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A Review of Events in Polish Poetry at the Turn of the 20th and 21st Centuries
Contents Introduction | The Old Masters: Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska, Tadeusz Różewicz, Julia Hartwig | +++ | Middle Generation Poets: Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz, Krystyna Miłobędzka, Ewa Lipska, Andrzej Szmidt, Joanna Pollakówna, Kazimierz Hoffman, Jerzy Kronhold, Maciej Cisło, Anna Janko, Bogusław Kierc, Małgorzata Baranowska, Jerzy Górzański, Jakub Ekier, Jarosław Mikołajewski, Józef Kurylak, Janusz Szuber | +++ | Bożena Keff, Kazimierz Brakoniecki, Anna Piwkowska | The Youngest Poets: Tadeusz Dąbrowski, Wojciech Bonowicz | Tryptyk rzymski / Roman Triptych



As has been the case throughout its long and rich history, Polish poetry at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries speaks through a chorus of many strong and clear individualities. The general historic and literary processes to which this poetry is subject are indeed important. The attempts of literary critics to discover and define in today's Polish poetry specific stylistic currents and conceptual threads are interesting. Yet the core value of Polish poetry resides in its colorful, poetic individualities.

For this reason my essay - which is a kind of extension of Jarosław Klejnocki's sketch "Poezja polska w ostatnich 20 latach XX wieku" (Polish Poetry in the Final Twenty Years of the 20th Century) - will prove to be a reasoned review of individualities. This is primarily because I think it is much too early for any generalizations. These tend to kill the flavor of live emotion that this poetry grants us. I think that much more satisfaction can be drawn from listening to how easily - in spite of differences - the works of our greatest poets talk to each other, than from grouping tem in specific enclaves.

I will begin by describing only those poets who have recently and significantly enriched their own image in the eyes of readers, and omit those who were sufficiently and exhaustively described in Jarosław Klejnocki's sketch. It is nevertheless so that recently the most glittering achievements have come from well-known poets and those whose work has thus far remained out of the limelight.


The Old Masters

Let us begin with the oldest of our poets who continuously confirm their mastery of their art.



  • Czesław Miłosz

    The recent work of Czesław Miłosz is surprising for its new accents that significantly supplement our image of this richest of figures in Polish (and perhaps world) poetry today.

    The title poem of the volume To / It (2000) allows us to feel that inexpressible state of despair that extends beneath the world, beneath "poverty, illness, ageing, death." The It of the title is like the opposite pole of the poet's personality - the first of which we discovered in Miłosz's poetry as the ecstasy of being, praise of existence.

    The poet was clearly intent on making us aware that his work embodies a state of constant tension: between nihilistic temptation and the value inherent in spiritual life and sensual beauty.

    In the volume Druga przestrzeń / A Second Space (2002) we find the poem Traktat teologiczny / Theological Treatise, which caused a great stir among readers. It is nevertheless more of a poetic anthropology than it is a theology, it is poetry about man in the face of a God whose unquestioned presence is nevertheless a source of doubt in the good of good, the beauty of beauty, the truth of truth - for God has humans to transform fundamental values into their opposite.

    Noteworthy in Miłosz's recent efforts is the asceticism of his creative means - often in It and A Second Space we encounter poetry without adornment, the rhythm of thoughts themselves.
  • Wisława Szymborska

    After a wait lasting many years, Wisława Szymborska's loyal readers welcomed the collection Chwila / Moment (2002). Within it they found the old conceptual characteristics of this poetry as well as artistry of a very high order. But this volume also strongly changes the perception of this poet's oeuvre.

    Thus far in her poetry Szymborska has emphasized the one-off, the ephemeral, the paradox of the existence of humans, events and things. Now the author seems to add: I have always given and still do give an equal opportunity to generality, eternity, perfection. It is no longer a person who begs a passing moment to last - this moment lasts independent of human supplication. Szymborska represents these utterly obvious and lasting qualities through realities from her daily life, her immediate vicinity: these include clouds, a puddle from a memory of a childhood game, a photographic negative, a small child pulling at a table cloth.

