Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Introduction: in the Valley of Vinetrees

When Kamila Kaminska asked me to conduct a poetry workshop about a bridge in Wroclaw which would lead out into the valley of vine trees, my imagination went immediately on a search what could be found out about such an unusual topic.


             Row of vineyards

There are several things which I came across when I looked up first 'valley of vinetrees'. One poem startled me the most right away:

Valley of Light

As I approached the end of the summer range,
I came to a valley I had no choice but to cross.
The path descended sharply toward the valley floor.
The slopes were densely wooded with tall trees
And in certain places, vines clung tightly to their trunks
While beyond that lay a fragrant pine forest.
In the middle of the valley, where the growth was especially thick,
The slanting rays of the sun fell, forming a belt of brightness.
I was in a valley of white light. I readjusted my heavy backpack
And made my way, step by step, down the radiant flow.


© 2008, Yosuke Tanaka
From: Sweet na gunjyo no yume (Sweet Ultramarine Dreams)
Publisher: Michitani, Tokyo, 2008
ISBN: 9784896422443

© Translation: 2009, Jeffrey Angles 1


The footsteps of this man can be followed as he descends down into the valley. There is no physical bridge but there is another kind of bridge: the light. Of interest is also the observation of vines slinging themselves around trunks of trees as if snakes.

Then a more meditative poem speaks about that time when waiting for someone to come. It has this Eastern sense for nature and remorse about so much longing for company with the other.



Now that the sun has set beyond the western range, 
Valley after valley is shadowy and dim.... 
And now through pine-trees come the moon and the chill of evening, 
And my ears feel pure with the sound of wind and water 
Nearly all the woodsmen have reached home, 
Birds have settled on their perches in the quiet mist.... 
And still -- because you promised -- I am waiting for you, waiting, 
Playing lute under a wayside vine. 2


Inspired by this reflection of poetry, student Teng from China wrote after the poetry workshop the following poem called 'Waiting':

Waiting By Guofeng Teng (written on May 15th, 2015, Wroclaw, Poland)





I never know how old you are

Only heard you were here before I began to walk small steps

I never care about whether you are tired or not

Because I myself have already enough to worry about









I always wonder if it is your true will

that you give a way to people, man and woman, old and young

that you tolerate the deafening noise from wheels, two, four and more

that you humbly bend down and dumbly carry all.

Often I think you are a fool

such a fool who knows nothing but standing like a stone

listening to endless chaos

watching new flowers grow old

waiting for office of the Sun

day in and day out.






You said

that you like listening, reading

and you want to wait.

I don’t know

I really don’t know what you are listening, reading and waiting

what deserves your rock-like persistence?









You said

you heard them talking, laughing, crying and grieving

coming hastily, going silently

dropping a sack of mood for you to digest.

you heard them very loudly playing on wheels

galloping near, flashing away

leaving a gust of wind as your companion.









You stand in wind, gazing at their fading figures


“If they could just slow down, we would together

listen to music of wind and rain

observe light of water and star

talk about days and years

yesterday and today.”













You said

you saw them wearing frowns

passing by each other with no word no look.

You know one of them has empty stomach

the other’s child has fever.

You know they both have worries

all worries are about life.

You saw them, one big and strong, the other small and weak

for some reason fighting,

hysterically and brutally.

You are hurt

as if the knife held in the air is stabbing through your back

into your heart.

Under your feet flow blue waters, your heartbroken tears.

Down in the depth hide the darkness, your loving eyes.








You stand in wind

turning pages of a heavy book


“If they knew

I once wept for them

I once gathered fish to listen to their worries

I once summoned tempest to stop their fighting.”







You stand in wind

listening, reading, weeping and waiting

day by day, year after year.

You wait time old

You weep water blue.















One day

when the Sun faithfully finishes his job

when the Moon punctually takes his duty

when light of the city blazes no more, song of the world sings no more

In the still of the night

from the head of the bridge

comes a child in white.

Through your eyes he looks up at the infinite starlit sky

A song of four seasons flows out of his sweet mouth.

He draws closer and closer to you while singing

Summer’s midnight breeze warmly kisses him in his forehead

You lovingly murmur a word into his ears,

“Child, welcome home!”


Alone these poetic associations made me even more curious what biblical references exist to a valley of vine trees. For example, biblical connotations exist in the Song of Solomon 6:11 called The Bride:

11"I went down to the orchard of nut trees To see the blossoms of the valley, To see whether the vine had budded Or the pomegranates had bloomed.

12 "Before I was aware, my soul set me Over the chariots of my noble people."

