The first time I came across Wislawa Szymborska’s work it was in a title called Nonrequired Reading published in 2002, this would have been just after I started working at the book store. I was draw to this collection of prose pieces because the author’s random meditations on books that she read were similar to how I kept track of what I was reading. My journal was never a day-to-day account of my coming and goings, but my Book Log could tell you where I got a book and why and how I felt, and therefore was more personal to me. So, in Nonrequired Reading I found a kinship with the author and from there began to explore her poetry.
Here is a new collection that will be out in October. I jumped at the chance to review it when I saw the title available on NetGalley.com. This volume of 22 poems is outstanding. I don’t think I read a single poem I didn’t like. Here is a bilingual volume, with the original Polish followed by the translation. It made me wonder about the translators themselves, surely they must be as much poets at the Nobel Prize winning author. (One of the two translators Clare Cavanagh was also the translator of Nonrequired Reading.) I can remember reading Tangled Hair by Akiko Yosano, which I have in two different translations, and going back and forth wondering why the translator chose one word over the other and which I liked better. Since, I don’t have that option here I must accept the translators word as law.
I read and re-read these poems, offend paging back to check the title or read a phrase out loud. Szymborska lends beauty to abstracts, exploring the nature of here, space, and poetry. I loved the line from the title poem, “and as an extra, added feature,/ you spin on the planet’s carousel for free.” Don’t you just love that? All of us and are homes, vehicles, and whatnot can be the horses, tigers, and swans bobbing up and down as we go around and around.
Another interesting idea is the imagined meetings — one of her teenage self and the impressions each had of the other woman and girl, or that of a long gone poet bustling about in a crowded coach, each character sketched vividly into being in only a few words.
If you read poetry or even if you don’t, I suggest you add Here to your wish list. These are not the kinds so obtuse you walk away from thinking that you’ve failed to understand your own language. These are accessible things of beauty. Read a few out loud. Let your ear enjoy the sound.