    Yet even these universalities, suggested in surprisingly weightless style, can be understood solely as paradoxes! And just as paradoxically this poetry contains a joy of existence hitherto revoked through skepticism.
  • Tadeusz Różewicz

    In celebration of his eightieth birthday, Tadeusz Różewicz published the volume Nożyk profesora / The Professor's Penknife (2001) - a masterpiece worthy of its place alongside Niepokój / Anxiety, Kartoteka / The Card Index and Twarz / The Face.

    The poem that gave the volume its title is offered to readers in two embodiments: as the final, printed version and as a reproduction of the poem's manuscript with the author's numerous hand-written corrections. This is not merely an intriguing "morsel" for aficionados of the editing profession; rather, there is serious meaning to this choice, meaning to be gathered if only from the dates printed under the reproduced manuscript: "1950 - 2001". This poem consumed half a century of the labor of this poet who knows, perhaps like no one else, the moral destruction wrought by the times of war, the destruction of consciousness caused by years of Stalinism and other variations of the regime of the Polish People's Republic. It was written in times of radical civilizational change, which first took the form of the triumph of mass culture and then the form of times of the reign of computer networks. Różewicz carefully observed all these things.

    In the world of this poem, two older men who are loyal friends meet up toward the end of the 20th century. During breakfast they discuss diets, supermarkets, the state of religiousness of the population of today's Poland. They talk about Norwid and Matejko, as well as the art of soft boiling eggs. Supermarkets evoke reflections on modernity, Norwid and Matejko remind them of topics they undertook in essays, comments about the pleasure of eating link into life needs. And alongside this discussion the poem explores the story of a pen knife tat lies on the table alongside - the writer's friend made it for himself from a barrel ring while a prisoner at Auschwitz and then carefully hid it under his striped suit. This is the very center of this poem. Its frame is the vision of a train composed of cattle cars, which takes its victims to a Nazi death camp through beautiful landscapes, a train that transported its victims during the German occupation of Poland and that transports them now, in memory, and that will transport them eternally, through the history of the world. And reigning over all this is the strange, mysterious, ancient god Robigus - the god of rust.

    And there is the reproduction of the manuscript full of rejected versions and lines. Among the latter we find, for example, a mention of Jedwabne... This poem was born of the never-ending conversation between memory and conscience. It is itself a discussion that is great and serious, but nevertheless free and easy, born of multiplied digressions, containing cul-de-sacs of tangential topics. This discussion focuses on the concentration camp knife - this object is after all very real in its pure utility and perhaps this is why it becomes such a tremendous symbol. It is a souvenir of the cruel concentration camp life and a souvenir of the triumph of life over cruelty, because in the camp it served the purpose of survival, and now as a souvenir it humanizes the possessors Auschwitz memories. Perhaps only it, this penknife, is not subject to the rust of time?

    In Nożyk profesora / The Professor's Penknife all of Tadeusz Różewicz's thematic threads talk to each other. As a result, we have a conversation involving all ethical, cultural and metaphysical issues of our times, because this poet has always undertaken these. The openness of this manuscript of the poem, so full of attempts, errors and fortunate solutions, allows us into the conversation. This is a special summation of the work of a great artist, a summation that is the most solemn and at once completely ordinary.
  • Julia Hartwig

    The poetry of Julia Hartwig was one of the most wonderful discoveries in Polish poetry of the turn of the century. It appeared in the form of numerous publications - including the collections Nim opatrzy się zieleń / Before Greenery Ceases Being Attractive (1995) and Mówiąc nie tylko do siebie. Poematy prozą / Talking Not Only to Myself - Prose Poems (2003) - and developed to the state in which the most captivating riddles appear not as questions but structured most simply and flexibly as indicative sentences. This is what I understand the title of the volume Nie ma odpowiedzi / There is no Answer (2001) to mean. There is no answer because one does not ask questions of nature - nor of human nature. Drama does not derive from questions and answers - it derives simply from truth.

    Questions would be an inappropriate provocation in the face of the singular ethics of nature, the ethics of the environment. Nature is granted the right to judge us because it is impartial. And it is granted the right of shaping our emotions - because it is simple. This attitude incorporates something akin to the stoic logic of Greek epigrams.

