View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems

View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems

In these one-hundred poems Wisława Szymborska portrays a world of astonishing diversity and richness, in which nature is wise and prodigal and fate unpredictable, if not mischevious. With acute irony tempered by a generous curiousity, she documents life's improbability as well as its transient beauty....

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Title:View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems
Author:Wisława Szymborska
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Edition Language:English

View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems Reviews

  • Danielle DeTiberus

    This is the poem I would like to be read at my funeral. I read it for the first time on a plane to NY. I was so moved that I turned (with tears in my eyes, mind you) to the man sitting next to me and asked him to read it. HA! He must have thought I was an absolute nut. But he read it and he liked it...so thanks Wislawa!

    Birthday

    So much world all at once – how it rustles and bustles!

    Moraines and morays and morasses and mussels,

    The flame, the flamingo, the flounder, the feather –

    How to line them al

    This is the poem I would like to be read at my funeral. I read it for the first time on a plane to NY. I was so moved that I turned (with tears in my eyes, mind you) to the man sitting next to me and asked him to read it. HA! He must have thought I was an absolute nut. But he read it and he liked it...so thanks Wislawa!

    Birthday

    So much world all at once – how it rustles and bustles!

    Moraines and morays and morasses and mussels,

    The flame, the flamingo, the flounder, the feather –

    How to line them all up, how to put them together?

    All the tickets and crickets and creepers and creeks!

    The beeches and leeches alone could take weeks.

    Chinchillas, gorillas, and sarsaparillas –

    Thanks so much, but this excess of kindness could kill us.

    Where’s the jar for this burgeoning burdock, brooks’ babble,

    Rooks’ squabble, snakes’ quiggle, abundance, and trouble?

    How to plug up the gold mines and pin down the fox,

    How to cope with the linx, bobolinks, streptococs!

    Take dioxide: a lightweight, but mighty in deeds:

    What about octopodes, what about centipedes?

    I could look into prices, but don’t have the nerve:

    These are products I just can’t afford, don’t deserve.

    Isn’t sunset a little too much for two eyes

    That, who knows, may not open to see the sun rise?

    I am just passing through, it’s a five-minute stop.

    I won’t catch what is distant: what’s too close, I’ll mix up.

    While trying to plumb what the void's inner sense is,

    I'm bound to pass by all these poppies and pansies.

    What a loss when you think how much effort was spent

    perfecting this petal, this pistil, this scent

    for the one-time appearance, which is all they're allowed,

    so aloofly precise and so fragilely proud.

  • Weinz

    In this episode RC (Random Co-worker) will be played by Stifler (which is how men sound in my head when I know they are complete morons). Stifler will be replacing blond bimbette #3(which is how I categorize idiot girls I come in contact with) from last week's episode where she tried to explain why she loved "Daisy of Love".

    RC: You don't have a TV?!

    M: No

    RC: I can't believe you don't have a TV!

    M: *heavy sigh*

    RC: Where do you watch your shows?

    M: I don't

    RC: Where do you watch movies?!

    M: I have co

    In this episode RC (Random Co-worker) will be played by Stifler (which is how men sound in my head when I know they are complete morons). Stifler will be replacing blond bimbette #3(which is how I categorize idiot girls I come in contact with) from last week's episode where she tried to explain why she loved "Daisy of Love".

    RC: You don't have a TV?!

    M: No

    RC: I can't believe you don't have a TV!

    M: *heavy sigh*

    RC: Where do you watch your shows?

    M: I don't

    RC: Where do you watch movies?!

    M: I have computers

    RC: I don't know what I would do without a TV! That's all I do!

    M: *trying hard not to roll eyes condescendingly*

    RC: What do you DO?!!?

    M: I read

    RC: You READ?!

    M: Yes.

    and then with nothing more to add to the conversation RC proceeds to move on to more tabloid-knowledgeable friends or painfully begins to explain at great length all the things I'm

    .

    Next time when faced with "the question" I will have a better answer. This book is why I don't have a TV. Sitting in my favorite chair and reading these poems made me laugh, made me cry and made me giggle knowingly. These poems were fun, insightful and poignant. Her wit only added to the compelling messages her poems held. Loved every single one.

