"There is an easy charm to Szymborska's small but expansive poems." -Los Angeles Times
Hereby Wislawa Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh, Stanislaw Baranczak
These twenty-seven poems consider life on earth, from the microbe to the apocalypse. Along the way they take in, among other objects of study, the human teenager, divorce, Ella Fitzgerald, Vermeer’s Milkmaid, dreams, traffic accidents, Greek statues, television miniseries, the vagaries of memory, Madame Atropos, and even poetry writing. A book to treasure,
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These twenty-seven poems consider life on earth, from the microbe to the apocalypse. Along the way they take in, among other objects of study, the human teenager, divorce, Ella Fitzgerald, Vermeer’s Milkmaid, dreams, traffic accidents, Greek statues, television miniseries, the vagaries of memory, Madame Atropos, and even poetry writing. A book to treasure, from a virtuoso of form, line, and thought.
PRAISE FOR WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA
“Accessible and deeply human . . . A poet to live with.” —Robert Hass
“She teaches us how the world defies and evades the names we give it.” —Edward Hirsch
“A subtle, even a subversive muse of vulnerability and a great European poet.” —Richard Howard
"Satisfying and original . . . Extremely smart, witty, and levelheaded, [Szymborska] seduces us with her wide range of interests, her atypical lack of narcissism for a poet, and her cheerful pessimism." —Charles Simic
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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- 7.90(w) x 5.00(h) x 0.30(d)
Read an Excerpt
I can't speak for elsewhere,
but here on Earth we've got a fair supply of everything.
Here we manufacture chairs and sorrows,
scissors, tenderness, transistors, violins,
teacups, dams, and quips.
There may be more of everything elsewhere,
but for reasons left unspecified they lack paintings,
picture tubes, pierogies, handkerchiefs for tears.
Here we have countless places with vicinities.
You may take a liking to some,
give them pet names,
protect them from harm.
There may be comparable places elsewhere,
but no one thinks they're beautiful.
Like nowhere else, or almost nowhere,
you're given your own torso here,
equipped with the accessories required for adding your own children to the rest.
Not to mention arms, legs, and astounded head.
Ignorance works overtime here,
something is always being counted, compared, measured,
from which roots and conclusions are then drawn.
I know, I know what you're thinking.
Nothing here can last,
since from and to time immemorial the elements hold sway.
But see, even the elements grow weary and sometimes take extended breaks before starting up again.
And I know what you're thinking next.
Wars, wars, wars.
But there are pauses in between them too.
Attention! — people are evil.
At ease — people are good.
At attention wastelands are created.
At ease houses are constructed in the sweat of brows,
and quickly inhabited.
Life on Earth is quite a bargain.
Dreams, for one, don't charge admission.
Illusions are costly only when lost.
The body has its own installment plan.
And as an extra, added feature,
you spin on the planets' carousel for free,
and with it you hitch a ride on the intergalactic blizzard,
with times so dizzying that nothing here on Earth can even tremble.
Just take a closer look:
the table stands exactly where it stood,
the piece of paper still lies where it was spread,
through the open window comes a breath of air,
the walls reveal no terrifying cracks through which nowhere might extinguish you.
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Meet the Author
WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA (1923 - 2012) was born in Poland and worked as a poetry editor, translator and columnist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996.
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Szymborska views life through her own spectacles and creates juxtapositions that we wouldn't normally see. I guess that is what is so profound in her writings. This book is no exception. She takes us on a ride to places we wouldn't dream of going, and always brings us home safely. I am inspired by her words, by her tongue in cheek humor, by her pointing out the ridiculous in modern life. I am especially fond of the poem "Teenager," in which she addresses herself as a teen looking up at the rest of her life from her current perspective near the end of it. She is a treasure that everyone can enjoy!
The sample doesn't even get through the Table of Contents! It would have been nice to be able to read at least a sample of one of her poems! I'm only rating three stars, because I've not been able to read anything and I am only barely familiar with her work.
The what now?