Monika Rak: As we speak, a campaign against LGBTQ + people is underway, Margot was arrested and is in custody, 48 people were arrested for demonstrating in defence of Margot in Krakowskie Przedmieście and in front of the police station in Wilcza in Warsaw. Recently – as the police phrased it – “the rainbow-coloured and the brown” have confronted each other. Kaja Godek wants to collect signatures for a proposed “STOP LGBTQ+ bill” prohibiting LGBTQ+ “propaganda”, which would effectively prohibit anyone from talking about sexual orientation, and I have literally just learned that the “LGBTQ+ ideology” is a threat to agriculture. [Laughter] This is what August 2020 looks like in Poland.

What does it mean for you, non-heteronormative female poets living in this country? Are you or “should” you always have to engage in politics and activism because of your orientation? What is “today” like for you?

Agnieszka Frankowska: Today is stuffy and stormy. I don’t know whether the rainbow will emerge after all this. Apparently, there are a lot of rainbows in my city. I don’t leave the house so I haven’t seen it in person, but I follow social media [People are hanging out rainbow flags at their windows in solidarity]. 

Today, I am tired. How long can one fight on the barricades? How many times can one explain what LGBTQ+ is? I’ve been doing this for over twenty years, and not much has changed. Still, we were slowly moving forward, towards the light, and now, again, so many steps back into the darkness. How else can this be explained? How to show that I am a person – not an ideology – that I have rights? 

I feel exhausted, but also pissed off. I’m glad others still have the strength to shout, and that we are able to stick together. I do not have the resources and health to leave this country. Unfortunately, I can see that Poland is like my family. After coming out, I waited for my parents to accept me, to make some kind of a gesture. For years, nothing happened. They didn’t want to ask questions, or learn anything about my life; they didn’t want to know me. I am expected to explain who I am; explain that my rights are obvious. On the other side, there is nothing. It pisses me off that people do not want to educate themselves, that we are not moving forward as a society, that a tragedy is needed for change to occur. That is why I believe that we need radicalism, although I would rather just live my life, fuck all this, and not have to hang out a rainbow flag. But it’s still politically necessary, because we’re all political.

MR: I rarely write poetry these days, because each poem would be a manifesto. How many manifestos can one write? First of all, I’m fucked off. Two things make me happy. First of all, that every decent person, regardless of their orientation, begins to wear a rainbow, even those I would not suspect of such decency. Second, that all this has activated young people. I can let go of fighting in the streets, and do other things for the community. After all, my generation built a large part of the rainbow movement in Poland. There are quite a few activists my age, and I am fifty and they have been involved in the fight for equality for a quarter of a century. We are the first active female generation. Women older than me are absent from public space. That is why I feel exhausted, like Agnieszka, because we still have years of struggle ahead of us. 

Patrycja Sikora: Today, my emotional state resembles a sinusoid. My feeling range from extreme frustration and desperation, to a will to fight. In your poems you write: “the crime drags on” (Frankowska) and “until the very end, the felling” (Rak), and I feel this. I can’t imagine not being active, a passive attitude, even though I feel powerless. We have to do things now to make tomorrow relatively good. The series of queerphobic events you have conjured can make you go weak in the knees, but our community and solidarity give us hope that LGBTQ+ people have support, and that they are not alone. Some quietly, others loudly, let us know that they are with us, and that it is uplifting. My/our “today” is in crisis. It is alarming; one would like to have some peace and – as Agnieszka said – no longer walk around with the flag. Wash off the nationalist filth and spit, iron it, fold it up, and let it serve as a symbol – but not a symbol of bloodshed, and not to prove that one is a human being.

Monika Rak, photo: Luka Łukasiak

MR: There are so many things we fight for, not just LGBTQ+ matters. We are women and we are also fighting for women’s rights, we all participated in the Black Protest. How do you feel today as women and poets? Do you feel discriminated against in your life and work?

PS: I have never thought about my place as a woman in poetry, I never thought I was different. I have never experienced anything bad personally, but collectively we do. I did not give myself space to think about how I feel as a poet, and how I could see myself differently. I think now is the best time to do that. I will get to it. I can’t imagine not identifying with women’s issues – they all concern me.

