The Possibilities Project


City of Literature Possibilities Project, Possibilities are endless……

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.

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, Germany, 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.

View the Possibilities Project Poetry Archive here






Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature recently took part in the Versopolis Brave New Literature festival. Versopolis is a well-known and respected European poetry platform with a mission to create new opportunities for emerging poets throughout Europe. It is supported by the European Commission Creative Europe Programme.

Festival organisers were thrilled to include a Possibilities Project video from Ōtepoti in this literary celebration. Showcasing artists from all over the world, Versopolis acknowledges the power of words and poetry as a tool for connecting continents and cultures.

In 2019 Liz Breslin was awarded a two-month Cities of Literature residency in Kraków, Poland. Liz not only produced her own work but had the opportunity to explore many forms of Polish literature. Wisława Szymborska’s poem ‘Possibilities’ provided the inspiration for the Possibilities Project when Liz returned home. This Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature project was extremely popular during Aotearoa’s 2020 lockdown. Seizing the opportunity to share part of this wonderful portfolio of poetry to a new global audience, Ōtepoti contributed a specially edited film. Ten local poets, Liz Breslin, Michelle Elvy, Anna Hoek-Sims, Kirstie McKinnon, Emma Neale, Jilly O’Brien, Jenny Powell, Laura Williamson, Annabel Wilson and Iona Winter, offer words of hope, observation and encouragement for us all.

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