    Almost every one of Hartwig's poems is a place of contemplation that soothes the ostensible anxieties of our world - but only in order to reveal conflicts that are real, sometimes even tragic. This poetry teaches us that quiet wisdom is capable of being more pointed than the hysterical blows of loud moralists. I hold dear the poet's compassionate liking for bums, eccentrics, "loose people" - those whom civilization has abandoned and who have abandoned civilization. Julia Hartwig does not look upon them as beautiful, formally ascetic boulders shaped by the stream of life. They are like the high priests of a great city in a procession that will end with them voluntarily sacrificing themselves - separate, proud, sometimes disdainful, yet most deeply participating in the life of the city.

    Enough for now about these poets, who though the eldest remain ever young as they succeed in constantly renewing their work.

    Now for a few words about poets of the middle generation.

    Middle Generation Poets

  • Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz

    In 2002 Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz published the volume Zachód słońca w Milanówku / Sunset in Milanówek, and in 2003 crowned his poetic oeuvre by issuing a collection of his poems from the years 1963-2002 titled Cicho, ciszej / Quiet, Quieter. The mastery of this lyric poetry is revealed in its formal freedom, and even in a certain offhandedness. The most difficult of metaphysical issues are presented with the charm of poetic song. These are elementary rhythms and rhymes, sophisticated simplicity that at times seems almost hymnal, while the subject matter is exceedingly serious: history, aging, death, nothingness and nihilism. This poetry contains many instances of cultural and philosophical adaptation, in its latter period most often drawn from Leśmian. But what is lacking is Leśmian's fairy-tale-like dimension, and instead we have the horrifying or piteous civilizational concrete of today, often drawn from mass culture. Everything here plays out between a trust for pure beauty - the poet repeatedly signs the praises of clouds hovering over Warsaw's churches - and the sordid truth about man's existential poverty and the poverty of the substance among which we live.
  • Krystyna Miłobędzka

    Krystyna Miłobędzka, a poet who as spent a long time writing difficult, esoteric poems of the genre of so-called "linguistic poetry," has perfection in her lyric poetry. Maturity has brought with it an exceptional simplicity.

    In the 1994 selection from her entire oeuvre titled Przed wierszem / Before the Poem, we find the most important and most faithful record in Polish poetry of the collective experience of Martial Law - a poem titled Pamiętam / I Remember. Noteworthy within it is the writer's reflection on the pronoun "we" - which seems to be at the center of a poetic and philosophical portrait of inter-human solidarity that respects the individuality of every person, every human "I." In this manner the universal hunger for justice is not the blind emotion of a crowd, but the metaphysical basis of each person.

    The volume Imiesłowy / Participles (2000) brought the poet great acclaim. This is lyric poetry that seems virtually Heraclitean, in which the idea is to "Record the flow of thoughts, the flow of words in a flowing world." This sensitivity to the passing of time, to the changeability of the world allows Miłobędzka to observe the smallest tremors of the mind and facts of the outside world that last only an instant.
  • Ewa Lipska

    Ewa Lipska's ironic poetry has been significantly transformed. Her social criticism has become sharper and deeper. In a series of volumes, including Stypendyści czasu / Scholars of Time (1994), 1999 (1999) and Sklepy zoologiczne / Pet Stores (2001), the poet shows us a world of mass anonymity accumulated in the concentrates that are newspapers and television, in overt and secret tools of censorship, a world of words and ideas reduced to stereotypes. The poet sees the essence of this tendency toward uniformity as lying yet deeper - not only in the social world, but also in the manner in which most people today experience nature - on television. However, within this universe, as in the circulatory system of a poisoned organism, there are poetic antibodies that combat the symptoms of the mass world - as we see in the exceptional syntax of these works, syntax that is the foundation of an essential order, an order of values. Lipska's new lyric poetry is composed of revolving crystals of sentences, which connect at ever different planes of meaning. Within the prevailing environment of mass stereotypes, these variously connecting thoughts manifest a movement that counteracts all stereotypes.
  • Andrzej Szmidt

