I read this week about the death of Wislawa Szymborska. Even though Szymborska won the Nobel Prize in 1996, when I was old enough to be paying attention, I'm embarrassed to say that I had never heard of her until the end of last month, when Maria Horvath posted about her here. I loved this poem so much that I read it aloud to my daughter, and later to my husband. I must read more of this poet, I thought, and then the next time I saw her name, it was to find out that she had died.
Here's the poem that Maria posted:
THE JOY OF WRITING
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence — this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”
Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.
Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.
They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.
Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.
~ Wislawa Szymborska
It's true that when you're writing you can feel all-powerful. And when you're reading, that written world, "borrowed from the truth," can seem every bit as real as the actual world, all around you. Those "clutches of clauses" that Szymborska manipulated will continue to give pleasure, as long as her words are read.
The Poetry Friday roundup is here. Since Laura has it up already, I'm going to go ahead and post my Poetry Friday offering on Thursday night.
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