Tragedy/Irony. A Reflection on Engaged Poetry and Time


Unlike four decades ago, today—safe in our privilege—we, Poles, are allowed to protest. Irrespective of the brutality of the riot police and despite evident instances of the abuse of justice, the consequences of participation in peaceful demonstrations are incomparably less tragic than it was the case in the early 1980s. And yet it would be impossible not to notice the profundity of the yawning abyss between the palpable reality of desperate acts of self-immolation and the safety of Facebook-based philippics, between the individual tragedies of dying hunger strikers and the “intimate revolts” of those who—having much too much to lose—speak out against the collapse of essential values in the serene sanctuary of their homes. The tragedy of the irony of the self-fashioned righteousness seems to match the irony of the real tragedies: the (post)modern hamartia seems to be well illustrated by the difference between two musical interpretations of Ernest Bryll’s disconcerting protest song “I Still Carry My Poems,” first arranged and performed in the 1980s by Tomek Opoka, and then reinterpreted and reinvented in 2009 by the Banana Boat, whose version was included in an album created by Piotr Bakal in memory of the blind bard. The present reflections, therefore, address the phenomenon of the ironic protest, in which self-made heroes thrive, and tragic protesters become invisible, their humanity transformed into an icon.


protest; intimate revolt; Ernest Bryll; Banana Boat; 21st century protests

Published : 2020-08-16

JędrzejkoP. (2020). Tragedy/Irony. A Reflection on Engaged Poetry and Time. Review of International American Studies, 13(1), 5-17.

Paweł Jędrzejko
Institute of Literary Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Silesia in Katowice  Poland

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