Hero photograph
Liz Breslin
Photo by Mount Aspiring College

City of Literature Possibilities Project, Possibilities are endless……

Debbie Lancaster-Gordon —

UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is the international organisation committed to creating cultural links across the world.

The City of Literature Residency Programme enables a group of writers each year to develop and share their work on an international stage. In 2019 Liz Breslin had this opportunity, with support from Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature to take up a two-month residency in Kraków, Poland. During this time Liz not only produced her own work but had the opportunity to explore many forms of Polish literature.

Wislawa Szymborska — Image by: Author supplied

Wisława Szymborska, received international recognition when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. Szymborksa lived through war and peace, through communism and capitalism, and was quoted, “whether you want it or not, your genes have a political past, your skin a political tone, your eyes a political colour. ... you walk with political steps on political ground.” Well-known in her native country, readers of Szymborska’s poetry enjoy the wit, irony, and deceptive simplicity of her works. Her poems examine domestic details and occasions, often playing these against the backdrop of Polish history.

Possibilities, Wislawa Szymborska (translation Stanisław Barańczak and Claire Cavanagh)

I prefer movies.

I prefer cats.

I prefer the oaks along the Warta.

I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.

I prefer myself liking people to myself loving mankind…..

Liz Breslin wrote her own poem in response to Wislawa’s Possibilities during her time in Kraków. Liz promotes poetry as “an excellent source of social cohesion and symbolic coping.”

Possibilities (after Wisława Szymborska) Liz Breslin

I prefer barefoot

I prefer paper maps

I prefer flowers in the ground

but first, I prefer coffee ……

Wanting to share her experience the Possibilities Project devised by Liz and driven by Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was born! Timing coincided with New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 Pandemic and gave writers the opportunity to make the most of life in isolation by expressing thoughts, preferences and possibilities, as individuals but also as part of our global community. Support for the project was overwhelming with local, national and international writers, that included representation from Canada, South Korea, Hungary, Poland, Russia and the United Kingdom taking part.

Writers supplied a written poem and a video file, for posting on the City of Literature face book page. All entries were scrutinised by Liz and showed a personal response to the original Possibilities poem by Wislawa Szymborska.

No-one appreciated how popular the project would be and this support showed in the wonderful and diverse poetry shared every day for a 6- week period (including weekend days)! Writers who took part were thrilled to be part of this unique event and to connect with other creative minds during the COVID-19 lockdown.