Wislawa Szymborska was born in Kornik in Western Poland on 2 July 1923. Since 1931 she has been living in Krakow, where during 1945-1948 she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at the Jagiellonian University. Szymborska made her début in March 1945 with a poem “Szukam slowa” (I am Looking for a Word) in the daily “Dziennik Polski”.
During 1953-1981 she worked as poetry editor and columnist in the Kraków literary weekly “Zycie Literackie” where the series of her essays “Lektury nadobowiazkowe” appeared (the series has been renewed lately in the addition to “Gazeta Wyborcza”-“Gazeta o Ksiazkach”). The collection “Lektury nadobowiazkowe” was published in the form of a book four times.
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) . Wislawa 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.
Wislawa Szymborska is the Goethe Prize winner (1991) and Herder Prize winner (1995). She has a degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters of Poznan University (1995). In 1996 she received the Polish PEN Club prize.
Biography from: nobelprize.org
One Of Her Poems:
Some Like Poetry by Wislawa Szymborska
Write it. Write. In ordinary ink
on ordinary paper: they were given no food,
they all died of hunger. “All. How many?
It’s a big meadow. How much grass
for each one?” Write: I don’t know.
History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read,
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody’s place in the line.
We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.
On a spit of barbed wire,
a man was turning.
They sang with their mouths full of earth.
“A lovely song of how war strikes straight
at the heart.” Write: how silent.
“Both plain-spoken and luminous . . . [Szymborska’s] is the best of the Western mind—free, restless, questioning.” — New York Times Book Review
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
“Vast, intimate, and charged with the warmth of a life fully imagined to the end. There’s no better place for those unfamiliar with her work to begin.”
One of Europe’s greatest poets is also its wisest, wittiest, and most accessible. Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska draws us in with her unexpected, unassuming humor. “If you want the world in a nutshell,” a Polish critic remarked, “try Szymborska.” But the world held in these lapidary poems is larger than the one we thought we knew.
Edited by her longtime, award-winning translator, Clare Cavanagh, Map traces Szymborska’s work until her death in 2012. Of the approximately two hundred fifty poems included here, nearly forty are newly translated; thirteen represent the entirety of the poet’s last Polish collection, Enough, never before published in English. Map offers Szymborska’s devoted readers a welcome return to her “ironic elegance” (TheNew Yorker).
“Her poems offer a restorative wit as playful as it is steely and as humble as it is wise . . . Her wry acceptance of life’s folly remain[s] her strongest weapon against tyranny and bad taste.”
— Los Angeles Times Book Review
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