  • Darwin8u

    -- Wisława Szymborska, View With a Grain of Sand

    Such a great overview of Szymorska's poetry. Once in Hungary I watched a guy ride two horses at full gallop while standing on their backs. Reading Szymorska reminds me of that. I grasp the technicals of what she is doing. I understand that nothing she writes in either style or practice actually defies the ACTUAL physics of writing, but some

    -- Wisława Szymborska, View With a Grain of Sand

    Such a great overview of Szymorska's poetry. Once in Hungary I watched a guy ride two horses at full gallop while standing on their backs. Reading Szymorska reminds me of that. I grasp the technicals of what she is doing. I understand that nothing she writes in either style or practice actually defies the ACTUAL physics of writing, but something about her finished poems still seem magical and beyond reach. Her poems are like spiderwebs that hold up planets. Anyway, I'll put the hyperbole in my pocket now and just say I loved the book.

  • PGR Nair

    Bestowing Nobel Prize for literature on relatively unknown poets has some merits. I must confess that I was totally unaware of the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska poet till she won the Nobel Prize in 1996. Szymborska received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality,” according to Nobel prize citation. Having read almost all her collections o

    Bestowing Nobel Prize for literature on relatively unknown poets has some merits. I must confess that I was totally unaware of the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska poet till she won the Nobel Prize in 1996. Szymborska received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality,” according to Nobel prize citation. Having read almost all her collections of poetry and the lovely prose piece

    , I can say without exaggeration that she deserves to be called ‘Mozart of poetry’ considering her wealth of inspiration and the veritable ease with which words fall in place in her poetry.

    Wislawa is a miracle in the world of poetry- a serious poet who commanded amazing popularity in her native land as the most representative Polish poet of last century. She is also one of the most accessible of all poets I have read and therefore one of my all-time favorites. Her poems carry that rare fusion of gravity, charming inventiveness, prodigal imagination and stupendous technical dexterity. She is someone who finds extraordinary in the ordinary and possesses that rare ability to transform insignificant and inconsequential things into sublime. She writes of the diversity, plenitude, and richness of the world, taking delight in observing and naming its phenomena. Culture, history, foibles of humanity and the beauty and bounty of natural world are some of the commonly encountered themes in her poetry. She looks on everything with wonder, astonishment, and amusement, but almost never with despair. Her poems sparkle with generous dose of irony and self-effacing humor. May be noting her shy nature and subdued voice in poetry that Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish-born poet who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980, said of her-

    is her best collection of poems, astutely translated by the famous Polish translator pair Clare Cavanagh and the poet Stanislaw Baranczak (who unfortunately passed away in December 2014) . Their combined skills in language and imagination have a synergetic effect resulting in felicitous translation of Wislawa’s poetry.

    Let me begin illustrating the beauty and greatness of her poetry by citing my favorite poem in this collection. The poem is essentially about an offended cat when the owner dies and how this absence of the master affects the cat staying in the apartment.

    Die—you can't do that to a cat.

    Since what can a cat do

    in an empty apartment?

    Climb the walls?

    Rub up against the furniture?

    Nothing seems different here,

    but nothing is the same.

    Nothing has been moved,

    but there's more space.

    And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

    Footsteps on the staircase,

    but they're new ones.

    The hand that puts fish on the saucer

    has changed, too.

    Something doesn't start

    at its usual time.

    Something doesn't happen

    as it should.

    Someone was always, always here,

    then suddenly disappeared

    and stubbornly stays disappeared.

    Every closet has been examined.

    Every shelf has been explored.

    Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.

    A commandment was even broken,

    papers scattered everywhere.

    What remains to be done.

    Just sleep and wait.

    Just wait till he turns up,

    just let him show his face.

    Will he ever get a lesson

    on what not to do to a cat.

    Sidle toward him

    as if unwilling

    and ever so slow

    on visibly offended paws,

    and no leaps or squeals at least to start.

