Wisława Szymborska, 1923-2012

Wisława Szymborska, Nobel-prize winning Polish poet, died on February 1, 2012. According to The Telegraph:

The Nobel award committee’s 1996 citation called her the “Mozart of poetry,” a woman who mixed the elegance of language with “the fury of Beethoven” and tackled serious subjects with humor. While she was arguably the most popular poet in Poland, most of the world had not heard of the shy, soft-spoken Szymborska before she won the Nobel prize.

She has been called both deeply political and playful, a poet who used humor in unforeseen ways. Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observation to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images – an onion, a cat wandering in an empty apartment, an old fan in a museum – to reflect on grand topics such as love, death and passing time.

On May 6, 2011, Prairie Lights hosted a poetry reading celebrating the work of older poets, including Szymborska.  You can hear her poems, as well as selections from Elizabeth Bishop, Donald Justice, Stanley Kunitz, W.S. Merwin, and W.B. Yeats in this recording: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/vwu,2897

Our collection also includes a discussion with Bronislaw Maj on the difficulties of translating Szymborska’s idiomatic language and colloquialism into an international literary language: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/vwu,448

And if you’d rather remember her by reading one of her books, you can check those out too!