Jacek Kaczmarski was a Polish poet, composer and artist. He died 12 years ago although his fans are still fighting with the stereotyping and generalising of his poems. He wrote about social and existential problems but he is most known for writing about historical and political topics. He was very much the bard of the Solidarity movement, the trade union that contributed to the fall of communism in the 1980s in Poland.
Kaczmarski was born in 1957 and began his artistic activity in 1976. He was involved in a fight with the communist system and so he mostly wrote about it. His most popular songs are “Obława” (“The Chase”), “Mury” (“The Walls”), “Sen Katarzyny II” (“Catherine II’s Dream”) or “Zbroja” (“The armour”). The last one was a song played at the beginning of the programme “Jacek Kaczmarski’s quarter” io Radio Free Europe. He joined the radio station in 1984 in Munich. During this time, he also travelled around the world and clearly alluded to the political situation in Poland. There is no wonder why he is known for his engagement in politics.
However, his artistic endeavours are much more colourful and multi-thematic. Most of his fans especially appreciate his philosophical songs and poems. Young people, born in liberated Poland, are more interested in his existential songs: about love, human nature and the pleasures of life. They are curious about the references to art: painting (“Ślepcy” – “Blind people” – about Peter Bruegel’s painting), music (“Epitafium dla Boba Dylana” – “Epitaph for Bob Dylan”) or literature and poetry (“Lekcja historii klasycznej” – “Classical History Lesson” with quotes from the diaries of Julius Caesar). Kaczmarski also refreshed biblical themes, focusing on existential problems. He also wrote a few erotic works. He is the author of over 600 poems, 5 novels and 2 librettos. He was not afraid of any topic, often discussing Polish and human weaknesses while also criticising the blind following of dogma. He was fascinated with rebels, crisis situations and the tragic choices which show the true human nature.
There are many places in Poland where Jacek Kaczmarski is commemorated. One of them is the Wroclaw Salon of Jacek Kaczmarski, that is 10 years old now. A concert is organised each month with one or two artists who only have a guitar and a microphone, just like Jacek Kaczmarski. The official concert is three hours long and after that the artist and audience continue singing and playing late into the night. This makes for an incredible experience. Participants have said that Kaczmarski’s presence can be felt during the concerts.
The Wroclaw Salon of Jacek Kaczmarski is the place you absolutely have to visit while in Wroclaw if you want to experience not only Polish culture but living Polish culture. Our culture is not just Adam Mickiewicz or Fryderyk Chopin. It is also consists of poets like Jacek Kaczmarski, whose artistic creation is still attracting people and encouraging them to sing his songs late at night.
text by Klaudia Chabrzyk