    How beautifully the increase in ‘space’ and ‘emptiness’ is perceived sensitively by the cat when the master "stubbornly stays disappeared"! The lamentation reserved for humans has been permitted to a cat. But the cat cannot articulate its feelings, nor can it hold a dialogue with the dead, or even less, ask questions about them and that explains the absence of "I" in the musings of the cat. The cat is not even aware of the death and its rituals. It is only aware of the sudden emptiness. This is a heartbreaking poem, to say the least.

    Moving away from such a somber poem, let us consider the brilliant poem

    which is virtually a rhapsody of all poetic pyrotechnics. Birthday laments humans' limited capacity to take in the abundance and beauty of nature, given the brevity of human existence when measured against the vastness of cosmic time. there cannot be a more beautiful poem about the bewilderments of the world than this one.

    So much world all at once – how it rustles and bustles!

    Moraines and morays and morasses and mussels,

    the flame, the flamingo, the flounder, the feather –

    how to line them all up, how to put them together?

    All the thickets and crickets and creepers and creeks!

    The beeches and leeches alone could take weeks.

    Chinchillas, gorillas, and sarsaparillas –

    Thanks do much, but all this excess of kindness could kill us.

    Where’s the jar for this burgeoning burdock, brooks’ babble,

    rooks’ squabble, snakes’ squiggle, abundance, and trouble?

    How to plug up the gold mines and pin down the fox,

    How to cope with the lynx, bobolinks, streptococs!

    Take dioxide: a lightweight, but mighty in deeds:

    what about octopodes, what about centipedes?

    I could look into prices, but don’t have the nerve:

    These are products I just can’t afford, don’t deserve.

    Isn’t sunset a little too much for two eyes

    that, who knows, may not open to see the sun rise?

    I am just passing through, it’s a five-minute stop.

    I won’t catch what is distant: what’s too close, I’ll mix up.

    While trying to plumb what the void's inner sense is,

    I'm bound to pass by all these poppies and pansies.

    What a loss when you think how much effort was spent

    perfecting this petal, this pistil, this scent

    for the one-time appearance, which is all they're allowed,

    so aloofly precise and so fragilely proud.

    More than half of the poem is sculpted as a fun poem with its very interesting comic meter and rhythm and you wonder what it is all about till the very end. And you are visibly moved when you finish it.

    is so full of exuberance, so full of the gifts of God's bounty, so full of happy gaiety, so full of marvel, that it is natural for the poem to be a hearty outburst in its lyrical note and the alliterative use of language. One picture after another comes gushing forth in a stream of unrestrained thoughts. The birthday is not of one individual but the series of collective births that take place on the earth - "so much world all at once!”. The reader feels likes blurting out in exclamation-What a tremendously hectic schedule for this 5 minutes called life!

    Let us look at another one that shows her wit, keen observation and inventiveness. The whole poem is fully made up of a series of phrases snatched from the conversations that take place among the attendees of a funeral. The initial conversation will of course be about the death of the person and the speculations on the causative factors.

    from

    "so suddenly, who could have seen it coming"

    "stress and smoking, I kept telling him"

    "not bad, thanks, and you"

    "these flowers need to be unwrapped"

    "his brother's heart gave out, too, it runs in the family"

    "I'd never know you in the beard"

    "he was asking for it, always mixed up in something"

    But life shortly takes over and the lines have more and more to do with the survivors' quite undramatic, not to say banal, everyday lives and worries which may range from cricket or football to politics, stock market , you name it.

    "you were smart, you brought the only umbrella" […]

    “Of course, he was right , but that’s no excuse”

    "two egg yolks and a tablespoon of sugar"

    "none of his business, what was in it for him"

    "only in blue and just small sizes" […]

    "give my best to the widow, I've got to run" […]

    "give me a call"

    "which bus goes downtown"

    "I'm going this way"

    "we're not"

    Szymborska is an ironist. But in her work, irony becomes playful, almost whimsical. She thinks of the poet as an acrobat who moves, as she puts it, with "laborious ease, with patient agility, with calculated inspiration." Szymborska's poems generally focus on everyday subjects or situations, and her tone stays firmly in the middle ground. She doesn't rant; she calmly assesses. She's a poet of dry-eyed, athletic precision: an acrobat, as she says, not a powerlifter. Let me illustrate it with another lovely poem in this collection that is fun to read.

