I would like to take this week’s topic as an opportunity to familiarize all of you with one of the biggest Polish poets-Wislawa Szymborska. This Nobel Prize recipient clearly illustrated the power of words in her discreet yet humble works.
She started her adventure with poetry during the Second World War. Firstly working as an illustrator of English-language textbooks, she started composing her first works during her sociology studies in Krakow. Her poems starting to appear in national newspapers, and in 1953 she joined a literate magazine in which she had her own column.
It would be an understatement to say that her work is ambiguous. The poems are very ironic, full of paradoxes, touching on the whole range of topics-terrorism and war as well as love and romance. One is sure-as well as the author, they are very humble and mild. Hard to say why since 3 years after her death she still remains one of the most commonly translated Polish authors. In 1996, she was awarded with a Nobel Price in Literature and is one of the most important figures of Polish culture.
She has been described as the ‘Mozart of Poetry’, which is to suggest the ease with which her words fall into place and appear very simple at the first sight. She famously said that no more than two in a thousand of people care about the art. Hope this poem increases those depressing numerals.
They say I looked back out of curiosity.
But I could have had other reasons.
I looked back mourning my silver bowl.
Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.
So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape
of my husband Lot’s neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead
he wouldn’t so much as hesitate.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Checking for pursuers.
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.
Our two daughters were already vanishing over the hilltop.
I felt age within me. Distance.
The futility of wandering. Torpor.
I looked back setting my bundle down.
I looked back not knowing where to set my foot.
Serpents appeared on my path,
spiders, field mice, baby vultures.
They were neither good nor evil now–every living thing
was simply creeping or hopping along in the mass panic.
I looked back in desolation.
In shame because we had stolen away.
Wanting to cry out, to go home.
Or only when a sudden gust of wind
unbound my hair and lifted up my robe.
It seemed to me that they were watching from the walls of Sodom
and bursting into thunderous laughter again and again.
I looked back in anger.
To savor their terrible fate.
I looked back for all the reasons given above.
I looked back involuntarily.
It was only a rock that turned underfoot, growling at me.
It was a sudden crack that stopped me in my tracks.
A hamster on its hind paws tottered on the edge.
It was then we both glanced back.
No, no. I ran on,
I crept, I flew upward
until darkness fell from the heavens
and with it scorching gravel and dead birds.
I couldn’t breathe and spun around and around.
Anyone who saw me must have thought I was dancing.
It’s not inconceivable that my eyes were open.
It’s possible I fell facing the city