Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Polish Poet Wisława Szymborska Died Today (1923-2012)

Jenny Holzer’s "For the Guggenheim" projected the words of
Wislawa Szymborska on the museum’s outdoor facade. (2008)
photo courtesy of Lili Holzer-Glier

I’d have to be really quick
to describe clouds—
a split second’s enough
… for them to start being something else.
Their trademark:
they don’t repeat a single
shape, shade, pose, arrangement.
Unburdened by memory of any kind,
they float easily over the facts.
What on earth could they bear witness to?
They scatter whenever something happens.
Compared to clouds,
life rests on solid ground,
practically permanent, almost eternal.
Next to clouds
even a stone seems like a brother,
someone you can trust,
while they’re just distant, flighty cousins.
Let people exist if they want,
and then die, one after another:
clouds simply don’t care
what they’re up to
down there.
And so their haughty fleet
cruises smoothly over your whole life
and mine, still incomplete.
They aren’t obliged to vanish when we’re gone.
They don’t have to be seen while sailing on.
— Wisława Szymborska
(Translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

For the Guggenheim, 2008. Light projection. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 

Text: "The End and the Beginning," "Could Have," "Children of Our Age," "In Praise of Feeling Bad about Yourself," "The Joy of Writing," "Tortures," and "Parting with a View," from View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh. © 1993 by Wisława Szymborska. 

English translation copyright © 1995 by Harcourt, Inc. Used/reprinted with permission of the author.

"Some People," from Poems New and Collected by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh. © 1998 by Harcourt. Inc. Used/reprinted with permission of the author. © 2008 Jenny Holzer/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


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