Poetry
Adriana Szymańska
Green Blinds

Poetry that confronts universal doubt and helplessness

The Gift of Memory

There comes a time in your life
when you no longer need sight, hearing or touch
to write a poem. The once-remarked
flutter of a sparrow at high noon skipping
from branch to branch in an apple tree suffices.
The child you were back then
will tell you without a moment’s hesitation
that the whole world
– like a little piece of coloured glass –
can expand into a rose window at the moment
you lift it on your palm into the sun.

A Short Treatise on Seeds

For the world to become a basilica
one winged seed, flying where the wind blows it, suffices.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Fortress

How many flowers have I planted in my life, how many trees,
how many dogs and birds have I fed?
Will any of these bear witness to my
service? Is our concealed love of these creatures
merely the measure of our care for them?
To consider attentively this world’s beauty and wretchedness –
does that mean to revivify that which is born, grows and vanishes?
If the seed only knew that from it would come the bread
that fuels the thew of builders of sacred structures
it would be the proudest being on earth.
But it – being the tiniest – so remains
even then, when God has taken up residence in the temple,
the power of which began with that small seed.
And so the seed never dies, however many times
it’s died, before glancing at the immensity of Heaven?
To be a seed, that is, to be the most perfect particle
of creation! Dreaming thus, can I feel myself immortal?

Teacup

Not large, white, slightly crimped,
of thin Meissener porcelain,
with a colourful pattern of pansies and ragged
triangular leaves – like ivy or grape leaves.
It belonged to my maternal grandmother.
How many times have I sat by
the table unfolded full, during family
teas – with grandparents and Mum and Dad
and a clutch of distant relatives?
One of them must have sent me this sign today
from the great beyond, for, sipping coffee, suddenly
I felt my heart leap towards them, absent now
for many decades. Surely all of them
once held this decorative handle in their fingers.
Can it be that they transmitted their mysterious message through it,
that they’re waiting There for me? That death,
to which I must submit at last after all,
will reunite me with them once again
at the eternal banquet, with the common bonds
of blood though now transfigured into light?

4 May 2019

Translated by Charles S. Kraszewski

Poetry
Adriana Szymańska
Green Blinds

Poetry that confronts universal doubt and helplessness

Publisher: PIW, Warszawa 2021
Translation rights: Adriana Szymańska, adrianaszymanska00@gmail.com
Foreign language translations: Germany, France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Serbia, Sweden, Romania, the UK – in anthologies.

The work of Adriana Szymańska is centrally fixed on the map of contemporary Polish poetry. Following the departure of the grandes dames of Polish writing, Wisława Szymborska and Julia Hartwig, it is Szymańska who now speaks most clearly as the voice of that generation of female authors born in the first half of the twentieth century. And hers is a voice that enters upon ever new registers. Not long ago, the State Publishing Institute (PIW) brought out a generous selection of her verse from the years 1968–2019 entitled Nieprzerwany dialog [Unbroken Dialogue]. Such an unbroken dialogue with the reader, regular and constant, returning to familiar themes, constitutes her newer volumes of verse, including Green Blinds (2021). This is a book chock-full of poetic reckonings, balance-sheets and summations, as if the author were trying to compose her Summa – concerning her poetic career on the one hand, and her life on the other. She poses herself some basic questions: “To consider attentively this world’s beauty and wretchedness – / does that mean to revivify that which is born, grows and vanishes?” The volume is filled with musings on ephemerality. She carefully inspects old photographs “Captured in shapely frames / flashes of unbeing”, an old tea-cup once used by her ancestors; she directs a tender gaze at animals and flowers, and looks on humankind with concern. All of this is happening so that she might come together with other beings, other existences “in one unending hymn of thanksgiving”. In this she is similar to Zbigniew Herbert, who was able to create superb “object studies” and who spoke of the poetry of his younger colleague thus: “This is a splendid, mature, juicy and bitter fruit.” Her poetic imagination tending towards religion, Szymańska confronts universal doubt and helplessness. The word “God” appears many times in the poems collected here. In them there shines a peculiar sensitivity of faith and hope bordering on the certainty that the world is greater than that which we are able to encompass with our limited physical senses.

Jakub Pacześniak

Translated by Charles S. Kraszewski

Selected samples

<
>
Urszula Honek
Honek
Radek Rak
Agla
Mariusz Staniszewski
Staniszewski_Kartel
Paweł Rzewuski
Adriana Szymańska
Kazimierz Orłoś
Orlos
Rafał Wojasiński
Tefil
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Grzegorzewska_drama
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Sprawa
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Piatkowski_Oleksicki_Ekspozytura
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Droga
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Bunt-rojstow
Witold Szabłowski
Szablowski_Rosja-od-kuchni
Andrzej Muszyński
Muszynski_Dom-ojcow
Wiesław Helak
Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Jastrzebski_Dies-irae
Dariusz Sośnicki
Sośnicki_Po-domu
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski_chodz
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_SO
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło

69

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

© 2022 The Polish Book Institute