This is one of my Reading Nobel Women books, a complete collection of Wislawa Szymborska’s work, and it was amazing.
A new collected volume from the Nobel Prize–winning poet that includes, for the first time in English, all of the poems from her last Polish collection
One of Europe’s greatest recent poets is also its wisest, wittiest, and most accessible. Nobel Prize–winner Wislawa Szymborska draws us in with her unexpected, unassuming humor. Her elegant, precise poems pose questions we never thought to ask. “If you want the world in a nutshell,” a Polish critic remarks, “try Szymborska.” But the world held in these lapidary poems is larger than the one we thought we knew.
Carefully edited by her longtime, award-winning translator, Clare Cavanagh, the poems in Map trace Szymborska’s work until her death in 2012. Of the approximately two hundred and fifty poems included here, nearly forty are newly translated; thirteen represent the entirety of the poet’s last Polish collection, Enough, never before published in English.
Map is the first English publication of Szymborska’s work since the acclaimed Here, and it offers her devoted readers a welcome return to her “ironic elegance” (The New Yorker).
As with all collections, there are favorites and then there are those that weren’t enough or just not your thing. The book starts off with those poems that, while good, weren’t quite what I expected to be Nobel Laureate worthy. I quickly realized why. They were early works and this is a complete collection. Like all of it. The book is a whopping 400 pages of poetry that started out a little lackluster and grew to absolutely brilliant. By the end, it was completely obvious why she was chosen.
Some favorites were:
- Reality Demands
- The End and the Beginning
- Funeral (II)
- Children of Our Age
- The Century’s Decline
- Hitler’s First Photograph
- Lot’s Wife
I actually had a lot that might be labeled as favorites but I’ll stop there. These were the poems that really made me think about things a little differently. I probably could have done without some of the others, the more lighthearted poems because I’ve learned that I have a special love for poetry that tears my heart out. These did that in one way or another. They revealed things, but they weren’t the only poems to do that in this collection.
This small sampling did things like reminded me that Hitler was once someone’s little bundle of joy and that’s a scary way to think of him. It reminded me that one of the luxuries that Americans have when it comes to war is that we just leave when we deem it over. We aren’t left to rebuild the communities fragmented by it. It reminded me that Lot’s Wife, so vilified for looking back at a town burning could have just been victim of an errant “Did I leave the stove on?” moment. It’s worth reading the entire collection for moment like these, especially when one never knows what will come from reading poetry. New things can be revealed in every reading. These may simply be the poems that hit me this time and others will do similar things to other people.
As mentioned above, this is one of the books I chose to read in this year that I’m Reading Nobel Women but it’s also my Letter M for the Litsy A to Z challenge. It would also fit nicely into Read Harder‘s Task 23 as it is a collection of poetry in translations on a theme other than love. There were several themes covered here and rarely was love in the mix.
I read a copy from the library but if you’d prefer to own it (which I just may upgrade one day) then click on the cover and you will be redirected to the Booklikes page for the book where you will find worldwide purchase options.