Thursday, February 02, 2012

"The Joy of Writing," by Wislawa Szymborska

(July 2, 1923 - February 1, 2012)

Where is the written doe headed, through these written woods?
To drink from the written spring
that copies her muzzle like carbon paper?
Why is she raising her head, does she hear something?
Perched on four legs borrowed from the truth
she pricks up her ears from under my fingertips.
Silence--even this word rustles across the page
and parts the branches
stemming from the word "woods."

Above the blank page, poised to pounce, lurk
letters, which might spell trouble,
penning sentences
from which there will be no escape.

There is, in an ink drop, a goodly supply
of hunters, eyes winked,
ready to charge down this steep pen,
circle the doe, and sight their guns.

They forget there is no life here.
Different laws, black and white, hold sway.
The blink of an eye will last as long as I want,
allowing division into little eternities
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Nothing will happen forever here if I say so.
Not even a leaf will fall without my go-ahead,
nor will a blade of grass bend under the full stop of the hoof.

Then is there such a world
where I rule fate unfettered?
A time I bind with strings of signs?
Existence without end at my command?

The joy of writing.
The prospect of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.
            -- Translated by Joanna Trzeciak in the collection "Miracle Fair"

Other Szymborska poems on this blog:
"Some Like Poetry" and "Some People Like Poetry"
"A Word on Statistics"
"Miracle Fair"
"Under a Certain Little Star"
Her Nobel Prize lecture, "The Poet and the World"


  1. What a startling, incredible poem. This is one I need to share with my students.

  2. Thank you for posting this powerful (and empowering) poem – I love it!

  3. Very good translation! I like the way the wording of the three questions at the end totally determine whether they are genuine or rhetorical questions. For I often believe the poem wishes to give an obvious and resounding "no" to those questions.