Thursday, June 14, 2012

When Finley Wins His Nobel Prize

Take a second to read this article from the New York Times, and then we'll talk a little later.

Wislawa Szymborska, Nobel-Winning Polish Poet, Dies at 88
Published: February 1, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska, a gentle and reclusive Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Wednesday in Krakow, Poland. She was 88.
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Soren Andersson/Associated Press

Wislawa Szymborska with her Nobel Prize medal in 1996.

The cause was lung cancer, said David A. Goldfarb, the curator of literature and humanities at the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, a diplomatic mission of the Polish Embassy.

Ms. Szymborska (pronounced vees-WAH-vah shim-BOR-ska) had a relatively small body of work when she received the Nobel, the fifth Polish or Polish-born writer to have done so since the prize was created in 1901. Only about 200 of her poems had been published in periodicals and thin volumes over a half-century, and her lifetime total was something less than 400.

The Nobel announcement surprised Ms. Szymborska, who had lived an intensely private life. “She was kind of paralyzed by it,” said Clare Cavanagh, who, with Stanislaw Baranczak, translated much of Ms. Szymborska’s work into English.

“Her friends called it the ‘Nobel tragedy,’ ” Dr. Cavanagh, a professor of literature at Northwestern University, said in an interview on Wednesday. “It was a few years before she wrote another poem.”

Ms. Szymborska lived most of her life in modest conditions in the old university city of Krakow, working for the magazine Zycie Literackie (Literary Life). She published a thin volume of her verse every few years.

She was popular in Poland, which tends to make romantic heroes of poets, but she was little known abroad. Her poems were clear in topic and language, but her playfulness and tendency to invent words made her work hard to translate.

Much of her verse was contemplative, but she also addressed death, torture, war and, strikingly, Hitler, whose attack on Poland in 1939 started World War II in Europe. She depicted him as an innocent — “this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe” — being photographed on his first birthday.

Ms. Szymborska began writing in the Socialist Realist style. The first collection of what some have called her Stalinist period, “That’s What We Live For,” appeared in 1952, followed two years later by another ideological collection, “Questions Put to Myself.”

Years later she told the poet and critic Edward Hirsch: “When I was young I had a moment of believing in the Communist doctrine. I wanted to save the world through Communism. Quite soon I understood that it doesn’t work, but I’ve never pretended it didn’t happen to me.

“At the very beginning of my creative life I loved humanity. I wanted to do something good for mankind. Soon I understood that it isn’t possible to save mankind.”

By 1957, she had renounced both Communism and her early poetry. Decades later, she was active in the Solidarity movement’s struggle against Poland’s Communist government. During a period of martial law, imposed in 1981, she published poems under a pseudonym in the underground press.

She insisted that her poetry was personal rather than political. “Of course, life crosses politics,” she said in an interview with The New York Times after winning the Nobel in 1996. “But my poems are strictly not political. They are more about people and life.”

Ms. Szymborska “looks at things from an angle you would never think of looking at for yourself in a million years,” Dr. Cavanagh said on the day of the Nobel announcement. She pointed to “one stunning poem that’s a eulogy.”

“It’s about the death of someone close to her that’s done from the point of view of the person’s cat,” she said.

That poem, “Cat in an Empty Apartment,” as translated by Dr. Cavanagh and Mr. Baranczak, opens:

Die — You can’t do that to a cat.

Since what can a cat do

in an empty apartment?

Climb the walls?

Rub up against the furniture?

Nothing seems different here,

but nothing is the same.

Nothing has been moved,

but there’s more space.

And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,

but they’re new ones.

The hand that puts fish on the saucer

has changed, too.

Something doesn’t start

at its usual time.

Something doesn’t happen

as it should. Someone was always, always here,

then suddenly disappeared

and stubbornly stays disappeared.

Wislawa Szymborska was born on July 2, 1923, near Poznan, in western Poland. When she was 8, her family moved to Krakow. During the Nazi occupation, she went to a clandestine school, risking German punishment, and later studied literature and sociology at the prestigious Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

Her marriage to the poet Adam Wlodek ended in divorce. Her companion, the writer Kornel Filipowicz, died in 1990. She had no children, and no immediate family members survive.

Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish exile who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, said of Ms. Szymborska’s Nobel selection: “She’s a shy and modest person, and for her it will be a terrible burden, this prize. She is very reticent in her poetry also. This is not a poetry where she reveals her personal life.”

Her work did, however, reveal sympathy for others — even the biblical figure who looked back at Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. Ms. Szymborska speculated in the opening lines of “Lot’s Wife” on why she looked back:

They say I looked back out of curiosity,

but I could have had other reasons.

I looked back mourning my silver bowl.

Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.

So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape

Of my husband Lot’s neck.

From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead

He wouldn’t so much as hesitate.

From the disobedience of the meek.

Checking for pursuers.

Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.

Her last book to be translated, “Here,” was published in the United States last year. Reviewing it for The New York Review of Books, the poet Charles Simic noted that Ms. Szymborska “often writes as if on an assigned subject,” examining it in depth. He added: “If this sounds like poetry’s equivalent of expository writing, it is. 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.”

In her Nobel lecture, Ms. Szymborska joked about the life of poets. Great films can be made of the lives of scientists and artists, she said, but poets offer far less promising material.

“Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic,” she said. “Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines, only to cross out one of them 15 minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens. Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?”

Paul Vitello contributed reporting.

End Of Story..................

OK, I'm back,

First Off, Finley loves to talk about poets and history of poets.

However....most of the time these people he adores are Irish or American, but I want to throw a Pollack into the conversation.

This Wislawa chick was pretty cool huh?

I dig her piece about the cat in an apartment with a dead body.

I would never think to write about this, it sounds more like an Alice Cooper song, but I read about this poet, I chuckled when the other poet said the Nobel would ruin Wislawa, and how she would cower into the shadows.

LOL...Finley wouldn't.

If Mike Finley won the Nobel......he'd do everything from socializing with the worlds most acclaimed writers (to help them along of course) to hosting Saturday Night Live.

Can't you see him with his hands tucked into the pockets of his jean jacket and announcing.....

"Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome back....Aerosmith"

The more I get to know writers, not individually, but as a collective whole, it makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to have such a reckless rebel as a mentor.

Like many writers, Mike is sensitive, you'll never hear him describe himself as bulletproof, but evening knowing that about himself....

He puts himself in the direct line of fire, like 9 times every day.

You would NEVER find Finley cower after winning an opportunity.

He would milk it for every ounce of marrow he could.

I want to be like that too.

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