PLEDGE NOW
Poet Wislawa Szymborska
Polish poet and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska puffs out a cloud of cigarrette smoke, sitting among other, unidentified, guests at the Nobel banquet at the Town Hall of Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday December 10 1996. Earlier that day Wislawa Szymborska received the Nobel Prize in literature for her "beautiful, deep and subtle poetry".(AP)

Polish poet and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska puffs out a cloud of cigarrette smoke, sitting among other, unidentified, guests at the Nobel banquet at the Town Hall of Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday December 10 1996. Earlier that day Wislawa Szymborska received the Nobel Prize in literature for her "beautiful, deep and subtle poetry".(AP)

Nobel-winning Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska died this week in her home city of Krakow at the age of 88.

Little known outside her home country, she was an intensely private person, unaccustomed to the spotlight, even called “reclusive.”

“Contemporary poets are skeptical and suspicious even, or perhaps especially, about themselves,” she said during a lecture she gave in 1996 in Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize. “They publicly confess to being poets only reluctantly, as if they were a little ashamed of it. But in our clamorous times it’s much easier to acknowledge your faults, at least if they’re attractively packaged, than to recognize your own merits, since these are hidden deeper and you never quite believe in them yourself.”

Her poetry was strongly influenced by the tumultuous events of her lifetime, from World War Two to Stalinism.
Her poem, “The End and the Beginning” begins:

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Yet for all the gravity of her subjects, she remained “an ironist,” in the words of author David Orr, writing about life’s ordinary things from sea cucumbers, house cats, and onions.

She ended her speech in Stockholm with a meditation on humanity’s cosmic significance.

“The world – whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? We just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world – it is astonishing.”

 

 

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
May 30, 2016
Author and Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy. (Photo by Bob O'Connor / Courtesy The Author)

Strike a power pose. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy on the power of presence when you’re ready to act and win.

May 30, 2016
Rock icon Donald Fagen looks back on a lengthy and ongoing career in his new memoir 'Eminent Hipsters.' He co-founded the classic rock group Steely Dan with Walter Becker in 1972. (Penguin Books USA)

Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen talks “eminent hipsters” and the cultural outliers that shaped his sound. He joins us.

RECENT
SHOWS
May 27, 2016
In this Oct. 27, 2015, photo,  Big Muddy Farms, an urban farm in northern Omaha, Neb. is seen amongst residential homes. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, we’ve got top gardeners spilling the beans on how to grow everything.

 
May 27, 2016
Riot police block off the Albuquerque Convention Center to anti-Trump protests following a rally and speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the convention center where the event was held, in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Obama at Hiroshima. Turmoil at Trump rallies. Clinton’s emails, heating up. Sanders predicts a “messy” convention. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
In The Garden, Mother Nature Makes The Rules
Friday, May 27, 2016

Executive producer Karen Shiffman explains why she turns to her garden for food, friends and natrual comfort.

More »
Comment
 
WWII Vet Larry Kirby Reflects On American Values
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Looking ahead to Memorial Day, a World War II veteran looks back at the experiences that mattered to him, both in and out of war.

More »
Comment
 
Gloria Steinem Explains Her ‘Bernie Boys’ Comment
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem explains why her apparent diss of female supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders was anything but.

More »
Comment