    My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.

    My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.

    Please, don’t be angry, happiness that I take you as my due.

    May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.

    My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.

    My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.

    Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.

    Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.

    I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.

    I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.

    Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.

    Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.

    And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,

    your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,

    forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.

    My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.

    My apologies to great questions for small answers.

    Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.

    Dignity, please be magnanimous.

    Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.

    Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.

    My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.

    My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man.

    I know I won’t be justified as long as I live,

    since I myself stand in my own way.

    Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,

    then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

    As the poem progresses the speaker keeps shifting from one category to another. She begs forgiveness from inanimate objects and even concepts, then from places and from group of people-everything is anthropomorphized. She herself feels unequal to the world’s sufferings and fears that by narrowing her focus on the world to make it manageable, she has trivialized it. But all viewpoints are incomplete, all efforts inadequate. We see the lyrical driving the logical in this poem. The loveliness of the words is staunchly supported by their meaning. Beauty alone is laudable but beauty combined with truth make it dazzling. Aspects such as natural utilitarian desire, guilt and despair and uncommon insight tinged with humor mesh so well in this verse.

    The poem’s conclusion itself is another poetic endorsement.

    “Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,

    then labor heavily so that they may seem light.”

    The light she makes is a sort of moral illumination, shining back from details onto the inner lives of her readers. I think the author is showing (among other things) that she feels no guilt in finding joy in a world of pain.

    Finally, the title "Under One Small Star," confesses that the poet comes from a place of relative insignificance and hers specific life, small but curiously infinite existence, has an importance of its own. She is aware of what she is. She is a part of it. She is a witness. She feels her impact and simultaneously, her lack of impact. We know how she feels. don't we?

    I wish to conclude my illustration of poems with one endearing poem written in a different style but imbued with deep humanism and understanding , avoiding the traps of self-pity or grandiloquence .

    My sister doesn’t write poems.

    and it’s unlikely that she’ll suddenly start writing poems.

    She takes after her mother, who didn’t write poems,

    and also her father, who likewise didn’t write poems.

    I feel safe beneath my sister’s roof:

    my sister’s husband would rather die than write poems.

    And, even though this is starting to sound as repetitive as

    Peter Piper,

    the truth is, none of my relatives write poems.

    My sister’s desk drawers don’t hold old poems,

    and her handbag doesn’t hold new ones,

    When my sister asks me over for lunch,

    I know she doesn’t want to read me her poems.

    Her soups are delicious without ulterior motives.

    Her coffee doesn’t spill on manuscripts.

    There are many families in which nobody writes poems,

    but once it starts up it’s hard to quarantine.

    Sometimes poetry cascades down through the generations,

    creating fatal whirlpools where family love may founder.

    My sister has tackled oral prose with some success.

    but her entire written opus consists of postcards from

    vacations

    whose text is only the same promise every year:

    when she gets back, she’ll have

    so much

    much

    much to tell.

    Perhaps the last words on her poetry could be her own typical personalized and ironic comment on life:

    Life, however long, will always be short.

    Too short for anything to be added.

    (from

    )

    Wislawa Szymborska is a poet who steals the hearts of all those who love poetry. Her radiant optimism , conversational and playful approach to poetry, effortless transformation of weighty into weightless, celebration of joy of existence, unpretentious meditations on life and death , alacrity to meld beings and non-beings into the cosmic fabric and above all the universal appeal of her poems are what makes her one of the most endearing poets of all ages.

  • Hadrian

    Here I am, Cassandra.

    And this is my city under ashes.

    And these are my prophet's staff and ribbons.

    And this is my head full of doubts.

    It's true, I am triumphant.

    My prophetic words burn like fire in the sky.

    Only unacknowledged prophets

    are privy to such prospects.

    Only those who got off on the wrong foot,

    whose predictions turned to fact so quickly--

    it's as if they'd never lived.

    I remember it so clearly--

    how people, seeing me, would break off in mid-word.

    Laughter died.

    Lovers' han

    Here I am, Cassandra.

    And this is my city under ashes.

