Wislawa Szymborska:The Mozart of Poetry

  

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Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel-prize winning Polish poet, dies at 88. Poland's Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska, whose simple words and playful verse plucked threads of irony and empathy out of life, died at 88 on February 1, 2012.

The Nobel award committee's 1996 citation called her the "Mozart of poetry," a woman who mixed the elegance of language with "the fury of Beethoven" and tackled serious subjects with humor. While she was arguably the most popular poet in Poland, most of the world had not heard of the shy, soft-spoken Szymborska before she won the Nobel prize.

She has been called both deeply political and playful, a poet who used humor in unforeseen ways. Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observation to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images - an onion, a cat wandering in an empty apartment, an old fan in a museum - to reflect on grand topics such as love, death and passing time.

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said on Twitter that her death was an "irreparable loss to Poland's culture."

Last year, President Bronislaw Komorowski honored Szymborska with Poland's highest distinction, The Order of the White Eagle, in recognition of her contribution to her country's culture.

In reaction to her death, Komorowski wrote that "for decades she infused Poles with optimism and with trust in the power of beauty and the might of the word."

Szymborska was our "guardian spirit," Komorowski wrote. "In her poems we could find brilliant advice which made the world easier to understand."

Rusinek (secretary) said on TVN24 that as long as her condition allowed, Szymborska was working on new poems, but she had not had time to arrange them in order for a new book, which she had intended. The book will be published this year, he said.

The Nobel Prize brought a "revolution" into the life of the modest poet and she had to struggle to protect her privacy, Rusinek said, but the prize also was a "great joy, a great honor which brought new friendships and changes for the better." Despite six decades of writing, Szymborska had less than 400 poems published.

Asked why, she once said: "There is a trash bin in my room. A poem written in the evening is read again in the morning. It does not always survive."

Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski said in a statement that Szymborska was candid, authentic and hostile to any form of celebrity.

"She had understanding for others, she understood the weaknesses of others and had huge tolerance for them," the statement said. "On the other hand, she expected to have a modest place for herself."

Adapted from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/9055887/Wislawa-Szymborska-Nobel-prize-winning-Polish-poet-dies-at-88.html

 

Hatred

Look, how constantly capable
and how well maintained
in our century: hatred.
How lightly she regards high impediments.
How easily she leaps and overtakes.

She's not like other feelings.
She's both older and younger than they.
She herself gives birth to causes
which awaken her to life.
If she ever dozes, it's not an eternal sleep.
Insomnia does not sap her strength, but adds to it.

Religion or no religion,
as long as one kneels at the starting-block.
Fatherland or no fatherland,
as long as one tears off at the start.
She begins as fairness and equityt.
Then she propels herself.
Hatred. Hatred.
She veils her face with a mien
of romantic ecstasy.

Oh, the other feelings --
decrepit and sluggish.
Since when could that brotherhood
count on crowds?
Did ever empathy
urge on toward the goal?
How many clients did doubt abduct?
Only she abducts who knows her own.

Talented, intelligent, very industrious.
Do we need to say how many songs she has written.
How many pages of history she has numbered.
How many carpets of people she has spread out
over how many squares and stadiums!

Let's not lie to ourselves:
She's capable of creating beauty.
Wonderful is her aura on a black night.
Magnificent cloud masses at rosy dawn.
It's difficult to deny her pathos of ruins
and her coarse humor
mightily towering above them columns.

She's the mistress of contrast
between clatter and silence,
between red blood and white snow.
And above all she never tires of
the motif of the tidy hangman
above the defiled victim.

She's ready for new tasks at any moment.
If she must wait she'll wait.
She said she was blind. Blind?
She has the keen eyes of a sniper
and boldly looks into the future
--she alone.




-translated by Walter Whipple