Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Since I have posted poems from two Nobel laureates, I thought it would be a bit unjust to Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska not to mention her. Wislawa is someone I discovered while surfing the Nobel website. I am yet to find a hard copy of her book in Mumbai stores. But, the poem that I read on the Nobel website completely floored me. Wislawa won the 1996 Nobel prize for Literature and has 16 (!!) poetry collections to her credit.

Born in western Poland in July 1923, Wislawa wrote her first published poem "I am looking for a word" in the local Polish daily in 1945. She worked as a poetry editor and columnist in a Krakow literary weekly.

After reading her poem, I now dream of meeting her in a Polish coffee house and chatting with her.

Here's the poem. Tell me how you like it and which of Wislawa's "preferences" do you like. My favourite is - I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems!

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love's concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms' fairy tales to the newspapers' front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven't mentioned here
to many things I've also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

From "Nothing Twice", 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
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