    Andrzej Szmidt is compiling an impressive chronicle of everyday life. This lyric poetry is intimidating for its simplicity. The poet has for years walked along the streets of Warsaw - he is a passerby of our times. He commands attention due to his unique trait of his everyday life being impractically practical, one in which one earns one's living or "collects" a pension, but one in which one simultaneously looks upon Poland with the penetrating glance of someone who while playing the role of the "average man" is simultaneously an uncompromising judge. This poetry contains as many complaints about the meanness of our times as it does hard reminders of our aspirations as humans. Most recently Szmidt has published a selection of poems titled Spojrzenia / Gazes (2003).
  • Joanna Pollakówna

    In 2002 we witnessed the passing of Joanna Pollakówna, a poet of the most elementary feelings, of onrushes of love and raw hopeless pain, feelings which she subjected to contemplation. This contrast of surging feeling and contemplative calm imparted a singularity to her poetic attitude. The great value of this poetry lay in its immediately recognizable musical sound: muted, rough, whispering and possessing something of Norwid's tone.

    Pollakówna bid her farewells with the volume Ogarnąłeś mnie chłodem / You Have Embraced Me with Coolness (2003). These last works express her metaphysical hunger, a painful sensing of the "other side," of reality after death, that simultaneously radiates hope. The music of these poems as also changed - what used to be the coarseness of sounds has disappeared in the quickness and disappearance of the audible line.
  • Kazimierz Hoffman

    Kazimierz Hoffman as developed a special space for himself in Polish poetry at the century's turn. His poems assembled in the volume Przenikanie / Permeation (1996) indicate a body of work that is an autonomous whole, clearly distinguishable from the poetry of others and marked by an attentiveness and proper only to itself. Paradoxically, Hoffman achieves this wholeness through an aesthetic of fragments. With each poem, stanza and line he enters into innumerable dialogues with the external world and its parts.

    This poetry equates the noble and heroic simplicity of ethics with a feeling for nature in its raw form (the poet shows a special preference for the world of minerals). Sentences, phrases and stanzas focus on moral meanings, which are like the centers of gravity of material shapes. What we have here are linguistic structures and parts of speech whose borders are in line with the tectonics of the physical world. The simple (brutal yet subtle) structure of this poetry is the structure of nature. This renders all analyses and syntheses of a psychological and humanistic nature more - rater tan less! - penetrating. The psyche, ethics and metaphysics become credible because their drama corresponds with elementary compositions of nature and the lines followed by the forces of nature.
  • Jerzy Kronhold

    Jerzy Kronhold is perhaps the least known poet of the so-called "new wave." For years his work remained in the shadow of the achievements of his more famous friends, Stanisław Barańczak, Adam Zagajewski and Ryszard Krynicki. With is small volume titled Wiek brązu / The Bronze Age (2000), this author not only reminded readers of himself, but also placed himself among Poland's best poets. This book has a song-like tone imparted to it by erotic poems tat are pure and that conceal neither the joy of love nor the darkness of it. It also contains moving and brutally frank hospital poems that express the final moments of suffering of someone dear. The poet also offers us partial portraits of people wounded by Poland's recent history that in exquisite abbreviated form portray the resentments that characterize us. Kronhold conveys this abundance of content through the simplest and most subtle poetic means, in the process discovering - as Zbigniew Herbert once wrote - "the purity of vowels, which can express everything sorrow joy rapture anger."
  • Maciej Cisło

    Maciej Cisło practices an unusual variety of reflective poetry. The concepts and paradoxes tat appear in his poems are hardly ornaments of is train of thought; rather, they are links that join meanings to values. What we have here is intellectualism in action - the poet's critical thinking utterly transforms the raw materials of the everyday, props of the mass media world. Cisło's poetry refines and improves upon the tools of responsible thinking. This happens without boasting. These poems are charming because the poet employs a lightness espied in the thinking of children, which by nature is non-stereotypical. The author as a propensity for etymological investigations, thereby seeking an extension of his thinking in the tradition of living speech. Etymology also allows him to critically delve into the myths of consciousness that trail behind the contemporary Polish language.

