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    The Polish Nobel Laureates series: Wisława Szymborska

    Wisława Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator, and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was born in Prowent (now part of Kórnik), about 25 kilometers (16 mi) southeast of the city of Poznań. Then, she lived in Kraków until the end of her life. In 1945, she began studying Polish literature before switching to sociology at Jagiellonian University. There, she became involved in the local writing scene and met Czesław Miłosz. Szymborska said once that Miłosz was one of the first people to congratulate her on the Nobel Prize in October 1996. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996 was awarded to Wislawa Szymborska “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.

     Szymborska made her début in March 1945 with a poem “Szukam slowa” (English: “I am Looking for a Word”) in the daily newspaper “Dziennik Polski”. Her poems continued to be published in various newspapers and periodicals for a number of years.

     

    Szymborska has published 16 collections of poetry: Dlatego zyjemy (1952), Pytania zadawane sobie (1954), Wolanie do Yeti (1957), Sól (1962), Wiersze wybrane (1964), Poezje wybrane (1967), Sto pociech (1967), Poezje (1970), Wszelki wypadek (1972), Wybór wierszy (1973), Tarsjusz i inne wiersze (1976), Wielka liczba (1976), Poezje wybrane II (1983), Ludzie na moscie (1986). Koniec i poczatek (1993, 1996), Widok z ziarnkiem piasku. 102 wiersze (1996). Wisława Szymborska has also translated French poetry. Her poems have been translated (and published in book form) in English, German, Swedish, Italian, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and other languages. They have also been published in many foreign anthologies of Polish poetry.

    The Joy of Writing
    and Other Poems
    BY WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA, TRANSLATED BY CLARE CAVANAGH AND STANISŁAW BARAŃCZAK 

    The Joy of Writing

     

    WHY DOES this written doe bound through these written woods?
    For a drink of written water from a spring
    whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
    Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
    Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
    she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
    Silence—this word also rustles across the page
    and parts the boughs
    that have sprouted from the word “woods.”
     

    Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
    are letters up to no good,
    clutches of clauses so subordinate
    they’ll never let her get away.

     

    Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
    of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
    prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
    surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

     

    They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
    Other laws, black on white, obtain.
    The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
    and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
    full of bullets stopped in midflight.
    Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
    Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
    not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

     

    Is there then a world
    where I rule absolutely on fate?
    A time I bind with chains of signs?
    An existence become endless at my bidding?

     

    The joy of writing.
    The power of preserving.
    Revenge of a mortal hand.

    We encourage you to check the rest of the articles regarding the Polish Nobel laureates series:  

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: MARIA SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ALBERT A. MICHELSON

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: WŁADYSŁAW REYMONT

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ISIDOR ISAAC RABI

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: TADEUSZ REICHSTEIN

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ANDRZEJ SCHALLY

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: MENACHEM BEGIN

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: ROALD HOFFMANN

    THE POLISH NOBEL LAUREATES SERIES: JERZY CHARPAK
     

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