AF: It is hard for me to relate to identity issues today – in my everyday life I try to escape rigid classifications. For a long time I haven’t wondered whether I am a woman or a lesbian, I didn’t need it. I am 48 years old now, and I can just be myself. I don’t want to look at identities – to me they are fluid and I don’t want to forever identify as a woman – for example, in terms of culture. This is not a cop out; this is my private liberation for now, like for the subject I write about in the poem “drama”:

“unfortunate, you leave the subduing order //  […] // who can bear the tension / realise and take / me in their arms – now / I’ll do it for myself // today’s experiments / make up tomorrow / all fury drives / good things.”

In the past, I needed to feel solidarity and community to a greater extent. Now, not so much. The topic of gender equality is close to me, for years I have been active in the women’s movement, and those who created this movement mostly identified as lesbians. Back then, the term non-heteronormative women was not used. Gender exclusion affected me, sometimes because of others; sometimes I did it to myself. Yes, I know that is called internalised discrimination. In poetry I did not feel sure (that my voice was important or necessary) and I did not take part in the life of poetry circles. My poetry was once called “menstrual” and that took its toll on me. I was looking for spaces where I could express myself freely. But there were no such spaces, spaces where I could express myself as a poet dealing with lesbian themes.

PS: I am not familiar with overt discrimination as a female poet. But I experienced some messages – mostly anonymous – from male poets born in the 1960s, instructing me how to write, in the spirit of mansplaining. There have been no more of these recently. But if there are, I will speak out about them.

AF: I am glad that this has changed, that women have their place within the public space, that they care about, and listen to, one another. I am glad that poets like Joanna Miller, who grew out of anger and disagreement, is now recognised. Maja Staśko also does a great job, pointing out misogyny not only in the space of poetry, but also beyond:

PS: Two words about the manifestos. Slams are the perfect occasion for protest. I treat slam as a manifesto, not just a poetic one. I appreciate this scene: I can go up there and I don’t have to hide being pissed off, distance myself from exclusion/

MR: This experience is unique. The stage is nothing new for me, I work in theatre, but when I faced the audience at Stół Powszechny, I felt stage fright that I probably hadn’t felt before. Finally, I said what was truly mine, intimate. My writing is like kindling, I do not use multi-level metaphors, and it works for slams. I don’t know whether it works on paper. Slams give me courage. My words were met with women’s reaction and it was very encouraging, a strong experience. I felt that I was doing something, that my words could change something, at least in that space and for the people who came. This allows me to believe that revolution is possible. And so I merged being a female poet with being a revolutionary. [Laughter]

PS: I hope that in the future women won’t have to shout anymore. Today’s activism is also about screaming for those who can’t – or won’t for some reason. “Building/consolidating” is the right explanation for working, for not wanting to stop.

AF: Patrycja, I am sorry that we are still fighting the same battles, that my struggle is also your struggle. It seemed to me that two decades would be enough for it to get better, so that the next generation of girls would not have to shout at rallies. I am glad that we have here an active representative of young people. This allows me to catch my breath.

MR: We were talking about a woman, a revolutionary – but what about a lesbian? In life, in your poetry? Is writing about her intuitive for you? Or, do you feel that it is your duty to write about lesbians?

PS: I was thinking about it while preparing for the publication of the book of poetry entitled “Manual for people who are not from here.” In one of the texts, I came out – publicly, not just among friends. I consider it a great privilege that at work I do not have to hide it and pretend that I have a non-existent boyfriend, and that I am fully accepted in my family home (even though all family members didn’t know about me – but thanks to word of mouth, my uncles and aunts can have a bit of fun). The lesbian is visible in my poems, although her visibility is questioned. I compare being in a homosexual relationship in Poland to cage farming, because unfortunately this is what it looks like. I contrast my biographical presence with being invisible to others who would very much like us not to exist. Living in an e-cloud, looking for ways to become a mother, going abroad to get married. I’m sorry that we have to fight and struggle to live safely. There are many disturbing themes in my work, but also soothing themes, making others aware that a lesbian is a human being, not an invention, an ideology. The lesbian in my poems is sad, but hopeful.

if something is mentioned, then it does exist,
everything hasn’t been said yet.

take courage, the free zones sleep lightly.
wybicki playing softly in the background

