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Wisława Szymborska died.


JonnyM 11 | 2,621
1 Feb 2012 #1
Wisława Szymborska died this evening aged 89. She was a great poet - probably the greatest Polish poet of modern times. And a Nobel laureate too. She wrote some wonderful poems which are very worth reading.

Die? One does not do that to a cat.
Because what's a cat to do
in an empty apartment?

Umrzeć - tego się nie robi kotu.
Bo co ma począć kot
w pustym mieszkaniu.
ReservoirDog - | 132
1 Feb 2012 #2
"Nothing twice"

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.
...

Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,163
1 Feb 2012 #3
She wrote some wonderful poems which are very worth reading.

Also this one I heard: "Niech żyje nam towarzysz Stalin, co usta słodsze ma od malin".
OP JonnyM 11 | 2,621
1 Feb 2012 #4
"Niech żyje nam towarzysz Stalin, co usta słodsze ma od malin".

Excellent. This is one of her best ones.

"So suddenly, who could have seen it coming"

"stress and smoking, I kept telling him"

"not bad, thanks, and you"

"these flowers need to be unwrapped"

"his brother's heart gave out too, it runs in the family"

"I'd never know you in that beard"

"he was asking for it, always mixed up in something"

"that new guy was going to make a speech, I don't see him"

"Kazek's in Warsaw, Tadek's gone abroad"

"you were smart, you brought the only umbrella"

"so what if he was more talented than them"

Some details in this poem suggest the setting of this poem to be Kraków's oldest cemetery, Cmentarz Rakowicki (picture above), where some of Poland's major artists and politicians are buried. This is why the casual conversations in the back rows of the funeral crowd contrast with the solemnity of the place as well as of the occasion.

"no, it's a walk-through room, Barbara won't take it"

"of course he was right, but that's no excuse"

"with bodywork and paint, just guess how much"

At this point, the friends of the deceased are discussing the future assignment of the deceased's room in a shared apartment - one of the more common nightmares of living under communism, the many shortages of which included that of housing.

"two egg yolks and a tablespoon of sugar"

"none of his business, what was in it for him"

"only in blue and just small sizes"

"five times and never any answer"

"all right, so I could have, but you could have too"

"good thing that at least she still has a job"

"don't know, relatives, I guess"

A traditional cure for the sore throat.

"that priest looks just like Belmondo"

"I've never been in this part of the grounds"

"I dreamed about him last week, I had a feeling"

"his daughter's not bad looking"

"the way of all flesh"

"give my best to the widow, I've got to run"

Jean-Paul Belmondo, actor, 1960's/70's male sex symbol of the French cinema.

"it all sounded so much more solemn in Latin"

"what's gone is gone"

"good-bye"

"I could sure use a drink"

"give me a call"

"which bus goes downtown"

"I'm going this way"

"we re not"

Kraków, 1986
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,163
1 Feb 2012 #5
Excellent. This is one of her best ones.

"Lenin" is also good.
OP JonnyM 11 | 2,621
1 Feb 2012 #6
Yes, though I prefer her later works.

'The Three Oddest Words'

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing.
I make something no nonbeing can hold.
gumishu 11 | 5,017
1 Feb 2012 #7
Die? One does not do that to a cat.

I don't know about you people but I find such rhymeless poetry very depressing (not to mention that the mood of this particular bit is not allegro either)
mafketis 21 | 7,383
5 Feb 2012 #8
And now some PiS MP's are complaining that her poetry wasn't simple mindedly patriotic enough....

"her work doesn't remind me of Polish willow trees..."
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,444
5 Feb 2012 #9
And now some PiS MP's are complaining that her poetry wasn't simple mindedly patriotic enough....

thank God it wasn't.
gumishu 11 | 5,017
5 Feb 2012 #10
"her work doesn't remind me of Polish willow trees..."

I don't really know Szymborska's poetry - bits like JohnnyM posted are hardly poetry for me - no rhyme no rythm simplistic language not much of any depth - I know she also wrote in rhyme and this bits are much better (like the one ReservoirDog posted)
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,444
5 Feb 2012 #11
not much of any depth

I see. So she got the Nobel prize for nothing then in your opinion.
gumishu 11 | 5,017
5 Feb 2012 #12
I have no idea - as I said I don't really know her poetry - but look at this 'cat bit' for example - is it poetry? - what's so extraordinary about it? and the tone of it? - not very uplifting, huh?
OP JonnyM 11 | 2,621
5 Feb 2012 #13
It doesn't need to be uplifting to be poetry - or to rhyme. She (and Milosz) were the two greats of late 20th Century poetry in Poland.
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,444
5 Feb 2012 #14
but look at this 'cat bit' for example - is it poetry?

the cat piece is brilliant in my opinion. I read it yeas ago and I was taken by it. It isn't very uplifting because she is talking about death in a non direct way. She had a gift of talking about most painful things in life. It is very difficult to describe poetry or explain it. One either gets it or not:).
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,163
5 Feb 2012 #15
Nobel prize

They are awarded subjectivly and in many cases the decisions were highly criticized...

BTW Szymborska herself was very controversial and that's not surprising given her political views, isn't it ?
gumishu 11 | 5,017
5 Feb 2012 #16
One either gets it or not:).

