Wislawa Szymborska, the Mozart of Poetry 1923-2012

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AP Reported last night, the passing of beloved Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner, Wislawa Szymborska –
Poland’s 1996 Nobel Poet Szymborska Dies at 88
By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press – 16 hours ago

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s 1996 Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska, whose simple words and playful verse plucked threads of irony and empathy out of life, has died. She was 88.

Szymborska, a heavy smoker, died in her sleep of lung cancer Wednesday evening at her home in the southern city of Krakow, her personal secretary Michal Rusinek said.

She died surrounded by relatives and friends, said Katarzyna Kolenda-Zaleska, a journalist and a friend of the poet.

The Nobel award committee’s 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.”

Read the rest of the article here.
Lovely obit here.

Poetry under the fold.

Note on the translator from www.pan.net: Born in Poznan, Poland, Joanna Trzeciak currently teaches Polish and Russian at the University of Chicago, where she is a graduate student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Ms. Trzeciak has been Wislawa Szymborska’s authorized translator since 1989 , and her translations have appeared in the New Yorker and The New York Times. Other translation projects include the short stories of Stanislaw Lem and a novel by Tomek Tryzna. When not busy translating, studying, or preparing dissertations, Ms.Trzeciak enjoys loosing herself into visualizations of her vivid thoughts.

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Again we’ll need bridges
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
Someone listens
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.

From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
rust-eaten arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown
reasons and causes,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Cat In An Empty Apartment

Dying–you wouldn’t do that to a cat.
For what is a cat to do
in an empty apartment?
Climb up the walls?
Brush up against the furniture?
Nothing here seems changed,
and yet something has changed.
Nothing has been moved,
and yet there’s more room.
And in the evenings the lamp is not on.

One hears footsteps on the stairs,
but they’re not the same.
Neither is the hand
that puts a fish on the plate.

Something here isn’t starting
at its usual time.
Something here isn’t happening
as it should.
Somebody has been here and has been,
and then has suddenly disappeared
and now is stubbornly absent.

All the closets have been scanned
and all the shelves run through.
Slipping under the carpet and checking came to nothing.
The rule has even been broken and all the papers scattered.
What else is there to do?
Sleep and wait.

Just let him come back,
let him show up.
Then he’ll find out
that you don’t do that to a cat.
Going toward him
faking reluctance,
slowly,
on very offended paws.
And no jumping, purring at first.

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