Thursday, October 2, 2008


Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska writes poems that keep blossoming, that open new worlds – right up to the last line – for the entranced reader. Just when you feel a Szymborska poem has no more petals to reveal, there you are, at the center of her words, surrounded by red-black perfume. And let’s not forget the waking points of glistening thorns, sometimes softened with grim humor. Winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, she is on my list of favorite poets.

There is a wonderful poem, “I am too close for him…” in her collection, Miracle Fair. In this version, the translation into English was done by Joanna Trzeciak. I found the same piece, title translated to “I Am Too Near,” in an anthology of women’s spiritual poetry. This version was translated by Czeslaw Milosz, another extraordinary Polish poet, also on my list. I prefer the Milosz translation, so will share several final lines from “I Am Too Near” below, to pique your interest in Wislawa Szymborska’s beautiful and startling poetry:

…I am too near
to fall to him from the sky. My scream
could wake him up. Poor thing
I am, limited to my shape,
I who was a birch, who was a lizard,
who would come out of my cocoons
shimmering the colors of my skins. Who possessed
the grace of disappearing from astonished eyes,
which is a wealth of wealths. I am near,
too near for him to dream of me.
I slide my arm from under the sleeper’s head
and it is numb, full of swarming pins,
on the tip of each, waiting to be counted,
the fallen angels sit.

The above lines are from The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry, edited by Aliki Barnstone, from Shambhala, 2002. “I Am Too Near” first appeared in the 1962 Szymborska collection, Salt, then in Milosz’s anthology, Postwar Polish Poetry, in 1965.

The photograph was taken at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY on 8/28/08. Click on image to enlarge.


Admin said...

What a gorgeous poem. Thanks for taking the time to share it!

ann said...

Beautiful poem, beautiful photo!

Christine said...

You're welcome! Try View with a Grain of Sand, her selected poems.

Christine said...

Thanks...and thanks for visiting again, Ann!