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Here [Hardcover]

Wislawa Szymborska
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

3 Mar 2011
These twenty-seven poems, as rendered by prize-winning translators Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, are among her greatest ever. Whether writing about her teenage self, microscopic creatures, or the upsides to living on Earth, she remains a virtuoso of form, line, and thought. From the title poem: I can't speak for elsewhere, but here on Earth we've got a fair supply of everything. Here we manufacture chairs and sorrows, scissors, tenderness, transistors, violins, teacups, dams, and quips...Like nowhere else, or almost nowhere, you're given your own torso here, equipped with the accessories required for adding your own children to the rest. Not to mention arms, legs, and astonished head.

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Here + Poems: New and Collected + View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; 1 edition (3 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 054736461X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547364612
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.4 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 583,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"No reader, not even poetry-phobes, should miss the bright revelations of Nobel laureate Szymborska. [...] Syzmborska is sharply ironic and lithely philosophical, pondering the phenomenal precision of dreams and the elusiveness of meaning. The neat, prancing lyrics collected in this slender, piercing book are delectable and profound." --Booklist

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unpronouncably sage 26 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
wise, succinct, witty. every poem is a jewel. you will find here what you need but were not looking for
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  44 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By David Keymer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When this slim volume arrived in the noon mail, I put down what I was doing and read it right away. That's how much I enjoy Szymborska's exceptional, soaring yet concrete poetry. It didn't hurt that the translators are Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak: I have admired their work before. These poems seem so colloquial in tone and subject! Is that because of Szymborska, who writes in Polish, a language I don't know, or the translators? I suspect both: Szymbroska writes of a heightened everyday experience (this, plus the beauty and aptness of her choice of images) is what makes her poems immediately accessible. And to be a good translator of poetry is to be a poet in one's own right.

These are short poems --the longest runs two and a half pages, most under two pages and a number of them are half a page to a page long. The original, in Polish, is presented on the left hand side, the English translation on the right.
Here is a series of poems about all sorts of things --on divorce, on memory, on looking back at oneself as a teenager. There are (short) paeans to Ella Fitzgerald and to Vermeer's astounding painting, Milkmaid. The longest poem is a mock interview with Mme. Atropos, the goddess who cuts the strings of our lifelines and introduces us to Death.

The lead poem, 'Here,' catalogs the mundane objects and extraordinary feelings we experience in this material world: "... chairs and sorrows,/scissors, tenderness, transistors, violins,/teacups, dams, and quips...' 'Ignorance works overtime here,' she writes, 'something is always being counted, compared, measured,/from which roots and conclusions are then drawn.' She ends the poem:

Life on Earth is quite a bargain.
Dreams, for one, don't charge admission.
Illusions are costly only when lost.
The body has its own installment plan.

And as an extra, added feature,
you spin on the planets' carousel for free,
and with it you hitch a ride on the intergalactic blizzard,
with times so dizzying
that nothing here on Earth can even tremble.

Just take a closer look:
the table stands exactly where it stood,
the piece of paper still lies where it was spread,
through the open window comes a breath of air,
the walls reveal no terrifying cracks
through which nowhere might extinguish you.

Not all of the poems in this collection work. I could have done without "Ella in Heaven" and "Vermeer" --not that they're bad but they feel shallow, as though pretending to more meaning than they actually show. But immediately after these two short poems, there is another, equally short one, entitled "Metaphysics," and she has won me over again.

It's been and gone.
It's been, so it's gone.
In the same irreversible order,
for such is the rule of this foregone game.
A trite conclusion, not worth writing
if it weren't for an unmentionable fact,
a fact for ever and ever,
for the whole cosmos, as it was was and will be,
that something really was
until it was gone,
even the fact
that today you had a side of fries.

I do not think this is a wholly successful poem. Robert Creeley, for one, has long done this kind of thing better. But I admire Szymborska for trying it, and I love the way she plays with simple, not complicated, words to express both simple and complex thoughts and moods. Long may her flag wave high!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars in the end... 23 Sep 2010
By K. Draper - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The poet W. Szymborska is astonished with life. And yet she knows it won't last.