Especially the last line sets assail the soul, makes flight possible or in an overarching sense a bridge between one kind of existence and another one becomes conceivable. That ever over arching soul is like the kinship which protects the children growing up in a village. It is also the grandmother who keeps the children out of trouble. Many of us know and have experienced the problems which arise alone when there is no one to bridge the gap between different generations. It is even a loss of social and community life when families are reduced to single parent and children because missing is the third generation. The grandparents have due to their long term experiences quite another perception of when children get into trouble. If there is confidence that they will get over it, then that confidence is given more by the three generations combined. And already in this social construction you have a bridge with three pillars making possible the crossing over of time.

There are many more biblical references to be cited. In particular, there is the description of the Valley of Eshcol :

The Spies Explore Canaan22 "When they had gone up into the Negev, they came to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt."

23 "Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs."

24 "That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there."


“When they came to the valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs.” 3

There is as well the Valley of Ella, which is part of the plains of the Judean Hills: It was already settled in ancient times, as the remnants of settlements, wine presses and agricultural terraces testify. The Valley offers fertile soil, a large number of wells, and is centrally located, which enabled its inhabitants to distribute their produce both to the plains and to the mountain settlements. The Valley has a long history of vine growing and wine producing. The first wine presses date approximately the year 3,300 BCE. Wine bottles from the area were found in the tombs of the pharaohs from the First and Second Dynasties. The vineyards and wines from Eretz Israel are also mentioned in Egyptian and Roman documents.


      Cabernet vine yard

As this takes the discussion into the history of wine making, it becomes an interesting question what does it mean to step out of the city and into a valley of vinetrees? Does it imply that something has to be crossed over before coming upon a different quality of life linked to wine? One needs only to think about the role Dionysus, the wine God played in Ancient Greece, to know that it is not only stepping out into nature which matters, but also what can be extracted from nature, so as to make life become at times a highly intoxicated experiences!

It will be important to come back to the chariot which takes the soul out of the city and into nature. For it will become surely a special topic to discuss when looking directly at the Olawski Bridge in Wroclaw, the bridge which has been selected for this particular poetry workshop. For there shall be made some associations to the fragment of a poem about Nature which the Greek philosopher Parmenides left behind. On that reflective basis, it shall be possible to enter a small discourse about how we perceive things, reality, the other people and what is altered in our perception once we take a chariot to cross over to the other side and once there dip into nature.

This search for a reflective answer can be captured by a poem holding in the hand a droplet of dew in which the sun reflects millions of years. Indeed, water has been vaporized over thousand of years before returning to the land in the form of rain but also hidden rivers suddenly emerging at a secretive spot out of the earth. And then there can be in man's hand a single tear drop to reflect those light years. For everything can be entailed in the smallest of all spaces, and become visible according to Bachelot especially in a sea shell listening to the ocean for over thousand years. Likewise a bridge arching over the water holds in its spaces, both above but as well below, in the shadow of its arches, a sense of time which alters with winter or during the hot summer months respectively. In human terms they do not curtail but are often spell bound and convey a certain atmosphere or sentiment which can be connected to a certain bridge. This may be especially the case with the Olawski bridge in Wroclaw.

A bridge testifies something about life and yet stands as well in the very opposite to man's notion of time measures by what experiences are made during his or her life time. There is this unique poem about Sicily, but more directly about life being an “one forward track.”


In Sicily

by Siegfried Sassoon

Because we two can never again come back
On life's one forward track, —
Never again first-happily explore
This valley of rocks and vines and orange-trees,
Half Biblical and half Hesperides,
With dark blue seas calling from a shell-strewn shore:
By the strange power of Spring's resistless green,
Let us be true to what we have shared and seen,
And as our amulet this idyll save.
And since the unreturning day must die,
Let it for ever be lit by an evening sky
And the wild myrtle grow upon its grave. 4

The poem is a beautiful testimony of life being an one-way street. Times pushes you on, but not the bridge. That is the strange phenomenon. You can go back, cross over again, and once more experience the time difference between being on the one or the other side.

For sure, things cannot be repeated twice. The poet writing about Sicily comes close to Heraldic and his famous saying, that you do not step twice into the same river. But a bridge differs. It is a staunch opponent of this tragic determination of life, and that is why the bridge as edifice of mankind is an outstanding example of defiance. It is also the case that every time a bridge is built, it amounts to be an architectural feat.


                                  Bridge over ravine in Constantine

Indeed, there exist an amazing array of bridges at different heights, while way below the valley opens into the plain fields and seeks the sea lying beyond the immediate horizon visible from above. This is the case with the city of Constantine in Algiers, and which happens to be the Arabic Capital of Culture in 2015. 5 

Why all of this has to be said at the beginning of a poetry workshop dedicated to the Olawski Bridge? For one, it is an enchanted bridge, so many wishes can be made on that bridge or else while walking over it, the bridge might accompany one like friendly ghosts shaped by the fog rising up from the water below especially when during the cold winter days the water is warmer than the air outside.