    In his most recently published volume titled Bezczas i niemiejsce / Timelessness and a Non-Place (2002) Cisło offered us a handful of exquisite erotic poems. In these one senses the madness of love tat bonds the soul and body: "I want you to be beside yourself, leave your senses with me and to enter your mind, and ten to leave your mind in order to reenter your senses," writes the poet.
  • Anna Janko

    Anna Janko's volume of love poems Świetlisty cudzoziemiec / The Shining Foreigner (2000) has something of the purity and emotional flow of the poems of Apollinaire. This poet's entire world - rich in everyday realities and facing the coarse substance of life - is transformed into a stream of love emotions. Energy is provided by gusts of poetic matter between the poles of what is feminine and what is masculine. It seems that Anna Janko's poetry best expresses today's awareness of the sexes, which in the realm of the liberal arts is explored by "gender" scholars. Yet she imparts a depth and verifiability to this awareness trough that which is most mature in the realm of feelings - through poetry.
  • Bogusław Kierc

    Bogusław Kierc is a poet all his own, if only because of his life-long fascination for the work of Julian Przyboś, a poet once highly admired, a poet who today is gradually receding into oblivion. Kierc as inherited from his master a great sensitivity to the sensual value of words, to the audible harmonies of poems. He is a virtuoso of form that is simultaneously strict and free. Is poetry's main subject is the mysticism hidden in erotic experiences and paintings, which the poet takes care never to strip of their literalness. For certain this is a sequel to the simultaneously mystic and erotic verses of the biblical "Song of Solomon." In recent years, Kierc as published a number of volumes of poetry, including Tyber z piaskiem / The Tiber with Sand (1997) and Czary / Spells (1999).
  • Małgorzata Baranowska

    Małgorzata Baranowska is a poet who rarely publishes a volume. She did so last in 2002, in the form of the book Powrót / The Return. The fulfilled ambition of this author is to express in words something that is a conglomerate of feelings that hide under the surface of meanings, in that ambiguous sphere between abstraction and sensuality. In this poetry, the carrier of these feelings is an angel. In Baranowska's works consciousness extends from the beginnings of the world as defined in Genesis to the last moments before the end of the world. This poetry can thus be called eschatological. Seducing us in this flow between poles are half-sleeping structures that are nevertheless reined in by forms resembling choruses. We hear a melody of sentences proper only to this poet. Likewise, in this poetry we find a hypnotizing historical concrete - the apocalypse pictured as the post-war ruins of Warsaw. This is the substance of childhood myths; in her other books the poet often recalls children playing in the rubble of the Polis capital. Thus, the end meets the beginning in autobiographical terms as well!
  • Jerzy Górzański

    Through the poetry he produces currently, Jerzy Górzański has demonstrated himself to be a poet of nostalgic memories of childhood and boyhood. The most beautiful volumes of this kind is Debiut z aniołem / Debut with an Angel (1997), which opens with a motto from Baudelaire that says much about the mood of Górzański's poetry: "When I was little, I experienced two contradicting feelings: a fear of life and an enchantment with life." Everything in this volume is a free incitement of memory. Images of his bitter, impoverished but colorful childhood in Warsaw's derelict district of Praga evoke Stalinist times, in their unusual boyish blend of truth and fiction they come to constitute a great private (yet also generational) historical myth.
  • Jakub Ekier

    Practicing a radically ascetic current of lyrical poetry, Jakub Ekier, a poet and outstanding translator of Germany poetry follows in the footsteps of his recently silent master, Ryszard Krynicki. In the small volume titled Podczas ciebie / During You (1999), utilizing the form of the condensed poetic miniature, he develops the ambiguity of words to a level rarely achieved in Polish poetry in recent times. e is assisted in these efforts by inspirations flowing from the poetry of the great German-language lyrical poet Paul Celan - Ekier's translations of this poet's works are wonderful achievement of poetic Polish in and of themselves. Ekier proves able of including in one small poem both erotic tones and a philosophical study of human cognition and the "negative mysticism" of God understood as the Great Void.
  • Jarosław Mikołajewski

    Jarosław Mikołajewski, a poet who before our very eyes is achieving maturity, has in recent years become a lyrical poet par excellence. In several volumes, and especially in Którzy mnie znają / Those Who Know Me (2003), with the moving simplicity of poetic intent, he reaches for the eternal subjects of poetry: love and death. His communing with the dead is the most intimate communion possible - because we can only find the dead in ourselves! - and the most estranged, because in the end they are after all the dead... From this simple tension Mikołajewski extracts tones tat are individual, specific only to himself. He seems a Siamese twin of the departed - linked to them through a corporal genealogy (he has much to say about his deceased father) and a psychological kinship.