I don't get it, how do you get poetry? :) - do you suggest I am not getting the point of it?

the 'cat bit' has nothing profound in it for me - it's a just a plain simplistic unconstructive thought written in plain words
modafinil - | 418
5 Feb 2012 #17
the 'cat bit' has nothing profound in it for me - it's a just a plain simplistic unconstructive thought written in plain words

Does it not suggest the loneliness of the old Doris? Living in an empty apartment justifying her continuance for the sake of an animal as independent as a cat?

She may have been a closet Zen Buddhist by the sounds of it
gumishu 11 | 5,017
5 Feb 2012 #18
mhmmm mhmm - and this is profound? - you will find Kora Jackowska lyrics for Maanam much more of poetry than this ('Czekam na wiatr co rozgoni, ciemne skłębione zasłony, Stanę wtedy na raz ze słońcem twarzą w twarz')
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,444
5 Feb 2012 #19
BTW Szymborska herself was very controversial and that's not surprising given her political views, isn't it ?

I think she renounced her communist views in the 60s if I am not mistaken. That gave her 50 years of writing.

They are awarded subjectivly and in many cases the decisions were highly criticized...

I am sure you are right, yet that prize is not given just to anybody, so I am not sure what you are trying to say, or rather asking me. I was NOT there.

I don't get it, how do you get poetry? :) - do you suggest I am not getting the point of it?

Yes, I am suggesting that. That is OK though. I don't get many things either:).

the 'cat bit' has nothing profound in it for me - it's a just a plain simplistic unconstructive thought written in plain words

well, I disagree, but perhaps you are not a cat owner:)
modafinil - | 418
5 Feb 2012 #20
mhmmm mhmm - and this is profound? -

Poetry doesn't have to be profound. In this case just denial in an old coffin dodgers outlook(I don't necessarily mean WS). Rhyme or rhythm will not make it any more profound. Not sure if I have read anything really profound...perhaps Desiderata.
mafketis 21 | 7,383
5 Feb 2012 #21
I can certainly see why some Poles don't care for her work on aesthetic grounds. Polish people tend to think that important ideas have to be cloaked in important sounding (that is, intricate and complex) language. Szymborska was one of the few practicitoners of plain languge in Polish whcih makes a lot of what she did seem 'too simple'. I disagree.

Nothing is harder to combine than true simplicity and real feeling. Szymborska managed it (for me, admittedly not a poetry person) a very high percentage of the time.

The funeral poem is one of my favorites, a snapshot of a moment and dozens of conversations, none about what they're supposedly there for....
pawian 161 | 9,971
5 Feb 2012 #22
"Nothing twice"

Wonderfully rendered in Maanam`s rock song:


gumishu 11 | 5,017
5 Feb 2012 #23
I am a great fan of dramatic or dynamic effect in poetry - plain language will hardly ever create such an effect, neither lack of rythm or rhyme will help in that - if you read poetry like the poem you mention, mafketis, you'll get tired after a page or two - now compare that to say 'Pan Tadeusz' by Mickiewicz
strzyga 2 | 993
5 Feb 2012 #24
"her work doesn't remind me of Polish willow trees..."

yeah. It's made my day. She was quite willowy herself though.

the 'cat bit' has nothing profound in it for me

the quoted bit was just the beginning, here's the full poem (sorry I can't find an English translation)

Umrzeć - tego się nie robi kotu.
Bo co ma począć kot
w pustym mieszkaniu.
Wdrapywać się na ściany.
Ocierać między meblami.
Nic niby tu nie zmienione,
a jednak pozamieniane.
Niby nie przesunięte,
a jednak porozsuwane.
I wieczorami lampa już nie świeci.

....
modafinil - | 418
5 Feb 2012 #25
the quoted bit was just the beginning, here's the full poem (sorry I can't find an English translation)



First in Polish.
From 1.17 in English
delphiandomine 83 | 17,720
5 Feb 2012 #26
They are awarded subjectivly and in many cases the decisions were highly criticized...

Are you sure you're Polish?
Marynka11 4 | 675
5 Feb 2012 #27
They are awarded subjectivly and in many cases the decisions were highly criticized...

The decisions are usually criticized by the one who were hoping to get it, but didn't :)

There is usually more critics though if a woman gets the award, than when a man gets it. And the good old parity discussion kicks in, for example that Szymborska got the award because she was a woman, and her being from Eastern Europe was a plus, Toni Morrison, because is a woman and black, etc...

Here is my favorite poem. I find it looses a lot in the English translation.

Cebula
Co innego cebula.
Ona nie ma wnętrzności.
Jest sobą na wskroś cebula,
do stopnia cebuliczności.
Cebulasta na zewnątrz,
cebulowa do rdzenia,
mogłaby wejrzeć w siebie
cebula bez przerażenia.

...
strzyga 2 | 993
5 Feb 2012 #28
I find it looses a lot in the English translation.

Gains a lot too, in other moments. All in all, it evens out. Great translation. Barańczak and Cavenagh again?
Marynka11 4 | 675
5 Feb 2012 #29
Barańczak and Cavenagh again?

yes

Gains a lot too, in other moments.

Maybe the translation has to grow on me. I've never read the poem in English until today. The Polish feels much smoother to me.
mafketis 21 | 7,383
6 Feb 2012 #30
I am a great fan of dramatic or dynamic effect in poetry - plain language will hardly ever create such an effect

I have no quarrel for those who don't find her work aesthetically appealing (de gustibus and all that). I just find criticisms of the type given by the PiS MP's in question to be .... odd.

They're basically criticising her on political grounds (she didn't adhere to their vision of nationalism) and don't see the irony at all.


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