Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Here by Wislawa Szymborska

Reading books leads to reading more books. Along the path down which an author leads readers are signposts to paths blazed by other authors. In reading a collection of newspaper columns by Mary Schmich, I noted her quoting the Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska. Liking the quote, I emailed Bonnie who borrowed for me Here, a collection of poems in Polish with English translations on facing pages. At only 84 pages of text with a lot of white space, of which I read only the English half, it was a attractive choice, a short path that may lead to wider roads.

Even 42 pages of poetry can be hard going if the reader can not discern the topic or the meaning. I had no worries with this collection by Szymborska. Most of the poems chronicle daily life or describe tangible ideas of art or science. I was particularly struck by "Hard Life with Memory." Of an age when there is more to look back on than to look forward to, it tells about a struggle to balance one's attention in the present. "She" refers to Memory in this verse:

She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,
stirs up events both important and un-,
turns my eyes to overlooked views,
peoples them with my dead. 

With some poems I identify, see myself. In others I am introduced to others and their views. Here is a mixture of emotions and high ideals, familiar and the strange, new and old. Szymborska's poems are never dull.

Szymborska, Wislawa. Here. Houghton Mifflin, 2010. 85p. ISBN 9780547364612.

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