Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Readings from Jerzy Ficowski’s Everything I Don’t Know
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Location Note

1201 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th Street, 12th floor

This is a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event. Registration required for attendance. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events. Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. All other attendees may participate virtually on Zoom or YouTube.


Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a presentation of Everything I Don’t Know, the first book-length selection in English of the poetry of renowned Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski (1924-2006). Recently published by World Poetry Books and selected as the winner of the 2022 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, the volume has been lauded by poet and translator Matthew Zapruder as “a marvel in its weird clarity and extraordinary range of styles and subjects.” The event, moderated by Chris Caes, Lecturer in Polish, will feature translators Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer, who will present and read from their translations of Ficowski’s poetry.

Jerzy Ficowski was born on September 4, 1924 in Warsaw. During the occupation he was a soldier in the Home Army and took part in the Warsaw Uprising. After the war, he studied journalism, philosophy, and sociology. One of the most original Polish poets of the 20th century, he published fifteen volumes of poetry, beginning with Lead Soldiers in 1948. His wanderings with Polish Roma at the turn of the 1940s and 1950s resulted in the monograph Gypsies on Polish Roads (1965) as well as translations from Romany of the poet Papusza. His interest in Jewish history and culture resulted in an anthology of folk poetry of Polish Jews, Raisins with Almonds (1964). He also translated into Polish poetry from the Romanian, Spanish, and Russian. His life-long fascination with the writings of Bruno Schulz began during the occupation. He later researched and collected materials about Schulz, finding and publishing many of his unknown manuscripts, prints and drawings. Ficowski’s pioneering biography and analysis of Schulz’s work is Regions of the Great Heresy (1967). In the ’70s and ’80s Ficowski was banned from printing and published in underground editions. His last volume of poetry, Pantareja, appeared in 2006, a few months before his death.


Jennifer Grotz is the author of three books of poetry, Window Left Open (Graywolf Press), The Needle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Cusp (Mariner Books) as well as translator of two books from the French: Psalms of All My Days (Carnegie Mellon), a selection of Patrice de La Tour du Pin, and Rochester Knockings (Open Letter), a novel by Hubert Haddad. She teaches at the University of Rochester and directs the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences. Photo by Marion Ettlinger.




Piotr Sommer is a Polish poet, the author of Things to Translate (Bloodaxe Books), Continued (Wesleyan UP), and Overdoing It (Trias Chapbook Series). He has won prizes and fellowships, and has taught poetry at American universities. He lives outside Warsaw and edits Literatura na Świecie, a magazine of foreign writing in Polish translations. Photo by Renata Zawadzka Ben-Dor.



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