Six Polish poets

Edited by Jacek Dehnel (whose Lala we read in 2018), Six Polish poets features poems by Jacek Dehnel, Agnieszka Kuciak, Anna Piwkowska, Tomasz Royzski, Dariusz Suska and Maciej Wozniak, with translations by Ewa Chruściel, Bill Johnston, Karen Kovacik, Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Mira Rosenthal, George Szirtes and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese, and an introduction by Jacek Dehnel. Published in 2009, it made available in English the poetry of a generation of poets who whose first collections (with one exception) were published in the first decade of the 21st century.

Unlike the poets of the previous generation who, in the period of new-found freedom after the fall of communism, adopted a highly individualistic, anarchic, sometimes brutal style, the poets represented here re-examine and experiment with traditional poetic forms, themes and cultural references in poems that are refined and witty, moving and informed, ranging across every aspect of human existence.

Parallel text: Polish / English

Floating the Woods

Not a Polish book, but a collection of poems in English by Zielony Balonik member Ken Cockburn. At the meeting we’ll read and discuss some of the poems and consider translations of them into Polish.

The cover blurb reads, “the places in Floating the Woods are mainly Scottish, stretching from the Borders to Orkney, taking in Edinburgh, the Tay estuary and the River Ness. Through these landscapes move figures from the past – real, legendary and imagined – as the routes of Romans, Vikings and Celtic saints are followed by later figures such as Wordsworth, James Hogg and John Muir. Further afield the First World War casts a long, dark shadow over otherwise idyllic English and Belgian scenes. There are alphabet, calendar, list and found poems, dealing with imaginary shades of blue and the imponderables of etiquette.”

This review appeared recently online.

The Collected Poems 1956–1998

This outstanding new translation brings a uniformity of voice to Zbigniew Herbert’s entire poetic output, from his first book of poems, String of Light, in 1956, to his final volume, previously unpublished in English, Epilogue Of the Storm. Collected Poems: 1956-1998, as Joseph Brodsky said of Herbert’s Selected Poems, is “bound for a much longer haul than any of us can anticipate.” He continues, “for Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry adds to the biography of civilization the sensibility of a man not defeated by the century that has been most thorough, most effective in dehumanization of the species. Herbert’s irony, his austere reserve and his compassion, the lucidity of his lyricism, the intensity of his sentiment toward classical antiquity, are not just trappings of a modern poet, but the necessary armour – in his case well-tempered and shining indeed – for man not to be crushed by the onslaught of reality. By offering to his readers neither aesthetic nor ethical discount, this poet, in fact, saves them frorn that poverty which every form of human evil finds so congenial. As long as the species exists, this book will be timely.”

Some reviews:

Michael Hofmann, in Poetry Magazine

David Orr, in The New York Times

Craig Raine, in The Telegraph

Charles Simic, in The New York Review of Books