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Thursday, 14 February 2013

POET OF THE MONTH #3: Wislawa Szymborska

WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA





A FEW WORDS ON THE SOUL


We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.



Translated by 
STANISLAW BARANCZAK and CLARE CAVANAGH



 
The Poet:  When asked why she 'only' managed to publish 350 poems during her long and distinguished career, Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska answered 'I have a trash can in my home.'  Nevertheless, she remains one of the most popular Polish writers of all time –– a popularity which remains undiminished by her death, at the age of eighty-eight, on 1 February 2012.  Also a journalist, reviewer, book illustrator, translator and former railroad worker who resigned from her country's ruling Communist Party in 1966, Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 and was awarded the Order of the White Eagle– Poland's highest civilian and military honour –– in 2011.  Her work has been translated into numerous languages including German, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Arabic and English.  Her poem Love at First Sight was the inspiration for Red, the final part of Kryzsztof Kieslowski's famous Three Colours film trilogy.  More recently, her work served as the inspiration for a 2013 double album titled Wislawa released by highly acclaimed Polish jazz trumpeter/composer Tomasz Stanko and his New York Quartet.

 
Click HERE to read more poems by WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA on the website Info-Poland maintained by the University of Buffalo.  You can also click HERE to read a more extensive selection of her poems on the poetry site Poemhunter.com.  

You might also enjoy:
POET OF THE MONTH #7: Esther Granek 
POET OF THE MONTH #9: Julian Tuwim 
POET OF THE MONTH #20: Anna Swirszczynska

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