AF: We were talking about a woman, a revolutionary, and a lesbian. To me, it’s one and the same. So it was difficult for me to choose a poem illustrating this theme of our conversation. In the past, I would explore this subject; I wanted to clearly define myself – I felt a need to belong. I was wondering whether I was a lesbian poet or a lesbian writer, and about the difference between the two. I have also done this for those who would read my writing. I have stubbornly searched for lesbian themes in poetry, and I have several books on my shelf just because I found a lesbian element in them. I needed that. I read lesbian writers and [in my writing] I wanted to honour the presence of the lesbian, I consciously placed her in the text. But I always wondered whether what I write would be of artistic value, or it would be rejected, a priori, because of this, and who would read it.

Agnieszka Frankowska, photo: Wyspa Kobiet archive

MR: There are those who collect these lesbian elements – just like you do. You throw the crumbs and the doves fly to catch them. [Laughter] This is how it works – with time, there are more seeds. You have quite a few fans, because you’ve published online.

AF: As I said, there was no space for such writing. Although there were some people who wanted to publish my poems, it was often all about finances. Some of my texts were published, for example, in Furia, this could have been my space. But this feminist-lesbian periodical is no more – it ended after Anka Laszuk’s death. The figure of the lesbian is apparent in my poetry today, so now I’m interested in how she is this poetry. I have to admit that this lesbian gave me a lot of courage to write.

MR: For me, being a lesbian is still revolutionary. Even domestic lesbians are revolutionary, those who lock themselves up at home, crave a consumerist lifestyle, and create hidden islands in the sea of shit that surround us. Their very existence is provocative. But those lesbians who break out of the patriarchal system are bringing on the changes, and they are, of course, lesbian-feminists. I don’t know whether I would write if I weren’t a lesbian. Being a lesbian is the driving force behind my work. I am inspired by my lesbian experiences, my exclusion, and the exclusion of those of others I have met. My focus on this topic seems to have created an extra sense in me, one that makes me come across hidden lesbian stories. It turns out that when you dig a little, many women have lesbian episodes in their lives. This is how I found lesbian themes in Ulrike Meinhof’s biography, and wrote a play about her. The lesbian gave me strength.

who mean a lot
who shape us
who raise their heads
they shout, stomp their feet and they are right

 (Terrorist. Ulrike, this play is for you!)

AF: Lesbians turn you on. [Laughter]

MR: Always. [Laughter] Finally, let’s think about what tomorrow might be like for feminists, women, revolutionaries, and lesbians in right-wing Poland, on a planet threatened by an environmental crisis?

AF: Tomorrow and today, we need pleasure. I wanted to give her a little [pleasure], and when I was preparing for our conversation, I chose an erotic poem.

PS: Hell yes. It is important in these polluted circumstances!

AF: It’s very hard to focus on pleasure when such things are happening, when we are facing dehumanisation. So, in spite of that, I chose this particular poem. I was incited by a woman whose statement I heard on the radio. I realised that we are still like aliens – we are green, with little antennae. The listener stated that she did not mind LGBTQ+ people, but she could not imagine that she would have to talk about sex at the table at Christmas. Since that is the only thing they associate us with, here you are – an erotic poem. I don’t know how else to defend myself against it. We have to laugh at it.

My Lover is naked, full and firm simultaneously
– in promising riding boots. She keeps up with the tempo
and me with her elastic fingers, like crab sticks
before the main course – the course of body in the first fury!
Raising in two acts)

MR: Those on the right are obsessed with sex. They project their obsession onto us, and look for the culprits.

AF: That’s why I want more fun and sex in the future.

PS: Always! [Laughter]

AF: It’s a joke, but things aren’t rosy. Many people have mental problems and depression due to the current situation. How to have sex in these circumstances?

Patrycja Sikora, photo: Ewelina Krupska

PS: I think that tomorrow will bring greater visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. This is one consequence of what is happening now. Not a day goes by without some absurd news about us. This news stimulates action. Tomorrow will be absurd and shocking, but still hopeful. Maybe society will get tired of this crusade, and everything will normalise. There will be no need to ight for dignity and respect. And, of course, tomorrow will be nice.

MR: Unfortunately, I see tomorrow in dark colours. I can hear the trudging boot of fascism. More and more people do not see a problem with things that until recently would be considered fascism. I am scared of the masses’ consent to violence, a false sense of security. Besides, mother arth cannot stand our aggression anymore. But I agree with you: let’s have sex and poetry.



Agnieszka Frankowska. a record of traces of Polish poetry written by lesbians
from the perspective of a poet sitting on a tree –
a lesbian drinking tea with lemon:

in the dark, I touch, touch
I stroke lesbian codes
that pull me into
the daylight where
heavenly rhymes
into temptation –
of a life without a trace

phrases are mirrors
I look at my reflection
milk and honey
flow in my veins
and I, I
am becoming and maybe someday
lesbian construction of language
will not – not


now now now
(oh, if only I could sing like that)

I crave
lesbian poetry
completely exposed
(like the Norwegian one)
– masturbating with her
quoting it to a lyrical subject
(who is only in my hands)
sending postcards
soaked in tongues
dripping with words
of love talking frankly

– about the love of women!
(a bold firm gesture)

– how many of us still sit in the trees?
(dry out wither and fall off)

I construct allusions
with an empty cup
of tea with lemon
among all this universal
nonsense drivel


Monika Rak. Women who swallow us
excerpt from the play The Terrorist. Ulrike, this play is for you!        

who mean a lot
who shape us
who raise their heads
they shout, stomp their feet and they are right 

who swallow us
who digest and spit us out
and those whom we digest
and spit out without swallowing

who are reborn
in legend
in a copied design
in a pin stuck in a lapel
in clumsily written word

Fuck, how I miss you!


Patrycja Sikora. please check message requests folder

I am with a woman who is afraid of moths –
I’ve learnt to turn off the light in time.
the constitution says that we don’t exist.
we unfold a prayer rug – not a flying carpet, but
it defuses the sounds of the civilization of sore throats.

we live in the cloud, we dream an ultrasound:
radiology, obstetrics.
(why do boys enjoy labiaplasty?)

if something is mentioned, then it does exist,
everything hasn’t been said yet.

take courage, the free zones sleep lightly.
wybicki playing softly in the background


Agnieszka Frankowska. Born on 8 March 1972. Lesbian / feminist / activist / poet / person with disabilities / for many years she has been involved in the activities of Konsola Women’s Association in Poznań / co-organizer of the first Equality March in Poznań (2004) and its subsequent editions / founder of Wyspa Kobiet [Women’s Island] in Poznań (2011 – 2013) / co-initiator of Lesbijska Inspira project / her texts were published in “Zadra”, “Furia”, “Czas Kultury”, “Sabatnik Boginistyczny”, “Babiniec Literacki” and in zines / one of the protagonists of the documentary “L.Poetka” / co-initiator of Dobra Kawiarnia, a workplace for people with disabilities.

Monika Rak. Born in Warsaw in 1971. Actor / poet / performer / slammer / writer / lesbian art-activist / theatre studies scholar.
2/2 of Damski Tandem Twórczy [Female Creative Tandem], co-initiator of the Lesbijska Inspira project, co-founder of the Sistrum Association – Lesbian Cultural Space*.
Publications: “WakaT”/”Tlen Literacki”/”Krytyka Polityczna”/”Obszary Przypisane”.
Anthologies: “Szwadron Szwargotań – Nowa polska poezja protestu” [Squadron of gibberish – New Polish Protest Poetry] / “Wakacje od istnienia? Czternastodniówka literacka” [Holidays from Existence? Literary fortnight]/ “Wiersze dla opornych” [Poems for Dummies]

Patrycja Sikora. Born in Wieruszów in 1989. Finalist of the 2018 Biuro Literackieg Połów project. Nominated for the J. Bierezin XXIV OKP First Prize and 7. Poetry Competition of the “Duży Format” Foundation. Author of the volume of poetry “Instrukcja dla ludzi nie stąd” [Manual for people who are not from here] (WBPiCAK 2020). She is published in the magazines “Kontent”, “Dwutygodnik”, “Czas Kultury”, “Helikopter”, “Mały Format”, “Tlen Literacki”, “Fabularie”, “Drobiazgi”, “Strona Czynna”, among others. She lives in Poznań.


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