    And these are my prophet's staff and ribbons.

    And this is my head full of doubts.

    It's true, I am triumphant.

    My prophetic words burn like fire in the sky.

    Only unacknowledged prophets

    are privy to such prospects.

    Only those who got off on the wrong foot,

    whose predictions turned to fact so quickly--

    it's as if they'd never lived.

    I remember it so clearly--

    how people, seeing me, would break off in mid-word.

    Laughter died.

    Lovers' hands unclasped.

    Children ran to their mothers.

    I didn't even know their short-lived names.

    And that song about a little green leaf

    no one ever finished it near me.

    I loved them.

    But I loved them haughtily.

    From heights beyond life.

    From the future. Where it's always empty

    and nothing is easier than seeing death.

    I'm sorry that my voice was hard.

    Look down on yourselves from the stars, I cred,

    look down on yourselves from the stars.

    They heard me and lowered their eyes.

    They lived within life.

    Pierced by that great wind.

    Condemned.

    Trapped from birth in departing bodies.

    But in them they bore a moist hope,

    a flame fueled by its own flickering.

    They really knew what a moment means,

    oh any moment, any one at all

    before--

    It turns out I was right.

    But nothing has come of it.

    And this is my robe, slightly singed.

    And this is my prophet's junk.

    And this is my twisted face.

    A face that didn't know it could be beautiful.

    So these are the Himalayas.

    Mountains racing to the moon.

    The moment of their start recorded

    on the startling, ripped canvas of the sky.

    Holes punched in a desert of clouds.

    Thrust into nothing.

    Echo-a white mute.

    Quiet.

    Yeti, down there we've got Wednesday,

    bread and alphabets.

    Two times two is four.

    Roses are red there,

    and violets are blue.

    Yeti, crime is not all

    we're up to down there.

    Yeti, not every sentence there

    means death.

    We've inherited hope--

    the gift of forgetting.

    You'll see how we give

    birth among the ruins.

    Yeti, we've got Shakespeare there.

    Yeti, we play solitaire

    and violin. At nightfall,

    we tum lights on, Yeti.

    Up here it's neither moon nor earth.

    Tears freeze.

    Oh Yeti, semi-moonman,

    turn back, think again!

    I called this to the Yeti

    inside four walls of avalanche,

    stomping my feet for warmth

    on the everlasting

    snow.

  • Lisa

    Nobel poetry! This got under my skin!

    I think I owe it partly to this collection that I started loving modern poetry and sharing this love with the next generation.

    I remember a class when we read Szymborska's "Some Like Poetry". We took it apart, and wrote our own poems following the same idea and pattern. One student looked at me and said:

    "But this doesn't have anything to do with Humanities!"

    I remember being worried about this. Why could poetry not express the questions taught in Humanities? So

    Nobel poetry! This got under my skin!

    I think I owe it partly to this collection that I started loving modern poetry and sharing this love with the next generation.

    I remember a class when we read Szymborska's "Some Like Poetry". We took it apart, and wrote our own poems following the same idea and pattern. One student looked at me and said:

    "But this doesn't have anything to do with Humanities!"

    I remember being worried about this. Why could poetry not express the questions taught in Humanities? So I brought this small collection to class, and we read Szymborska's poem from 1956, titled "Two Monkeys by Brueghel":

    I keep dreaming of my graduation exam:

    in a window sit two chained monkeys,

    beyond the window floats the sky,

    and the sea splashes.

    I am taking an exam on the history of mankind:

    I stammer and flounder.

    One monkey, eyes fixed upon me, listens ironically,

    the other seems to be dozing--

    and when silence follows a question,

    he prompts me

    with a soft jingling of the chain.

    After looking at Breughel's sad and beautiful painting, talking about the situation in Szymborska's home country in 1956, and analysing the different attitudes the two monkeys display, we all sat quiet for a moment, taking in the message from all those different perspectives.

    We realised that it was easy to identify with the sarcastic monkey who was staring at the world, thinking it was not worth the effort to care. But all agreed that the other one, seemingly dozing, but then gently jingling his chain, loved mankind more, and had secret hopes for a different future. Otherwise he would not help out!

