From Publishers Weekly
Nobel laureate Symborska takes on current events and ancient conundrums in this elegant, terse new collection. The title abbreviates the opening poem, "Monologue of a Dog Ensnared in History": the dog stands for all the citizens who served, or simply failed to resist, dictators, then wondered at the revolutions that displaced them. Other poems consider wartime victims: "What if... I'd been born/ in the wrong tribe,/ with all roads closed before me?" One poem perhaps destined for widespread reprinting depicts with tact and awe the jumping, falling casualties of September 11. Yet Symborska (View with a Grain of Sand
) also excels with slower, less topical concerns. "Joy and sorrow," she explains, "aren't two different feelings" for the human soul; rather, the soul "attends us/ only when the two are joined." Symborska and her translators (the Polish is on facing pages) achieve a diction suited to her drily understated wisdom, and some of her work may be quoted far and wide; "Life is the only way," another poem advises, "to get covered in leaves,/ catch your breath on the sand,/ rise on wings." (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
It contains only 26 poems, and the Polish originals fill half the pages, yet few poetry collections should pass up this book. Szymborska's keenly imaginative wisdom is one of the glories of contemporary world poetry. In "Early Hour" she gives us not a wakeful or waking piece but a virtual motion picture of her immediate circumstances while she is still asleep: "This rarely astounds me," she says, "but it should." Few readers will not be astonished, however, and struck by the vigor of the poem's Heraclitean realization. "A Few Words on the Soul" expounds a phenomenology of the soul: "No one's got it non-stop, / for keeps," Szymborska ventures before positing when it does and doesn't attend us. Szymborska's highly unorthodox concept feels refreshingly right. The gently mocking "Plato, or Why" wonders how the Ideal could have condescended to mingle with matter, mortality, and "those appalling poets." Yes, this is philosophical poetry, of the front stoop and the fence rather than the lectern, and altogether marvelous. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved