Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some People Like Poetry

I've just been reading a collection of Wislawa Szymborska's poetry. She was born in 1923 and lived most of her life in Krakow. I actually bought the book in Krakow. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

Here is her wonderful poem Some People Like Poetry.

Some People Like Poetry
By Wislawa Szymborska

Some people—
that means not everyone.
Not even most of them, only a few.
Not counting school, where you have to,
and poets themselves,
you might end up with two per thousand.

but then, you can like chicken noodle soup,
or compliments, or the color blue,
your old scarf,
your own way,
petting the dog.

but what is poetry, anyway?
More than one rickety answer
has tumbled since that question first was raised.
But I just keep on not knowing, and I cling to that
like a redemptive handrail.

—Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

from this website.

Or is it? Here is the same poem, only different, from this website.

Some People Like Poetry

Wislawa Szymborska

Some people--
that is not everybody
Not even the majority but the minority.
Not counting the schools where one must,
and the poets themselves,
there will be perhaps two in a thousand.

but we also like chicken noodle soup,
we like compliments and the color blue,
we like our old scarves,
we like to have our own way,
we like to pet dogs.

but what is poetry.
More than one flimsy answer
has been given to that question.
And I don't know, and don't know, and I
cling to it as to a life line.

-translated by Walter Whipple

And here is an article from 1996 about two competing versions of this poem.

It just makes me want to learn Polish so I can read the actual poem.

There is a discussion about translating poetry in the current issue of Poetry Magazine here.

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