Thursday, March 3, 2011

Under a Certain Little Star

by Wislawa Szymborska

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity in case I'm mistaken.
Don't be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own.
May the dead forgive me that their memory's but a flicker.
My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second.
My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first.
Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss.
My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes.
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water.
And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage,
staring, motionless, always at the same spot,
absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed.
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs.
My apologies to large questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much attention.
Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me.
Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil.
Soul, don't blame me that I've got you so seldom.
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere.
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me,
since I am my own obstacle.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then labor to make them light.

(translated by Joanna Trzeciak)
Find more poems and the biography of Wislawa Szymborska at

view with a grain of sand
I've been in love with Wislawa Szymborska's work for several years.  I'm bringing this to the blog for Stephanie who asked for a poet to read.  Szymborska's not only easy to read but easily one of the best poets today.  She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 and her book view with a grain of sand, can be found in most bookstores. 

Here is a link to the review for view with a grain of sand, Szymborska's 'View': Small Truths Sharply Etched, by Adam Gopnik for NPR.  Also, here is an ArtsBeat blog post in the New York Times by Barry Gewen called A Poem for the Pentagon, that includes ~

I’m not much for modern poetry, but I like Szymborska because of her compassion, her humility and her warm good humor. What’s more, you don’t need a Ph.D. in literature to understand her. Once I was comparing notes with a friend much more literary than I about modern poets we enjoyed reading: Philip Larkin, of course, and then we both said, simultaneously, “Szymborska.” [read more]


kmb said...

I, too, love Szymborska, and am very much enjoying both your website and your own poetry. Your poems make me think of Mary Oliver - maybe the nearly ecstatic relationship with nature? What do you think of her?

East West Poetry said...

I like Mary Oliver very much ~ especially when she takes risks. I admire her relationship with and devotion to nature and wish I could go on a really long walk with her on Cape Cod.

I think we all have a lot of nature within us which is cousin to the nature around us - that we all come up through the same history and share much. If poetry can help bind some of us back to this common nature, then that is a good thing. I'm not sure Mary Oliver would share this belief - but we are both writing at a time when more and more people are living estranged from the natural world and I think we both wish to try to close that gap a little through our writing.

Soon - in a few days I hope - I will put up some Mary Oliver poems I like with some thoughts about them and would like to thank you for suggesting her for eastwest poetry - Jaye