program. A stipend is also offered and transportation costs covered to and from Krakow. The Krakow Festival Office guarantees residents the opportunity to participate in the literary life of the city and help to develop opportunities for them to promote their works in Poland.
Poets are encouraged to apply for the 1 May – 30 June residency period, as this allows for cooperation with the Miłosz International Poetry Festival, and all other writers are invited to apply for the 1 September – 31 October residency period to coincide with the Conrad Literature Festival.