    Ever since then, when I try to find my way through the maze of contemporary politics, I imagine being like the monkey prompting students with that soft jingling of the chain, reminding them of the course of history, that we are studying in the hope of one day making this world a better place. We cannot get rid of the chains of the past, but we can be better at passing the exam of the history of mankind in the future. And by passing that exam, we are less likely to repeat mistakes.

    I can't imagine anything more powerful than the combination of Breughel's art and Szymborska's verse to make the chain of history come alive. The only other poet I have experienced in the same way is her fellow Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, whose

    left a similar mark on me. When history is made tangible through the medium of poetry, it gets under your skin. Through its language and art it reaches you on an emotional level and enhances the factual, historical knowledge. From year to year, I have expanded the integration of poetry into my history units, and there is no end to the possibilities, once the initial hesitancy to "mix English and Humanities" is overcome. The chain is also a link. Heaney taught me that!

    The way Szymborska's short, prosaic poems analyse her time and place in history and yet remain part of a universal, human quest for truth is simply breath-taking.

    Love it! I'll jingle the chain to remind you all of this gem!

  • Cheryl

    When I'm half asleep, I'm awakened by poetry, this form which gives me life, gives me meaning, in only a few words. When I want to see lucidity, to feel the fabric of a thought, poetry aids me. And when I really think about it, poetry is the art form that first gave me words--simple lyricism-- when, as a kid, I thumbed through hymnals I was supposed to carefully stack for my mother's singing group.

    When I'm half asleep, I'm awakened by poetry, this form which gives me life, gives me meaning, in only a few words. When I want to see lucidity, to feel the fabric of a thought, poetry aids me. And when I really think about it, poetry is the art form that first gave me words--simple lyricism-- when, as a kid, I thumbed through hymnals I was supposed to carefully stack for my mother's singing group.

    Tonight, I revisit verse through Szymborska, she whose poem, "Under One Small Star," I've discussed with my students. The simple rhetorical strategy her verse employs, this easy flow and sensual rhythm of words, reaches a reader where she is, and immediately dissects each unspoken thought, seemingly suggesting a fix for each undefined idea.

    (From

    )

    Refinement encapsulated. Serenity restored. Life exemplified.

    Call it vague or enigmatic; call it strange or challenging; call it trickery. To me, poetry is meaning pulled neatly into lines. Szymborska's poems tend to drift from the mundane to the complex, yet never without layered examination of the world, or of self. This is a reread for me, but when I pulled the copy off my shelf and opened the pages, it spoke so tenderly, I had to write this review.

    (From "The Joy of Writing")

  • Aubrey

    Much of what we lose in translation is the art of mystification. Some works circumvent with footnotes, end notes, even an odd completely separate 'guide' and more commonly hashed around Wiki pages for purposes of filling in the much voiding blank, but there's still the matter of whether you're a native speaker of the translated from, the translated to, or neither. Reading my one-trick-pony English translated from Polish, I can't latch on to a rhyme, a particular beat of metaphor, a singular refr

    Much of what we lose in translation is the art of mystification. Some works circumvent with footnotes, end notes, even an odd completely separate 'guide' and more commonly hashed around Wiki pages for purposes of filling in the much voiding blank, but there's still the matter of whether you're a native speaker of the translated from, the translated to, or neither. Reading my one-trick-pony English translated from Polish, I can't latch on to a rhyme, a particular beat of metaphor, a singular refrain of vowelized and consonated communication for purposes of distraction. What I have is the translator's sense of rhyme, the translator's sense of metaphor, the translator's sense of communication, all boiling down to a crucible of meaning. True, this work has two for hopefully more effective tag team, and I would like to think that somewhere along the line Szymborska herself was consulted (this was published the year before she won the Nobel for Lit, but from what I've heard she was big enough in her home country for prestige's sake), but the fact of the matter is that I loved and loved until the moment I didn't. It's instances like those that make me wish I could comprehend the far more contextualized original.

