Anna Piwkowska
Between the Monsoons

Subtle, linguistically refined poetry links various cultural traditions

Old Women

Old women – helpless and beautiful
with pearls in their ears and sapphires in their eyes –
maybe faded from tears, maybe washed out,
onyx of pain in shining pupils,
in carmine of lipstick in this dump
where next to trash – refined trinkets.

Old women remember well
sheep, hills, meadows, and robes
tossed in the grass, their nudity in a stream,
sturdy lacey shoes with worn soles,
when the paths still led them up.

Old women entombed in amber
like two butterflies, dragonflies in wetlands
while through the windows the glitter of city lights
and they see again: they stand in the strip of fire,
lean, in uniforms, in the limelight of history
and they – young women, young brides
run in their dresses and lacey shoes.

Old women remember well
long hours in queues in snow
for bread, for a good word of somebody’s Christmas.
And now they sit fragile and helpless
in plush purple, gilded chairs,
while they bring them gold discs on satin,
splendid medals, special addresses.
Precious women, rescued widows.

Old women remember well:
Wolves left, wolves came again.
Old women got up, cleaned, left.

Red Bucket

He came out the door with a red bucket
and splash!
Rays and leaves pirouetted in a flush.
And when the movement ceased, a flock of jackdaws
lifted off to drink moisture from drops before they
vanish in grass.
Everything transforms, and movement and being
are not separate forms of consciousness.
Waking sleep waking are the same:
a conversation with the receding world
and the beloved dead.
For a moment it seemed
that in this splash, flush, motion
I see your and my faces, my and your faces
when they lean towards each other in a quiet talk,
interrupted by laughter, lost forever.

Translated by Ewa Chrusciel

Anna Piwkowska
Between the Monsoons

Subtle, linguistically refined poetry links various cultural traditions

Publisher: Znak Publishers, Kraków 2019
Translation rights: Znak Publishers, bolinska@znak.com.pl
Foreign language translations: Piwkowska’s poems has been published in anthologies in Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Israel, Lithuania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, UK, and USA. The novel Franciszka was translated into Lithuanian and Slovenian.

Anna Piwkowska writes poetry of captivating images which exist suspended between the past and the present; the human world and the natural one; life and death; fullness and emptiness… Sometimes – or maybe always? – these poems comprise opposites so as to pose the question: ‘Can one trust the reason,/ whom instincts contradict?/ And the instinct which lie/at every step, step by step?’ (So It Revolves in the End?). The poet does not want to resolve anything; her words are not meant for that role, but describe, instead, the fullness of experience, which is a stranger to neither laughter nor tears, nor to contentment with what there is, nor a loss of what is. Bitter awareness accompanies this endeavour, since a word only embraces bits of reality. ‘This is perhaps the biggest sin – to be/and not be able to name what is created and named’ (Things We Lose).

A fragile human existence, endangered by its finiteness, at the mercy of grander forces, such as history (for example: It’s Me, A Jew from Auschwitz) and nature (for example Lucky Charm) have their places in the world’s eternal order. Perhaps it is the place of Atlantis (Golden Fleece), the islands buried in the abyss, as the life of a man seems to pass away between monsoons, when ‘time freezes’ – as we read in the titular poem recalling the life of Karen Blixen. To describe it all, Anna Piwkowska, in her subtle, linguistically refined poetry, links various cultural traditions (we find here mythological, biblical, literary, and fine arts allusions) and various poetic forms (formal and free verse). The world of her poems vibrates, shimmers, as if the poet wanted to say that everything is contained in ‘metre, rhythm and rhyme’ (Plantation). And that ‘the non- existent changes into the existent/ and then the alive into the dead and living/somewhere else’ (Somewhere Else).

Karol Alichnowicz

Translated by Ewa Chrusciel

Learn more about other New Books from Poland

Selected samples

Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
To the top

© 2021 The Polish Book Institute