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Piotr Sommer

Piotr Sommer, photo: Elżbieta Lempp

A poet and translator of contemporary English-language poetry, born in 1948.

Sommer translated into Polish Frank O'Hara, Charles Reznikoff, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney. He has published several dozen books: poetry (his own and translations), literary criticism, anthologies. He also writes poetry for children and is editor of the monthly "Literatura na Świecie / World Literature." He lives outside Warsaw.

Sommer's poetry is marked by tender attention to everyday things, and a desire to elevate routine situations that is counter-pointed by the transformation of everyday pathos into humor. Sommer has written verse about the fate of his generation, including some political verse, but as a poet he is ostentatiously private. The world of his poetry is the world he shares with his family and friends, and above all the world of the pleasure of conversation. These are conversations held in the here and now, even though they are often conversations between the living and the dead. They always feature a dash of irony and contrariness, but there is also warmth and a respect for the presence of others. Sommer enjoys the musicality of language and playfully bends syntax in the search for that music, contrasting words and intonations from different linguistic registers high and low. His poetry is often a theatre of overheard voices and various types of speech. This, together with an attachment to the concrete (we always know who is speaking and whether the poem is happening on the street, at home, in a Warsaw housing block or in a frame house outside the city), distinguishes and identifies Sommer's poetry.

Selected Bibliography

  • W krześle (In the Chair). Cracow: WL, 1977.
  • Pamiątki po nas (What We Leave Behind). Cracow: WL, 1980.
  • Przed snem (Before Sleep). Warsaw: Nasza Ksiegarnia, 1981.
  • Kolejny swiat (Another World). Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1983.
  • Czynnik liryczny i inne wiersze (1880-1886) (The Lyrical Factor and Other Poems (1880-1886). London: Aneks, 1988.
  • Smak detalu i inne ogólniki (The Taste for Detail and Other Generalizations). Lublin: Kresy 1995. (essays on contemporary Polish literature and translations)
  • Artykuły pochodzenia zagranicznego (Articles of Foreign Origin). Gdańsk: Marabut 1997. (anthology of american poetry translations with essays about the poets included)
  • Nowe stosunki wyrazów (New Relations of Words: Poems from the Seventies and Eighties). Poznań: a5, 1997.
  • Piosenka pasterska (Shepherd's song). Legnica: Centrum Sztuki - Teatr Dramatyczny, 1999.
  • Rano na ziemi. Wiersze z lat 1968-1998, WBP, 2009
  • Dni i noce, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2009
  • Wiersze ze słów, Biuro Literackie, Wrocław 2009

Selected translations

  • English:Things to Translate and Other Poems. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1991.

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