    This desire doesn't happen often, mind you. I've read far too many critiques that go along the lines of "Well the bigotry's unfortunate and the forcing the reader to empathize with sadistic pigs is a shame but you gotta admit the prose is a beaut" to hold language supreme over all else. It'd be different if linguists in my particular Anglo side of the world didn't feel the need to shit all over anything that wasn't "proper", inheriting their eugenics sentiment (the role of a biologist is to map out, not to pick and choose) from a long line of misogynistic, classist, and racist enforcement of The English that is The Proper and The Absolute, but there you go. What a relief, then, Szymborska's

    , a parcel taken from her "Discovery" that I will cradle to my tomb. What a shame, then, that this inherent morality is so glazed over later on that it never resurfaces again. Political, perhaps, but the Nobel Prize is a very political thing, which language is used and read and translate is a very political thing, and morality, in these days where it's your money or your life, is you tell me.

    The interesting thing about reading an anthology with the decades of successive works clearly labeled is how implicitly it draws temporal psychology and personal development into the mix. It makes the appeal of bibilo-completionism more understandable, for better than an outsider bio or a self-corrected autobio is the development of the creative work in response to the holism of stimuli. This collection of poems may span from 1957 to 1993, but all the poems of my preference are pre '76, the death knell of my uncritical enjoyment sounding somewhere in the decade after. What, I must wonder, gives? Cause the transition from chain-yourself-to-the-gates-of-a-nuclear-test-site mentality to the privileged fairyland of

    is a dramatic one.

    It's not only my radical aka "from the root" leanings being miffed, mind you. Poems previous to "Discovery" run along the lines of

    and the delightful metafiction of "The Joy of Writing", a delicate and powerful probing that is never matched by the complacency of later works. The titular piece comes close, but there is far more a feeling of satisfied definition than the awe in all of its forms I am ever in search of when it comes to the written word. Disappointing, yes, but just as there is a diving line between what makes a favorite work and what denotes a favorite author, far more rare than the appealing author is the segment that happens to be of a particular work that happens to be of a particular work that happens to circumscribe a portion of my soul. It makes the evaluation of "worth my time" a difficult one, I'll tell you that much.

    So. Did I like these? Yes. Indeed, I would recommend that parents read them to their children, as the interest in art, science, and the boundaries of existence and its end is the sort too strong to ever be "grown out of". In light of that, the whole of my less than enamored state may be encompassed by the fact that I am no longer a child. My

    may be appeased in future times of unknown compensation, but not now.

  • Viv JM

    I chose this collection for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge task: "Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love". It contains poetry from various collections of Szymborska, spanning the years of 1957 and 1993. I was amazed that this poetry was translated, as it reads as if it were first written in English. It was interesting to see how the poet developed over the years, and how her themes became more serious - a lot of the later poems are related to death or war. Hav

    I chose this collection for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge task: "Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love". It contains poetry from various collections of Szymborska, spanning the years of 1957 and 1993. I was amazed that this poetry was translated, as it reads as if it were first written in English. It was interesting to see how the poet developed over the years, and how her themes became more serious - a lot of the later poems are related to death or war. Having said that, there were plenty of amusing and ironic poems here too.

    This edition contains no biographical information about the author and I do think it would have been nice to have that together with the poetry but, all in all, I would recommend this poetry collection, especially for those completing the Book Riot challenge and who maybe don't read that much poetry (like me!)

  • Jonfaith

    My recent bouts with verse have been belabored, not in terms of complexity or allusion but because, so often, the stanzas were heavy. The weight of history and personal affectation gave each phrase a heft. Imagine how disoriented I was when encountering Szymborska. This collection nearly bursts with a wi

    My recent bouts with verse have been belabored, not in terms of complexity or allusion but because, so often, the stanzas were heavy. The weight of history and personal affectation gave each phrase a heft. Imagine how disoriented I was when encountering Szymborska. This collection nearly bursts with a wild-eyed wonder. There is a freshness to almost every observation. There is a youthful lightness which appears to almost float from one stanza to the next.

    It shouldn't be assumed then that this collection is childish, not without first accepting a subtle weary edge. My favorite line is "My faith is strong, blind and without foundation." That disconnect creates an opening, a fissure of sighs where wonder goes to molt.

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