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February 01, 2012

No More Poems

I'm sorry to see that the Giant Mouth That Eats Everything has gotten the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. She just died in Krakow at age 88.

Szymborska somehow won a Nobel Prize for writing poetry that non-professors can enjoy, such as "Reality Demands." I hope you will read it all, but here's the ending of it:

Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.

This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.

The grass is green
on Maciejowice's fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal with grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch forests and the cedar forests,
the snow and the sand, the iridescent swamps
and the canyons of black defeat,
where now, when the need strikes, you don't cower
under a bush but squat behind it.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only the blood flows, drying quickly,
and, clouds.

On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can't help
laughing at that

Someday I hope to write a book partly inspired by "Reality Demands," which will be about the places on earth where the most concentrated evil has occurred. If you glance at the cover of this imaginary book quickly, it will look like the title is "HELLO EARTH!" Only if you look closely will you see that there's a narrow space after "HELL" and a very small n after the letter O.

(Thanks to Tristero, who set one of her poems to music, for the news.)

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at February 1, 2012 10:20 PM

Thanks, Jon.


Posted by: thurnandtaxis at February 2, 2012 12:40 PM

the optimist says, cheerfully, this is the best of all possible worlds

the pessimist feels compelled to agree

Posted by: mistah 'MICFiC' charley, ph.d. at February 2, 2012 03:18 PM

From the Wiki entry about the great poet:

Her reputation rests on a relatively small body of work, fewer than 250 poems. When asked why she had published so few poems, she said: "I have a trash can in my home".

I like her.

Posted by: N E at February 2, 2012 08:36 PM

And now I like here even more:

"People who claim that they know something are responsible for most of the fuss in the world."

Posted by: N E at February 2, 2012 08:42 PM

"and we can't help, laughing at that". Ain't that the truth.


Posted by: BenP at February 2, 2012 10:44 PM

"when the need strikes, you don't cower
under a bush but squat behind it."

This is why she is my poet, though I didn't know of her until yesterday, when tristero told me of her. I always tried to write fancy poetry. But plain and honest and correct is better.

I wish I had known her.

Posted by: tom allen at February 3, 2012 09:39 AM

In the town where the hero was born you may:
gaze at the monument, admire its size,
shoo two chickens from the empty museum steps,
ask for his mother's address,
knock, push the creaking door open.
Her bearing is erect, her hair is straight, her gaze is clear.
You may tell her that you've just arrived from Poland.
You may bear greetings. Make your questions loud and clear.
Yes, she loved him very much. Yes, he was born that way.
Yes, he was standing by the prison wall that morning.
Yes, she heard the shots.
You may regret not having brought a camera,
a tape recorder. Yes, she has seen such things.
She read his final letter on the radio.
She sang his favorite lullabies once on TV.
And once she even acted in a movie, in tears
from the bright lights. Yes, the memory still moves her.
Yes, just a little tired now. Yes, it will pass.
You may get up. Thank her. Say good-bye. Leave,
passing by the new arrivals in the hall.

- Wislawa Szymborska, "Pieta"

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

It vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

- Wislawa Szymborska, "On Death, Without Exaggeration"

The plain grave? There's poetic justice in it,
this ditty-dirge, the owl, the burdock. Passerby,
take out your compact Compu-Brain and try
to weigh Symborska's fate for half a minute.

-Wislawa Szymborska, "Epitaph"

Posted by: antonello at February 6, 2012 11:37 PM

My Compu-Brain tries to weigh her fate.
It gets a "divide-by-zero error"
And gives back infinity.

Posted by: tom allen at February 7, 2012 10:59 AM

antonello: Thank You.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 7, 2012 12:14 PM

And now for something moderately different

The phone rang and I picked it up. An apparently male voice asked for missus charley, and I said, "She's not here now" - true; in fact, I had hoped it was missus charley calling. But then the fellow asked for me by name, and I replied "'Tis I" [or words to that effect].

He was calling on behalf of one of the several candidates for the Democratic nomination for Congress running in the April primary to oppose the Republican incumbent in my district, he explained - stating up front that he was not surprised that I did not know that I had a Republican Congressman - apparently a lot of us who have recently been redistricted from the 4th to the 6th district don't know this. OK, thanks for telling me.

But then the discussion became more fraught, because I said I wasn't going to bother voting for anybody who was pro-war, because, perhaps hyperbolically, I admitted, I regard war as "mass murder." In the November election, for example, there's someone I'm not going to vote for. I even used the phrase "military industrial congressional financial corporate media complex", to make it completely clear to the guy what kind of voter I am.

"And what I want to know is, is your candidate pro-war, or anti-war?"

He hesitated.

At that point I said, "Well, that's clear enough", and thanked him for calling. We cordially ended the conversation.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 7, 2012 08:51 PM

mistah charley ph.d. Ron Paul??? He also claims to believe in Habeas Corpus too. I'm leery of a "closing GITMO" promise though. I've heard that one before.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 8, 2012 12:51 AM

mistah charley

that's brilliant, but next time if you get that pause, ask 'is this the person to whom i'm speaking?"

And by the way, MICFiCMC? That's getting a little out of hand.

Posted by: N E at February 8, 2012 05:22 AM