The worst thing my Polish grandparents did was discourage their children from speaking Polish. Now, two generations removed from the language, I can only wonder at what Ms. Szymborska's astonishing work sounds like in her native tounge. The translators have done an admirable job of establishing a gentle sense of humor, a strong and steady voice in the English versions of these poems, which makes me long all the more to be able to read them in their original Polish.
Ms. Szymborska has that wonderful eastern European ability to show us that everything matters -- our words, our thoughts, our ancestors, our own mortality make us who we are, and who we are exists in an eternal Now. "Life, however long, is always short," she writes, "too short for anything to be added."
Perhaps the most moving of these works is "In Broad Daylight," a fantastic portrait of the poet Krzysztof Baczynski, killed at age 23 during the Warsaw Uprising, as an old man, vacationing in the mountains, sipping soup, readng the paper. Ms. Szymborska shows us how these simple acts, what she calls elsewhere "commonplace miracles," are precious. We who live have an obligation to see the miracle in our very exisitence, to savor and to succor life.
Szymborska deserves to be widely read. This volume is highly recommended.