Sejny Symposium: Home/Land/s (2022)

Krasnogruda_front gate

Home/Land/s: an International Symposium

Sejny (Poland), November 16-20, 2022

Home/Land/s/: “Something you somehow haven’t to deserve”

In Robert Frost’s “The Death of the Hired Man” is the memorable definition: “Home is the place that, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in.” His interlocutor adjusts: “I should have called it/ Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

The New Symposium, organized and hosted by IWP from 2006-2008, brought together writers from around the world to the Greek island of Paros to discuss what we hold in common, the nature of justice, and the idea of home. These conversations offered a variety of new ways to think timeless matters—the starting point for yet another “new symposium,” which will take place from 16-20 November at the International Centre for Dialogue—Borderland Foundation, in Sejny, Poland.

At our final Paros symposium, Home/Land, we interrogated the new mobilities under the general sign of globalization. Since then, dramatic scenes at the borderlines encircling our various home/land/s have been multiplying: masses of bodies huddled in fragile boats; welcoming citizens standing at border crossings with jackets and hot drinks; barbed wire fences guarded by heavily armed soldiers; currents of migrants weaponized by politicians as if human missiles deployed to strike at the heart of a distant enemy country; explosive conflicts in domestic asylum politics over tradition versus inclusion… abstract humanitarian principles of right to shelter against the many local variants of the castle doctrine. The pandemic further stress-tested each and every one of these conflicting views. The Russian invasion of Ukraine not only flattened cities and towns, killing and maiming tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, but for the first time in some six decades raised the specter of nuclear war, which would make the issue of borders immaterial. And more is to come as the ongoing destruction of livable environments everywhere is already uprooting millions.

Who has the right to cross a border, who has the obligation to open the door, must the one crossing the threshold take off their shoes and bare their head, must he or she “deserve” …? And how to think about this dialectic of yearning and rights, of mercy and obligation, as a fault line much less tangible than a national border hovers above us all, namely the latitude below which heat and drought makes living conditions less and less possible? What will become of the expectation that someone someplace “has to take you in” and that this is something one needn’t “deserve” – i.e., of the very possibility of home — as lines drawn around “land” become meaningless?  These are some of the questions the participants will take up and develop in the course, and then in the wake of, the 2022 Sejny symposium.

Read the final anthology here.



Victoria AMELINA is a Ukrainian novelist, essayist, and human rights activist. Having founded the New York Literature Festival, which takes place in a small town called New York in the Donetsk region, her team has in 2022 launched the "Fight Them with Poetry" initiative to help supply the Ukrainian Army units defending that region. An author of two novels, a winner of the Joseph Conrad Literary Award and a finalist for the European Union Prize for Literature for her novel Дім для Дома [Dom's Dream Kingdom], she is at work on a non-fiction project, "War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War."

Salah BADIS lives and works in Algiers, where he is a language worker, a storyteller-journalist-podcaster through text or sound, at times poet & short story writer. Among his publications are the poetry volume ضجر البواخر [Ship Weariness] (2016) and the 2019 story collection هذه أمور تحدث [Things Happen…] as well as translations into the Arabic of Jean Sénac, Joseph Andras, and Eric Vuillard. He is a producer at a regional Arabic-language slow journalism platform.

Krzysztof HOFFMANN teaches in the Department of Poetics and Literary Criticism at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, where he co-founded its MA program in Creative Writing and now directs the Creative Writing BA. His research focuses on experimental literature and contemporary Polish poetry. He collaborates with the Jagiellonian University Avant-Garde Research Center (Kraków), translates from the English, and is the editor of several journals; he is a past columnist for Gazeta Wyborcza.

Irena KARPA is a Paris-based Ukrainian writer, journalist, and lead singer of the band QARPA. Her latest novel Тільки нікому про це не кажи  [Just Don’t Tell Anyone About It] (2022) follows a Ukrainian photographer living in Paris and addresses topics of harassment, domestic violence and rape. Karpa often appears in French media advocating for Ukraine from abroad. Her work has been translated into English and French.