    This poet encompasses all with love - alongside wonderful, bold erotic poems, he writes much about the love of fathers for their daughters. He seeks out and finds for himself an unusually voluminous poetic language - some language of feelings shaped in the time before the Tower of Babel, in the time before the confusion of languages. This is the speech of one's own "I" communicating with oneself, and not merely the speech of one human communicating with others.
  • Józef Kurylak

    Józef Kurlak's poetry differs from all other poetry being written today - it is dark, reminiscent of that of Baudelaire or Rilke. This poet's direct master is Mieczysław Jastrun, and his work is a kind of philosophizing poetry that requires many years to mature and finds fulfillment in late fruit. Kurylak debuted at age fifty. The literary structure of time in this poetry overflows with personal tragedies, Kurylak's poems are records of numerous dramas, subtle yet clear records. The real time of his biography is saturated with meditations on the philosophical concept of time. The concrete qualities of life of one poem contrast with the abstract conceptual adages of the next. This poetry is somewhat anachronistic in its artistic means - showing a care for the melody of the phrase - but this should not be treated as a criticism. This perfectionism hailing from another time grants the poems a gravity of form - however, without the ceremony, without conceit. His most representative collections include Dolina poetów nad Wiarem / The Valley of the Poets on the Wiar River (1998) and Zmierzch jest doktorem filozofii / Dusk Is a Doctor of Philosophy (2001).
  • Janusz Szuber

    Janusz Szuber surprised readers when he debuted late in life with a body of highly mature works.

    Because of a long-term illness, the writer's path to maturity consisted of long, lonely hours writing, followed later by years of corresponding and exchanging thoughts with friends. To this day Szuber's poems have preserved the charm of an intimate conversation.

    In 1999 Janusz Szuber published a volume of collected poems. Titled O chłopcu mieszającym powidła / About a Boy Who Mixes Jam, the volume confirmed the significance of his late debut.

    Janusz Szuber's poetry is dominated by visually rich reminiscences of childhood. His poems evoke instances in the life of a maturing boy, when the first youthful philosophies of life begin to impose a shape upon sensual sensitivity.

    The author allows his readers to follow the train of his obsessive mental work: his search for specific and intense images from youth, followed by the distilling of these visions so that years on they may smite the reader through their purity and sensual becoming. Memories materialize in Szuber's poetry. We sense the aroma of the jam the boy is mixing and are transported into the boy's body when he pushes off the boat, soaking his shoe and flowing out into the river's current.

    Janusz Szuber sacrificed his talent up to this birthplace. His depiction of the Sanok region is true, replete with a love for the landscapes and a sensitive attention to the fate of its inhabitants. Like a historian, the poet cites archives and in this manner succeeds in portraying the languages and the convoluted histories of the nations that inhabited these lands.


    Bożena Keff, Kazimierz Brakoniecki and Anna Piwkowska have recently produced work that is unusually interesting in light of their efforts to employ the elemental power of epic poetry.
  • Bożena Keff

    In the volume Nie jest gotowy / He Is Not Ready (2000), Bożena Keff creates the characters of women and men of various eras and enters into these roles while simultaneously maintaining an epic distance to them. Her analyses of isolation and estrangement are highly concrete in their historical dimension. For instance, Keff's poetically condensed real and spiritual biography of a young Polish-Jewish woman, a participant of the Spanish Civil War, could easily match a broad novel in substance. The poet employs an incomparably precise and masterful expressive technique to record her epic and psychological observations. The flow of sentences, their breaks and interlinear meanderings aptly reflect both the hard fate of those who have lived through the 20th century and their efforts to escape from this fate into the unnamable freedom of the mind.
  • Kazimierz Brakoniecki

