The cherished Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska passed away on Wednesday evening at her home in Kraków at the age of 88
Photo: Damian Klamka, East News
The poet's secretary released the news of her passing to the public, saying only that she had passed away in her sleep at home, among loved ones. The President of Poland spoke in tribute of the Nobel laureate, calling her the nation's "guardian spirit" whose poems "were brilliant advice, through which the world became more understandable" and found significance in the details of everyday life.
Wisława Szymborska was known throughout the world through her poetry, referred to as the 'Mozart of poetry' by the Nobel committee who gave her the prize in 1996. Her works were translated into English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Czech, Slovak, Swedish, Bulgarian, Albanian, Chinese and more. She was among the most popular poets in Poland, in spite of criticism at home. Abroad she was honoured with a number of distinctions, crowned by the Nobel Prize in 1996.
Never associating herself with any poetical school, she created her own craft of writing and her own language that keeps distance from great historical events, the biological conditioning of human existence, the social role of the poet, and also from philosophical systems, ideologies, truths taken on faith, habits, stereotypes and inhibitions. Hers is a language of compassion for those who have been wronged, yet it is also an expression of delight at the beauty of human life with its keen beauty, illogicality and tragedy. It is a language of well-considered judgments and muffled emotions, a language of lyricism controlled by a cold, fresh intellect, a language subjected to intellectual rigor that does not rule out sensitivity to the everyday attractions of existence. It is a language that generally remains faithful to colloquial speech while subtly widening its lexical resources. It is a language of paradox, apparently simple, but nonetheless refined and full of layered metaphors.
Szymborska even wrote her own Epitaph not very long ago, a very contemporary vision of the attainment of peace in a digital world.
Here lies, old fashioned as parentheses,
the authoress of verse. Eternal rest
was granted her by earth, although the corpse
had failed to join the avant-garde, of course.
The plain grave? There's poetic justice in it,
this ditty-dirge, the owl, the meek cornflower
Passerby, take your PC out, press "POWER,"
think on Szymborska's fate for half a minute"
(translated by Baranczak and Cavanaugh).
Wisława Szymborska was born on the 2nd of July 1923 in what is today Kórnik near Poznań. She lived in Toruń, later Kraków, where she attended elementary school and middle school. During the war she worked for the railroad. Then she began writing her first stories and poems. After the war she studied Polish literature and sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She worked as the editor of several literary publications before getting her first poetry collection - "This is why We Live" - published in 1952. Her debut was well received by the critics. And although the reviews from the first half of the 1950s concerned the "correct" poems later rejected by the poet and although the criticisms themselves were usually ideological, attention was paid in them to an important aspect of her work, which was confirmed by her later development: the ability to combine a personal viewpoint with a wider social perspective. After the thaw, Szymborska published the breakthrough volume "Calling Out to Yeti" in 1957. In it she moved away from committed poetry in favour of poetry with a philosophical distance, incessantly wondering at the world, suspicious of doctrines and systems.
In 1991 she received the Goethe Prize, and later the Herder Prize. In 1996 she was awarded the Nobel Prize and in 2011 she received the Order of White Eagle from the Polish government. Her last volume of poetry “Here,” was published in the United States in 2011. In his review for the New York Times, poet Charles Simic wrote, "More than any poet I can think of, Szymborska not only wants to create a poetic state in her readers, but also to tell them things they didn’t know before or never got around to thinking about". Her sensitive approach to the unavoidable aspects of the physical world, combined with a keen sense of wit, sincerity and spirit, brought about some of the most significant works of poetry of the 20th century.
Source: PAP, Culture.pl
Thumbnail photo credit: Elżbieta Lempp