Patrycja Sikora

- Poland -

Patrycja Sikora (b. Wieruszów, 1989) is a poet, writer, and queer activist. Her first volume, Instrukcja dla ludzi nie stąd(“A manual for people from elsewhere”, 2020) was shortlisted for the Polityka Passport Award. In 2022, she published her second poetry book Wszyscy o nas mówią (“Everyone is talking about us,” 2022). Sikora is the winner of multiple poetry slams, editor of the Strona Czynna literary quarterly and poetry anthologies Jak długo będziemy musieli (“How long will we have to”) and Biji Rojava! She is currently working on her prose debut and third poetry volume.


Pulsating green light

 

Patrycja Sikora became one of the most important voices in contemporary Polish poetry with her daring debut, which in 2020 earned her a nomination for the Polityka Passport Award – a prestigious literary accolade for the most promising young artists. Dubbed “the face of Polish lesbian poetry,”[1] Sikora fits within this formula, but also goes beyond it.Instead of confining herself to identity politics, her own queer experience opens her up, acting as a university of empathy and enhancing her sensitivity to socio-political violence and control faced by other entities sharing the same time-space continuum. Her feminism and queerness are intersectional. Violent labour relations, homelessness, the fate of refugees – all these issues hurt her no less than homophobia. The poet does not limit herself to expression alone. Her poetry actively seeks listeners and lends itself to communication, including translation into foreign languages. Performativity is Sikora’s element – the poet started out by participating in poetry slams, where she won her first awards before her book debut.

 

She was born in Wieruszów, a small town in western Poland, in 1989 – when the Berlin wall fell and the Eastern Bloc began to disintegrate. Too young to be marked by that breakthrough, she sees “the European Union, terrorism, household equipment dumped in forests, abattoirs, and concentration camps for homosexuals in Chechnya” as signs of her time. She declares: “I cannot be happy in a world that is limping, and I regret not having the courage of, say, Rosa Luxemburg. But I can write and fight with my poetry.”[2] She is the co-author of poetic anthologies of solidarity and intervention Biji Rojava (2019) and Jak długo będziemy musieli (“How long will we have to”, 2020), and editor of the Strona Czynna literary quarterly. Her “fight using poetry” never equates to ad hoc journalistic duels on ideas and arguments. Sikora perfectly understands the specific nature and language of her medium. In each of the matters that trouble her, she remains first and foremost a poet.

 

She describes her first volume, Instrukcja dla ludzi nie stąd (“A manual for people from elsewhere”, 2020) as follows: “My origins are in the margins, in wiping the spit off my cheeks, in inequalities, hunger, Hebron, migrations,sclerosis multiplex, and prayer beads.”[3] The poems collected here – about victims of the war, socio-economic uncertainty and limiting reproductive rights, among others – were written in a heated period of Poland’s most recent history, amidst mass demonstrations in defence of women and non-heteronormative people, in an overwhelming atmosphere of exclusion. Sikora opposes the socio-political machine of violence with the language of poetry alone. She precisely dismantles the structures of oppression: she defies exclusion, overcomes alienation, and – in a brief flash – reclaims freedom. She is also fond of the aesthetics of raves: each of her poems is like a strobe light that switches the reader into “blinking mode.” In terms of form, the book resembles a notebook of everyday life or a music video, where images of the war in Syria interlace with fragmentary memories of unwanted sexual initiation.

 

In her second poetry book Wszyscy o nas mówią (“Everyone is talking about us,” 2022), published two years later, Sikora gains force – no longer looking, she “pushes forward like an ice-breaker.”[4] At the same time, if I may say so, she becomes more intimate: the poetics of manifesto do not exclude the language of care, including caring for herself and the person closest to her. The poet struggles with “a constant presence of the noise of normative discourses surrounding the individual.”[5] In this tumult, Sikora composes her volume like a dramatist – subsequent poems complement and comment on each other in all directions, granting the book a multidimensional structure. Dictates, bans, instructions, and hate speech coming at us from positions that enjoy considerable standing in society (authorities, the Church, expert discourses) create an abusive noise, in which she feels entrapped and exhausted. Eco-poetic threads are enhanced here, yet (like in Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses) they express radical hope rather than escapism and capitulation. A feeling of being grounded, which gives strength, is born through communication with her body and nature.

 

In the context of continuously transforming matter, there is a recurrent motif of home, associated with finding a sense of security. At the same time, Sikora slips helpline numbers into her poems: for women in need of abortion and queer kids forced to deal with their socially stigmatized identity on their own. Her poetry literally helps to exist. For Sikora, the green, pulsating light, which for the last couple of years has been used in eastern Poland to mark “safe” houses, ready to help refugees entering Poland through Belarus, is an image that sparks hope. It is not a coincidence that this light evokes rave parties: pulsating in the rhythm of techno that yields meditative distraction, allowing one to shed the weight of existence, if only for a moment.

 

Sikora’s radically communicative poetics also come through on the intertextual level, for instance through multilayered references to Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex or Torrey Peters’s Detransition, Baby in the volume Wszyscy o nas mówią. This places her poems in a tradition of queer writing whose many branches stretch out in space and time, that web of support spread across words that connects the living, the dead, and those who will be born after us – in keeping with Sikora’s subversive capture of the best traditions of Polish literature.

 

Essay by Renata Lis

 

[1] Agnieszka Budnik, “Poezja lesbijska, czyli wszystko co dobre w wierszu” [Lesbian poetry, or everything that’s good in a poem”, Kultura u Podstaw, 10 March 2023. https://kulturaupodstaw.pl/poezja-lesbijska-czyli-wszystko-co-dobre-w-wierszu/?fbclid=IwAR20kxHRUTPs_iwkWIvZqEZF3qje8f1IWyPpnxBkNQ7lL_T6VlYNslpwPZE

[2] “pocałować się w Polskę”. Z Patrycją Sikorą rozmawia Agnieszka Budnik [“kiss my Poland”. Patrycja Sikora in conversation with Agnieszka Budnik], Kultura u Podstaw, 15 May 2020. https://kulturaupodstaw.pl/pocalowac-sie-w-polske/?fbclid=IwAR2AUnLdjvKiTASYFSU5bDwz1THAeQQEJhpmRn-CQnhqNqAUCb1w28ooo3k

[3] Ibid.

[4] Agnieszka Budnik, “Poezja lesbijska, czyli wszystko co dobre w wierszu”, op. cit.

[5] Michał Pabian, Wszyscy mówią… [Everyone’s talking…] https://www.poznan.pl/mim/wortals/cik/news,1200/wszyscy-mowia,199286.html?fbclid=IwAR1TyQ_PMkMScXzBEzuqTLR2mKlkR8sBbQkUbDqfTs4lHS4ylwDYMPLASsI