Thursday, 19 September 2013

POET OF THE MONTH #9: Julian Tuwim

JULIAN TUWIM and friend, c. 1939


Early Autumn –– such is my season,
Grey-haired morning – the colour of my sight.
Sitting in a café like at a cloudlike height,
I could sit like this till evening crawls in.

Beyond the windows the bustling rank-and-file,
Though I don't know and I can't hear,
As silent in my autumnal smile,
By distant gazing rockingly I disappear.

It's best: to spend the morning in a candy store,
And to see, how the streets walk.
On such mornings one is a lover once more,
Feeling sadder, the turning back of one's biological clock.

From love, from tender reminiscences,
I started my day sleepy and devoid,
From your words, written not to me but under other pretenses,
I compose a poem on lips that are overjoyed.

And all this together is a melody,
And this melody's moments are delight,
As a foreign woman in a checked chemise,
Mellifluously, orders a “shockolet lite”.

What a frail and ashen lass!
How little of us there is in the world!  How little!
And of what perfumes she smells!
And what a poet! Alas


Translated by PACZE MOJ

The Poet:  Julian Tuwim –– the name 'Tuwim' is a derivative of the Hebrew word for 'Good' – was born in the Polish city of Lodz on 13 September 1894.  He studied law and philosophy at Warsaw University and in 1919 co-founded the poetry group known as 'Skamander' which dedicated itself to the task of creating literature consciously inspired by the lives and experiences of so-called 'ordinary' people.  

Tuwim's work celebrated the life of the streets and included many examples of slang and swearing – a radical departure from what was deemed to be the officially acceptable style of Polish literature at the time.  In addition to publishing many volumes of poetry during the inter-war years, he also wrote songs, children's verse and satirical sketches for a number of Warsaw cabarets and the magazine Szpilki [Pins], earning himself a reputation as a savage wit and the disapproval of many of his countrymen in the process. 

The outbreak of World War Two forced Tuwim to emigrate to France and then to Brazil and finally to New York, where he lived from 1942 until 1946, when he once again returned to Poland.  His brand of fiercely honest satire must not have been appreciated by the country's new Soviet-backed Communist regime because he published very little and played virtually no role in the thriving artistic life of post-war Warsaw prior to his death on 27 December 1953.


Click HERE to read more poems by JULIAN TUWIM published on the website.

You might also enjoy:
POET OF THE MONTH #3: Wislawa Szymborska 
POET OF THE MONTH #20: Anna Swirszczynska
POET OF THE MONTH #27: Adam Zagajewski 

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