Roman MALYNOVSKY is a Ukrainian writer and editor-in-chief of the Library of Babel publishing house, which he co-founded in 2014. His first short story collection Солодке життя [Sweet Life] was published by Meridian Czernowitz and included by PEN Ukraine on the list of the Best Ukrainian Books of 2021. His work has been featured in Mayday Magazine, The New England Review, Harper’s Bazaar Ukraine, Apofenie, Versopolis, and elsewhere.

Shenaz PATEL is a journalist, novelist, playwright, and children’s author from Mauritius. A recipient of the 2007 Grand Literary Prize of the Indian and Pacific Ocean (Paris) for her novel Le silence des Chagos (Silence of the Chagos, 2019) covering the plight of the Chagossian people, expelled from their archipelago to enable the United States to build a military base in the Indian Ocean. In 2016, she was a fellow at City of Asylum (Pittsburgh) and, in 2018, at Harvard’s Hutchins Center / W.E.B du Bois Institute. In 2021, she received the Prix Saint Exupéry for Rêve d’oiseau/ A Dream of Birds. She lectures at the Mauritius branch of ENSA (Nantes).

Yuriy SEREBRIANSKY is a Kazakhstani author of Polish origin, literary translator, and cultural researcher. His prose, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in Kazakh, Russian, Polish, Swiss and American literary journals, and have been widely translated. In 2010 and 2014, he received the Russkaya Premia award for his novels  Дорожная пастораль and Пражаки; he is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Kazakhstani Polish diaspora magazine Ałmatyński Kurier Polonijny, and the prose editor of Literatura. A member of Kazakh PEN and Polish Literary Translators Association, he directs the Almaty Writing Residency.

ko ko thett is a bilingual poet and author of several collections of poetry and poetry translations, in Burmese and English. He has been featured at literary events, from Sharjah to Shanghai, and his poems and translations have appeared in journals and anthologies worldwide. He was poetry editor for Mekong Review from 2017 to 2022. His most recent poetry collection is Bamboophobia (2022). He lives in Norwich, UK.

Terry TEMPEST WILLIAMS, an American writer, educator, and activist in areas of environment and social justice, is the author of over twenty books, including the environmental literature classic Refuge - An Unnatural History of Family and Place. Other books include Finding Beauty in A Broken World, When Women Were Birds, The Hour of Land - A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks and, most recently, Erosion: Essays of Undoing. Her work, which has gained her a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lannan Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction, is widely translated and anthologized. She is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Harvard Divinity School.

David WOO is an American poet and writer, the son of immigrants from China. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Divine Fire, selected by the Washington Post Book Club as one of the best poetry books of 2021, and The Eclipses, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr., Poetry Prize. His poetry and criticism have appeared at the Poetry Foundation website and in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry London, The Threepenny Review, and The Georgia Review. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Lyuba YAKIMCHUK is an award-winning poet, playwright, and screenwriter from Pervomaisk, a small coal mining town in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. She is the author of several poetry collections, most notably  Абрикоси Донбасу, published in 2021 as The Apricots of Donbas by Lost Horse Press. Yakimchuk also penned the script for Будинок «Слово»  [The Slovo House], a documentary film about the Ukrainian artists imprisoned and killed during the Stalinist purges, known collectively today as The Executed Renaissance.


Christopher MERRILL has published seven collections of poetry, many edited volumes and translations, and six books of nonfiction, among them Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include numerous translation awards, fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill Foundations and many others. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries.

Kate TSURKAN is an American writer, editor, and translator based in Ukraine. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Literary Hub and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of Apofenie Magazine.

Krzystof  CZYŻEWSKI is a practitioner of ideas, writer, theater director, editor, the President of the Borderland Foundation in Sejny, Poland, a director of the Centre “Borderland of Arts, Cultures and Nations,” and a visiting professor at the University of Bologna. His essay book A Small Center of the World (2017) received the Tischner Prize and was translated to Serbian, Lithuanian, and Georgian. His most recent volume, Toward Xenopolis. Visions from the Borderland, appeared from the University of Rochester Press in 2022.

Nataša ĎUROVIČOVÁ is the editor of  IWP's imprint 91st Meridian Books at Autumn Hill Books, and the program's journal 91st Meridian. She has also co-edited World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives (2010) and the essay collection At Translation's Edge (2019) and is one of the two translators of André Bazin on Adaptation: Cinema's Literary Imagination (2022).

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