Friday, April 06, 2007

National Poetry Month Recommendation: Wislawa Szymborska

Lawrence Weschler (his friends call him Ren) was the writer who introduced me to Wislawa Szymborska with an essay in his book Vermeer in Bosnia. The Polish poet won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 and began her lecture:

"They say the first sentence in any speech is always the hardest. Well, that one's behind me."

How can you not love a person who opens a Nobel Prize lecture with a joke? Seriously?

Read the rest of it if you have a chance. It is self-deprecating, disarming, and fascinating. Others have used the Nobel stage to speak grandly, earnestly, politically. I have no problem with that approach. I just much prefer Szymborska's.

Here's a selection from "Maybe All This," the poem Weschler talks about in Vermeer:

Maybe all this
is happening in some lab?
Under one lamp by day
and billions by night?

Maybe we're experimental generations?
Poured from one vial to the next,
shaken in test tubes,
not scrutinized by eyes alone,
each of us separately
plucked up by tweezers in the end?

Or maybe it's more like this:
No interference?
The changes occur on their own
according to plan?
The graph's needle slowly etches
its predictable zigzags?

And here, the opening stanza to "The Joy of Writing":

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence—this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word "woods."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I did not know about this poet, and I really enjoyed reading her speech and poems.


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