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View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems    by Wislawa Szymborska order for
View with a Grain of Sand
by Wislawa Szymborska
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt Brace, 1995 (1995)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

This is a compilation of poems by Wislawa Szymborska, who was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature (translators Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh were awarded the PEN Translation Prize). The collection's title is also a poem title in Szymborska's 1986 The People on the Bridge. The poet's writings document life's tragedy and beauty, society, nature, and fate. This collection of one hundred choice poems covers seven books from 1957, Calling Out to Yeti, through 1993, The End And The Beginning. The poet's over sixteen books have been translated from Polish to English, German, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Bulgarian, Swedish, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Albanian, Chinese, Spanish, and Romanian. Wislawa Szymborska was born in 1923 in Bnin, Poland. Since 1931, the Nobel Laureate has resided in Krakow. Her first published poem was 'Szukam slowa' ('I am Looking for a Word') in 1945.

Though I find it difficult to pick from so much wealth, here are some of my favorite lines. From 'The Joy of Writing' - 'Why does this written doe bound through these / written woods? ... Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page, / are letters up to no good, / clutches of clauses so subordinate / they'll never let her get away. ... Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so. / Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall, / not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop. ... The joy of writing. / The power of preserving. / Revenge of a mortal hand.' Here's 'In Praise of Dreams' - 'In my dreams / I paint like Vermeer van Delft. / I speak fluent Greek / and not just with the living. / I drive a car / that does what I want it to. / I am gifted / and write mighty epics ... I'm a child of my age, / but I don't have to be. / A few years ago / I saw two suns. / And the night before last a penguin, / clear as day.'

Then there's 'True Love' - 'True love. Is it normal, / is it serious, is it practical? / What does the world get from two people / who exist in a world of their own? ... Look at the happy couple. / Couldn't they at least try to hide it, / fake a little depression for their friends' sake! / Listen to them laughing--it's an insult. / The language they use--deceptively clear ... Let the people who never find true love / keep saying that there's no such thing. / Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.' And here's part of the title poem, 'View with a Grain of Sand' - 'We call it a grain of sand, / but it calls itself neither grain nor sand. / It does just fine without a name, / whether general, particular, / permanent, passing, / incorrect, or apt. / Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it. / It doesn't feel itself seen and touched. / And that it fell on the windowsill / is only our experience, not its ... A second passes. / A second second. / A third. / But they're three seconds only for us. / Time has passed like a courier with urgent news. / But that's just our simile. / The character is invented, his haste is make-believe, / his news inhuman.'

Wislawa Szymborska has written a limited number of poems (approximately two-hundred and fifty) making each a sought-after treasure. I heartily recommend the reading of her beautiful creations.

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