Adam Ważyk

Photo by Benedykt Jerzy Dorys

Adam Ważyk

A poem for adults

Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
English translation: Irina Livezeanu


From villages and little towns, they come in carts
to build a foundry and dream out a city,
dig out of the earth a new Eldorado.
With an army of pioneers, a gathered crowd,
they jam in barns, barracks, and hostels,
walk heavily and whistle loudly in the muddy streets:
the great migration, the twisted ambition,
with a string on their necks-the Czestochowa cross,
three floors of swear-words, a feather pillow,
a gallon of vodka, and the lust for girls.
Distrustful soul, torn out of the village soil,
half-awakened and already half-mad,
in words silent, but singing, singing songs,
the huge mob, pushed suddenly
out of medieval darkness: un-human Poland,
howling with boredom on December nights....
In garbage baskets and on hanging ropes,
boys fly like cats on night walls,
girls' hostels, the secular nunneries,
burst with rutting--And then the "Duchesses"
ditch the foetus--the Vistula flows here....
The great migration building industry,
unknown to Poland, but known to history,

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fed with big empty words, and living
wildly from day to day despite the preachers,
in coal gas and in slow, continuous suffering,
the working class is shaped out of it.
There is a lot of refuse. So far, there are Frits.


This also happens: a brown cloud of smoke
rises above the mine that's been set afire,
the shaft's been cut off, the subterranean suffering
never will be told, the dark shaft now a coffin,
the saboteur has blood and bones and hands,
one hundred families cry, two hundred,
they write in papers or they do not write,
and only broken smoke stays in the air.


At a railway station
Miss Jadzia's at the counter,
she's so nice when she yawns,
she's so nice when she pours...
You'll be poisoned here for sure,
Miss Jadzia'll pull off your boots,
she's so nice when she yawns,
she's so nice when she pours....
Do not go, my boy, to Nowa Huta
or you'll be poisoned on the way,
take warning from the treacherous poster
and the national fish in your stomach....
English translation: Irina Livezeanu

Adam Ważyk

(1905-1982) poet, prose writer, essayist.
In the 1920s, he was connected with the Krakow avant-garde and co-edited the Almanach Nowej Sztuki magazine. He published then two collections of poems: Semafory and Oczy i usta. Before the outbreak of World War II he published a novel Mity rodzinne.
During the War, he was connected with the Soviet authorities, as well as with Polish Armed Forces in the USSR, for the 1. Corps of which he wrote the leading March. After the end of the War, he cooperated with numerous cultural magazines, including Kuźnica and Nowa Kultura. He also held the post of the secretary of Związek Zawodowy Literatów Polskich (the Trade Union of Polish Men of Letters) and took active part in introducing social realism. In 1955, he decided – as one of the first Polish intellectuals – to settle with Stalinism. His Poemat dla dorosłych (A Poem for Adults) marks the end of the social realism era in Poland. In 1957, he left the Polish United Workers’ Party to signal his protest against stopping the publication of the Europa magazine, which he co-edited. In 1964, he signed the “Letter of the 34” concerning the protection of the freedom of speech. He engaged himself also in the defence of students expelled from the University of Warsaw in 1968.
Ważyk was also a translator, mainly of French poetry. He translated poems by Apollinaire, Aragon, Cendrars and Jacob, contributing to the familiarising of the Polish language with the achievements of French literary avant-garde. (mj)
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