    Through a number of volumes, Kazimierz Brakoniecki has demonstrated himself to be the most talented of those poets who have taken it upon themselves to fulfill a kind of moral obligation. In their works, the members of this group recreate the biographies of Polish families which remained unstated in the times of the Polish People's Republic thus satisfying a long-suppressed natural yearning for personal genealogical myths. In his poetry Brakoniecki explores the tragedy of those who were resettled from Poland's pre-war eastern frontier to the so-called "Western Lands." These highly personal narratives serve as the basis for presenting cultural traditions - Polish, German, Jewish, and others - that have blended, clashed and often failed to co-exist harmoniously. While living in a multi-cultural world thus defined, Brakoniecki attempts to conceive of a new European universalism.
  • Anna Piwkowska

    In a number of collections, and most maturely in the volume Po / After (2002), **os:Anna Piwkowska*os_piwkowska*anna** presents love in its most absolute assertion: without justification and without vicissitudes. Yet she renders this absolute form of love credible through all that happens between lovers - miniscule scenes, minute events, that is, precisely through the vicissitudes of love. These turn out to reside in all the surrounding world, all the great and small concretes of the world in its complete reality and realism, in a world which also encompasses the psychology of love relationships. In Piwkowska's poetry this world is rendered with a delicacy that evokes the subtlest fabrics of Chekhov's dramas and late short stories. This poetry clearly has another patron in the person of Anna Akhmatova.

    The Youngest Poets

    Among the country's youngest poets, I would like to devote some attention to merely a couple, as it is naturally very difficult to identify the most valuable among dozens of exceptional debuts. Fully conscious of the risks that accompany making a choice, I will nevertheless stop at selecting and discussing but two poets. In the case of these two authors, I was captivated by their books because of their lyrical stance, which in the poetry of young authors seems to emerge victorious against tendencies that limit lyricism either to formal "inter-textual games" (with literary allusions playing a dominant role) or to flat, "report-like" recording of daily life.
  • Tadeusz Dąbrowski

    Tadeusz Dąbrowski, in his small volume titled E-mail (2000), goes against his title, which might indicate a fascination for contemporary communication technology, offering the poetry of a sensitive wanderer who travels on foot and seeks out his own identity among facts of life that have been known to humanity forever. With his senses sharpened towards the present day, he captures impulses from a mysterious, intriguing future. In Dąbrowski one can clearly sense the kind of poet who identifies signs of the times far more perceptively than sociologists.
  • Wojciech Bonowicz

    Wojciech Bonowicz shares a similar sensitivity. In his Hurtownia ran / Wounds Wholesale (2000), he adds a new kind of religious sensitivity to what I wrote about Dąbrowski. The core of a soul and the certainty of ultimate spiritual sanction emerge - ineffably, by mere suggestion - from somewhere beneath his seemingly free-flowing imagination that tends toward the surrealistic.

    Tryptyk rzymski / Roman Triptych

    In concluding this sketch I would like to describe an event without precedent that is hardly appropriate to discuss in a normal panorama of poetry yet must be as it deeply affects the substance of this art form. I have in mind Pope John Paul II's masterful poem titled Tryptyk rzymski / Roman Triptych (2003). This work is in essence a meditation on the startling simultaneity of two metaphysical facts: the creation of the world and the final judgment. This concurrence manifests itself in the ethical bases of human speech and endures in the specific life experience of Karol Wojtyła, a specific individual distinguished by divine calling. Roman Triptych is simultaneously the crowning achievement in the long path of Wojtyła's poetry, a highly mature embodiment of philosophical poetry of the brand of Norwid and Eliot. The opinions of critics show a kind of uncertainty as to whether what we have here is an excellent poetic work, or a deep theological meditation, one almost "accidentally" granted poetic form. In my opinion, these doubts are unjustified. Both the past and current literary achievements of Karol Wojtyła - John Paul II provide convincing proof that the stream of his poetry is nourished by an abundant imagination and controlled by means proper to modern lyrical poetry.

    Author: Piotr Matywiecki, February 2004



Language & Literature
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