Poet, prose writer, playwright born on July 30, 1922 in Warsaw, died on June 17, 1983 in Warsaw.
A Poet of Linguistics
Despite critics’ efforts to assign a category to the poetry of Miron Białoszewski, he remained 'a distinct poet' throughout his life. His poetry defies any classification and while he was associated with the generation of the war poets (Baczyński, Gajcy, Różewicz, Szymborska, Herbert), his poetics differed from theirs. The poet was an outsider by choice: he was not engaged in political life and avoided being associated with any organisations or poetry circles.
Aside from the references to 20th century avant-garde art, Białoszewski’s poetry distinguishes itself by a creative exploration of language. He is often referred to as 'a poet of linguistics.' In his poems, Białoszewski transgressed the borders of the established literary language and broke its conventions. The poet’s interests laid in such phenomena as: irregular, disturbed or awkward speech; mumbling, slips of the tongue and linguistic coincidence, inertia and automatism. Białoszewski often drew inspiration from the spoken, common and even the language of children. He was constantly testing the borders of the linguistic scheme. He did not create these linguistic puns for their own sake but in order to search for an fitting description of reality.
World War II and Poems
As one of the survivors of the Warsaw Uprising, Białoszewski pursued his education in spite of the German occupation, attending clandestine classes. He managed to pass his secondary school examinations and then took up Polish Studies at the underground University of Warsaw. Shortly after the end of the war he returned to the capital city where he worked first at the Main Post Office , and then from 1946 to 1951 as a journalist for newspapers: Kurier Codzienny [Daily Courier] and Wieczór [Evening]. Between 1951 and 1955 Białoszewski made a living writing poems and songs for children and teenagers in popular youth magazines together with Wanda Chotomska.
Although his first works were published as early as in 1947, with the poem Chrystus powstania (Christ of the Uprising) published in Warszawa and the short story Ostatnia lekcja. Wspomnienie okupacyjne (The Last Class. A Memoir of the Occupation) in Walka Młodych (The Youth’s Fight), his actual debut is remembered as 1955. That year Białoszewski published his poetry (with a foreword by Artur Sandauer in Życie Literackie (Literary Life) in a series devoted to five young poets just starting out, also featuring none other than Zbigniew Herbert, Jerzy Harasymowicz, Stanisław Czycz and Bohdan Drozdowski. That same year Białoszewski published Karuzela z madonnami (The Merry-Go-Round with Madonnas) in Twórczość (Creativity) and in 1956 he released a collection of poems titled Obroty rzeczy (The Revolution of Things), written between 1952 and 1955, selected by Sandauer.
This collection of poems gained both the critics’ and audience’s attention. Poetry critics searched for a method of classifying Białoszewski’s poetry from the first volume, and subsequent ones: Rachunek zachciankowy (A Wishful Accounting) (1959), Mylne wzruszenia (Erroneous Emotions,1961), Było i było (It Was and It Was, 1965), Odczepić się (Get Lost, 1978), as well as collections of previously unpublished works: Wiersze (Poems,1976), Poezje wybrane (Selected Poems ,1976) and a poetry volume in a series entitled Poeci polscy (Polish Poets,1977).
Even before publishing his debut collection, Białoszewski got involved in theatre arts. In 1955 jointly with Lech Emfazy Stefański and Bogusław Choiński he established a private experimental theatre (Teatr na Tarczyńskiej) where he staged various cabaret performances and dramas. Following its dissolution, Białoszewski established Teatr Osobny jointly with painter Ludwik Hering and actress and painter Ludmiła Murawska. It was located in his own apartment at the Dąbrowski Square. Białoszewski wrote plays for his own theatre - Osmędeusze and Działalność (Activity). The influences of a theatrical thinking are apparent in Białoszewski’s poetry.
In his prose Białoszewski continued his play with language and the reader’s habits. The author chose literary genres which are situated on the borderland of generally established literary categories: a memoir, a dairy, a reportage. He blurred the line between literary genre of his works, sometimes interweaving prose and poetry, mixing a fictitious reality created by the narrator with facts from the author’s biography. Białoszewski wrote his Pamiętnik z Powstania Warszawskiego (A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising, 1970) as a story told by a civilian in a simple and common manner. It won recognition as an outstanding, original and highly authentic text. The writer’s following prose publications, Donosy rzeczywistości (Denunciations of Reality, 1973), Szumy, zlepy, ciągi (Rustlings, Lumps and Pathways, 1976), Zawał (Heart Attack, 1977) and Rozkurz (Wasted, 1980) were written in characteristic style, with a focus on the writer’s daily activities, gatherings with friends, his day and night wanderings. Whereas Obmapywanie Europy (Mapping Europe) and AAAmeryka (AAAmerica) , published posthumously, offer descriptions of the writer’s travels across Europe and the United States in an astonishing and innovative form.
Like no other artist of his generation, Miron Białoszewski embraced new technologies to scrutinise himself and his work. His experiments are immortalised in the tape recorded audio materials and were released in 2014 by Bołt Records.
Miron Białoszewski is unanimously considered to be one of the most significant writers of the Polish literature of the 20th century and a remarkable personality both in terms of his poetics and life philosophy.
- Obroty rzeczy /The Revolution of Things, Warsaw, PIW, 1956
- Rachunek zachciankowy / A Wishful Accounting, Warsaw, PIW, 1959
- Mylne wzruszenia / Erroneous Emotions, Warsaw, PIW, 1961
- Było i było / It Was and It Was, Warsaw, PIW, 1965
- Odczepić się / Get Lost, Warsaw, PIW, 1978
- Wiersze / Poems, Warsaw, PIW, 1976
- Wiersze / Poems, Warsaw, People’s Publishing Cooperative, 1976
- collection of poems in the series of Poeci polscy / Polish Poets, Warsaw, Czytelnik, 1977
- Trzydzieści lat wierszy / Thirty Years of Poems, Warsaw, PIW, 1982
- Stara proza. Nowe wiersze. / Old Prose. New Poems, Warsaw, PIW,1984
- Oho, Warsaw, PIW, 1985
- Pamiętnik z Powstania Warszawskiego / A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw, PIW, 1970
- Donosy rzeczywistości / Denunciations of Reality, Warsaw, PIW, 1973
- Szumy, zlepy, ciągi / Rustlings, Lumps and Pathways, Warsaw, PIW, 1976
- Zawał / Heart Attack, Warsaw, PIW, 1977
- Rozkurz / Wasted, Warsaw, PIW, 1980
- Obmapywanie Europy. AAAmeryka. Ostatnie wiersze / Mapping Europe. AAAmerica. Last Poems, Warsaw, PIW, 1988
- Teatr osobny. 1955 – 63 / The Separate Theatre. 1955 – 1963, Warsaw, PIW, 1971
Author: Bartłomiej Szleszyński, Polish Studies Department, University of Warsaw, March 2003.