Kira Pietrek

- Poland -

Kira Pietrek (born 1983) – a poet from Poznań who is also into graphics, illustration and advertising. She had her debut in the anthology Słynni i Świetni (2008). For her book Język korzyści (2010) she received the Wrocław ‘Silesius’ Poetry Award in the category of ‘Debut of the Year’. For her second book, Statystyki (2013), she was presented with the Stanisław Barańczak Literary Award for significant and innovative achievement in the field of literature, the humanities and in popularising literary culture (the award is given to artists below the age of 35). She has had numerous awards for advertising: 2009 Sliver Chimera Award in the category of “External company publishers”, Grand Prix of the 2010 Złoty Orzeł Award, 2010 Złoty Orzeł Award in the category “Art Director of the Year”; 2011 KTR (Advertising Creators’ Club) Award – silver in the category of “Place marketing” as well as a 2011 Media Trendy Award in the category “Innovative special campaigns and events”. 


She drew attention to herself with works which decidedly diverge from the confessional schemata of the so-called “female poetry” by turning to, as described by Marcin Orliński, “corporate newspeak” and thus reaching the essence of the mechanisms of power which “underlie the marketing message”. On the other hand, Piotr Śliwiński, one of the jurors on the ‘Silesius’ award, wrote that “there is little poetry, art, trickery or exaltation in her poems, though in the end they turn out to be more poetic than most of the poems I know. They are poetry and not (only) social manifestation, and they question the depiction of being as a gesture or image”. What is of essence in her poetry is the spirit of involvement, posing difficult questions concerning social mechanisms, system errors and cognitive or descriptive schemata. The critic Maria Magdalena Beszterda points to the revolutionary character of the poet’s verses: “Język korzyści is an expression of a belief in the primum mobile of what can be expressed, it is a phrase-level revolution. A rebellion handed over to the text. Words which carry a message can exist as long as they make an impression. As soon as the recipient ceases to become involved in the game, the manifesto is cancelled, indifference depriving it of its importance, while indignation and agitation legitimise the point this phenomenon is aiming at”. This revolution takes place on the level of linguistic material which clashes the still trivial with the already poetic, and which is expressed directly in the type and character of the subjects discussed. Advertising, marketing, media, corporation – these are the author’s main areas of linguistic and social experimentation. “Język korzyści (Selling value) is a term taken from the language of advertising and marketing to denote a way of presenting an object (product) not through a neutral description but through the benefits to be gained by the person who acquires the product. The above method has a colossal influence on the way the entire book is perceived, in that through it Kira inserts into her poems a certain interpretative strategy which is imposed on the reader. As we read, we become more careful and more wary towards the work which (…) is not meant to be a mere banal symbolic reduction or a mimetic attempt at describing reality. Kira’s words are real, as if they were taken directly from her. We get the impression that all the phrases have been quoted by the author, copied from a pool of ready-made sentences which make up our culture”, wrote Michał Czaja, comparing the young poet to other authors engaged in the criticism of social and cultural reality and the languages which express it. In 2016 Pietrek, together with other poets of this kind, found her way to the anthology Zebrało się śliny. Nowe głosy z Polski. “Although they do not form a literary formation, their diverse voices and proposals share a unique sensitivity to social issues, an interest in the most pressing modern socio-economic problems and a creative dialogue with the tradition of involved poetry”, we read in the introduction to this anthology written by Paweł Kaczmarski and Marta Koronkiewicz, a critic who had previously dealt with Pietrek’s poetry and has drawn attention to the fact that its shape “is in fact marked out by three elements: advertising and corporate discourse, the principle of limited freedom and, derived from the first two, an unclear blend of the synthetic and the organic”.

In her second book, the poet still explores the aforementioned subjects while this time concentrating on the poetry of the absurd. It turns out that one does not have to do much in this poetry to attain a level which would render the very message disturbing and illegible. But this is about a different type of message. After we dig deep into all those activated fragments, stuck together and collected from different spheres of linguistic social practice, we see their mutual aversion, hostility, incongruity and absurdity. The absurd forms an immanent part of social discourse and its presence is especially strongly felt where it was not supposed to be in prime position, where everything was meant to be rather serious, authoritative, ceremonial and patriarchal. In the second book, the absurdity which previously sneaked into the tale of a life in a corporation, apart from the usual social topics (unemployment, hoping to get a job, the pointless education of the unemployed), concerns being in relationships, female-male relations, corporality, sexuality and biologically and culturally programmed behaviours and rituals. What is especially shocking is what the poet does to the lyrical expectations of the reader who has to come up against some dry, almost statistical, lists or journalistic intrusions which build up the whole monologue in which there is no more space left for anything else. But what precisely should this “anything else” be? – this is the question which befits this poetry. “The poet has once again found a way to express what we talk about in garages, at bus stops and in other circumstances. It’s an official language, a language of those who love various kinds of statistics, legal acts or pre-numbered forms. It’s a language for those who live in the conviction that paper is going to accept everything and what is more, it’s important that it’s been recorded on paper, the rest is secondary”, remarks Marcin Włodarski.

She is a poet who speaks in shreds of human speech, brilliantly weaving them into a clear, stark and ironic message. This speech embarrasses itself, at the same time embarrassing the orderly and simplified images of reality founded on its apparent faithfulness and omnipotence. To sum up with the words of Marta Koronkiewicz, words which sound like the best definition of poetry: “The plagiarism and theft enacted upon this rubbish speak (commercial catalogues, leaflets, instructions) is a seemingly basic dimension to Pietrek’s poetry; her volume is filled with sentences copied from various sources, sentences painfully sleek and even in their original use a mere plagiarism of a specific style and a specific vision of the world”. 


Karol Maliszewski