Tiny, tiny creatures ("Foraminifera"--which sent me Googling), who lived long ago, each leaving microscopic shells astound us now as the Cliffs of Dover. Other micro-organisms so small "They don't even have decent innards.../They may not even know they are--or aren't." fascinate her so much that she had already planned to write about them for years. There's so much "stuff" (...teacups, dams and quips) on this spinning planet, yet nothing falls off or even trembles. A huge gale stripped all the leaves off from the trees, yet look! "one leaf/left/to sway solo on a naked branch". We have this this thing called "space" (ie, the universe)--it has everything in in it, yet is so empty, vastly open, yet "shut tight since nothing can escape from it". One day on the peaceful, quiet savanna, a violent clash occurs between an antelope and a lioness ("Two creatures who want to live"), yet no one and no thing is guilty. There are people known as "Assassins", who think about killing for days on end, except for when they "eat their meals with gusto/pray, wash their feet, feed the birds..." (is that regular looking guy next to me actually a sociopath, I wonder). Every face on earth throughout all time is different--or is it? An old Greek statue remains artful although time has rendered it merely a torso, and missing many parts and pieces.

And nothing lasts: an idea for a poem, unheeded, vanishes; the teenager she once was is not who she is; marriages end and things get divided up; there could be some cataclysm with a "Day after--without us"; "Billions of faces on the earth's surface...[sink] in the mirror of oblivion"; those tiny microorganisms "still decide our life and death"; someone dies in a "Highway Accident", yet others don't even know that it happened; in another accident a woman's husband is killed, yet she refuses to identify the body, even though their names are engraved on the wedding ring..."since our names are completely ordinary--"; people get killed by assassins; antelopes get eaten by lions; leaves get blown off of trees; etc. You get the picture; there's all this stuff "Here", and it is amazing, yet it is all so fleeting.

In the end she has "An Interview with Atropos" ("Death"; another google trip for me), and gets nowhere in her quibble with Ms.Atropos about why she cuts the threads of life off for people--only in parting, an "Au revoir" (I would have said "auf Wiedersehen", but she actually said "Do widzenia"; In the end, the statue keeps crumbling away; in the end all the people must make their way through the Labyrinth of life with their own twists and turns, yet for everybody travels the same path at the end,

"Then abruptly an abyss,
an abyss, but a little bridge,
a little bridge, but shaky,
shaky, but the only,
there's no other."

In the end, I was astonished by the poetry and the poet. Not all the poems were great, and the book was too brief, yet, in the end this ordinary yet amazing world, as seen through Szymborska's microscope/telescope of playful irony, delights and amazes the reader. Recommend.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do NOT buy the Kindle Edition 9 Feb 2012
By s. - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What idiot set up the kindle edition? The Polish and English texts are mixed together, a few stanzas in one followed by a few stanzas in the other. It's hard to read and impossible to appreciate properly. I can deal with weird editing of the free and cheapo books that Amazon offers, but this one cost real money. What gives?

And reading raves about how great the facing page setup works in the dead-tree edition just makes it worse!

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars for the Poet, -1 for the Kindle Formatting of Poetry 24 Nov 2010
By K. Douglas Anderson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
She's wonderful, open, without pretension, and delighted to be alive -- all wonderful requisites for a poet. The translation is sharp and readable; of course I miss all the wonderful buzzing z's of Polish (but then I can't understand it, so why whine).

Now, let me complain about the Kindle formatting: the lines wrap unnaturally because they don't fit on the page, and the alternating pages in Polish are crammed up against the English text. Time to pay attention to detail, Amazon.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cover Says It All 31 Oct 2010
By John Michael Albert - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When Szymborska (b. 1923) won the Nobel Prize in 1996, we had View With a Grain of Sand. This survey sampled her work from 1957 to 1993 and firmly supported the wisdom of the Nobel committee's decision. Shortly after, there came Poems, New and Collected, which added about 60 pages of poems from 1957-1993 and 7 poems written between 1993 and 1997. Now, the same translators (Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak) bring us Here. You should be cautioned: this is a facing-page book of translations; its 85 pages of poetry amount to only 42 pages of new poem. As any sane person would expect, these poems are mellower and deeper. There are echoes of "The Joy of Writing," "Theatre Impressions," and "Under One Small Star," poems that I know intimately from reciting them over the last ten years at open-mic poetry readings. I think I would characterize this mellower voice as "don't worry; things work out." It's not a blind naivete by any stretch of the imagination. It is the voice of a great poet in her eighth decade, representing a life lived out during a truly bizarre, I'd say self-destructive, century. She says, ekphrastically, "So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum / in painted quiet and concentration / keeps pouring milk day after day / from the pitcher to the bowl / the World hasn't earned / the world's end." (Vermeer, p. 55) The photo on the cover says it all.
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