Postwar Polish Poetry

Finished another anthology of Polish Poetry, this one edited by Czeslaw Milosz (1965). Here are my four-most favorite poems from the book.

From Building the Barricade
by Anna Swirszcynska

He Steals Furs

A shell tears apart the door
of the furrier’s shop.

A man leaps in,
grabs an armful of furs,
lugs them to the gateway at a run.

At the gateway another shell
tears apart the man.

translated by Magnus Jan Krynski
and Robert A. Maguire

From Sketch for a Memoir
by Adam Wazyk

Conversations at supper or over vodka in bars,
iridescent words in which the chaos drones.
For in those years people of not quite bad will
had thier minds filled with noise, a camouflage for reaction,
ideas got entangled like gods in the era of sncretism,
I knew a painter who for three hours
was able to talk nonsense without stopping,
other composed crosswords,
waited for a cataclysm
as for a monstrous group photograph in a flash of magnesium,
red Nostradamus.

A liar was among us disguised as a journalist,
an informer was a Schongeist or a bohemian poet,
a pimp and a German agent posed as snobs,
no one knew what were other people’s sources of income,
ten just men were dying in Spain.

From Throughout Our Lands
by Czeslaw Milosz, 1944


If I had to tell what the world is for me
I would take a hamster or a hedgehog or a mole
and place him in a theatre seat one evening
and, bringing my ear close to his humid snout,
would listen to what he says about the spotlights,
sounds of the music, and movements of the dance.

Verses About Poland
by Adam Zagajewski

I read verses about Poland
written by foreign poets. Germans and Russians
have not only rifles, but also
ink, pens, a little heart and a lot
of imagination. Poland–in their verses–
resembles a reckless unicorn
feeding on the wool of tapestries,
it is beautiful, weak and imprudent.
I do not comprehend the working
of the mechanism of illusion
but even I, a sober reader,
am enchanted by that legendary, defenseless country
on which feed black eagles, hungry emperors,
the Third Reich and the Third Rome.

translated by Antony Graham

Leave a Reply