There is another reason why this bridge evokes a certain association to the vineyards. There needs to be explored the history of this bridge and to where it leads to. It is said in the official text designed to prepare the bridge as part of a cultural event incorporating 40 bridges in Wroclaw come June 2015 that it lead initially to a pasture and was used by mainly weavers.

However, some caution needs to be added. It was the philosopher Jürgen Habermas who stated that it is impossible to reconstruct the past. Still, if one has a rich imagination, some aspects or interesting details of the life which took place near, at and on the bridge can be re-created i.e. visualized and become a part of a new story about the bridge.

The aim of this READER is to give a first frame for thoughts by which further meanings of the Olewski bridge can be explored, and by the same token, make aware that it will be quite a task to take the bridge out of near obscurity and its urban/natural surrounding out of years of neglect. Kamila Kaminska refers to this area as being a 'Bermuda triangle' in which all sorts of things disappear in a mysterious way, and therefore not only the bridge, but the entire urban area needs some kind of regeneration.


A brief historical account of the Olawski Bridge


Oławski bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges of Wroclaw, with a long history. It is one of several river crossings Oława in Wroclaw, located just off the mouth of the Oder Oławy. Currently connects Square Wroblewski of the alley on the Causeway. Originally this place was located footbridge, which served primarily the Walloon weavers. Crossing this, leading initially to pasture, has been known since the mid-thirteenth century (1241 years). The bridge was built in its present form between 1882 and 1883 and was originally named Maurice Bridge. This name was associated with the temple lying nearby, whose patron saint was just Maurice. Architect involved in the work on the bridge was A. Kaumann, and decorated with the combined forces of P. Heisler (who made sculptural elements), R. Toberentza and H. Heisler.

Constructions was designed as a vaulted building with three bays, the external cladding is sandstone and granite and the main building blocks - bricks. The supports of the bridge are built of stone wall, which have a decorative veneer. Above the bridge piers can also admire the decor - from the city there are reliefs depicting putti, known decorative element, which refers to an ancient culture, and spread during the Renaissance. Putti placed on the bridge Oława as it is surrounded by water plants. In other decorative elements of the bridge are mythological figures, referring to the element of water. The artist also left some of his signatures, which today are barely noticeable. The bridge also has a Neo-Baroque balustrade.

Most Oławski is one of the most beautiful Wroclaw river crossings, referring to its architecture bridges are in Paris or Rome. Despite this, today rarely becomes a destination for both of Wroclaw and tourists visiting our city. The bridge is also beautifully situated among the greenery, what will establish the photographic part of the project.

Bridge in addition to aesthetic also has an interesting history. Then in 1893 have driven your first electric tram; today, moreover, you can find before and after the bridge preserved fragments of the then tram tracks (after the war has already started the route by bridge Oławski). Over the years Rakowiec, a former district forming part of the Suburbs Oława, was a place of recreation of Wroclaw, here also housed the open-air theater. Transformation lying today on the sidelines of the bridge in place of the cultural event will be a reminder of the tradition of the building. “ 6


If not anything else, the stepping out of the city and onto pastures does ring a bell. Instead of 'valley of the vinetrees', the bridge could be linked to a 'Weingasse': an alley where wine is served as known in Heidelberg. There exists that famous old bridge linking the old town to hills full of vineyards. After having crossed over the Neckar and climbed up through the vineyard hills, one reaches the Hölderlin path with one particular stone having inscribed one of his poems. It makes this spot with an overview of Heidelberg and the possibility to look down to the bridge just crossed, such a vantage point of poetic mediation.

Wine may stand for another kind of enticement to taste the sweetness of life. Some may take this to mean a temptation which they will never dare to cross over to, in order to find out how this other life tastes like. This is not meant as a provocation but has to be understood in a self critical context. For there are some bridges one should never cross.

In other words, if the Olawski bridge is going to be a cultural site for one day come June 2015, and this together with 39 other bridges in Wroclaw, then it becomes a matter of letting the Olawski Bridge do all the talking before the poets take over.


1© 2008, Yosuke Tanaka From: Sweet na gunjyo no yume (Sweet Ultramarine Dreams) Publisher: Michitani, Tokyo, 2008 ISBN: 9784896422443. http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poem/item/15810/auto/VALLEY-OF-LIGHT

2 Poems by Meng Hao-jan (also known as Meng Haoran A.D. 689 – 740)


3 http://biblehub.com/songs/6-11.htm

4See more at: http://www.poetrynook.com/poem/sicily#sthash.wWRYWUID.dpuf

5 Constantine celebrated as Capital of Arab Culture 2015


6 Project brief (2015) Załącznik nr 1 do Regulaminu – Wniosek do Programu Mosty

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