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Wisława Szymborska

Photo by Tomasz Wiech

Wisława Szymborska

Portytait of a woman

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Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Clare Cavangh and Stanisław Barańczak
She must be a variety.
Change so that nothing will change.
It's easy, impossible, tough going, worth a shot.
Her eyes are, as required, deep, blue, gray,
dark merry, full of pointless tears.
She sleeps with him as if she's first in line or the only one on earth.
She'll bear him four children, no children, one.
Naive, but gives the best advice.
Weak, but takes on anything.
A screw loose and though as nails.
Curls up with Jasper or Ladies'Home Journal.
Can't figure out this bolt and builds a bridge.
Young, young as ever, still looking young.
Holds in her hand a baby sparrow with a broken wing,
her own money for some trip far away,
a meat cleaver, a compress, a glass of vodka.
Where's she running, isn't she exhausted.
Not a bit, a little, to death, it doesn't matter.
She must love him, or she's just plain stubborn.
For better, for worse, for heaven's sake.
English translation: Clare Cavangh and Stanisław Barańczak
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Wisława Szymborska

(1923–2012) An eminent poet, recipient of the Nobel Prize (1996). She made her début in 1945, and published her first volume of poetry Dlatego żyjemy, (That’s Why we are Alive) in 1952. Connected to Krakow nearly throughout her entire life, she studied Polish philology and sociology at the Jagiellonian University after the Second World War. A member of Inaczej, the first Krakow post-war literary group. From 1953 to 1966, she was the head of the poetry section at Życie Literackie weekly, with which she cooperated until 1981. For some time, together with her husband, Adam Włodek, Szymborska lived at the Writers’ House on Krupnicza Street.

An intimate exhibition titled ‘Szymborska’s Drawer’ (Szuflada Szymborskiej) was arranged in Szołayski House (a branch of the National Museum at 9 Szczepański Square), where objects that played major roles in the poet’s everyday life are on display: books, notepads, writing instruments, documents, curios from her collection, and her famous collages. (ezp)

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