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View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156002165
ISBN-10: 0156002167
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

True, the gentlemen of the Swedish Academy have made more than their share of bloopers. But when they bestowed the Nobel Prize upon Wislawa Szymborska in 1996, they got it right, rescuing a major poet from minor obscurity. Two previous collections of her work had appeared in English, of course. Yet View with a Grain of Sand is by far the best introduction to the Polish writer, conveying not only the fantastic lightness of her touch but the entire worlds she manages to pack into, as it were, a grain of sand. Miniscule wonders are her specialty, such as the tableau she records in "Miracle Fair": "The usual miracle: / invisible dogs barking / in the dead of night. / One of many miracles: / a small and airy cloud / is able to upstage the massive moon." Yet Szymborska is also a love poet of peculiar tartness:

True love. Is it really necessary?
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life's highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn't populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

What comes along so rarely, in fact, is a writer of this quality--and a translation that does her justice. Szymborska's brilliance would probably overpower even a second-rate rendering into English. But thanks to the efforts of Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, she is not only brilliant but supremely readable--an intellectual comedian for whom "there's nothing more debauched than thinking."


The Acrobat
Allegro Ma Non Troppo
Bodybuilders' Contest
Brueghel's Two Monkeys
A Byzantine Mosaic
Can In An Empty Apartment
The Century's Decline
Children Of Our Age
The Classic
Conversation With A Stone
Could Have
Dinosaur Skeleton
Elegiac Calculation
The End And The Beginning
Evaluation Of An Unwritten Poem
Family Album
Frozen Motion
Going Home
Hitler's First Photograph
In Broad Daylight
In Praise Of Dreams
In Praise Of Feeling Bad About Yourself
In Praise Of My Sister
Into The Ark
The Joy Of Writing
A Large Number
The Letters Of The Dead
Lot's Wife
Love At First Sight
May 16, 1973
Maybe All This
A Medieval Miniature
Miracle Fair
A Moment In Troy
No End Of Fun
No Title Required
Notes From A Nonexistent Himalayan Expedition
Nothing Twice
Nothing's A Gift
On Death, Without Exaggeration
On The Banks Of The Styx
One Version Of Events
The Onion
An Opinion On The Question Of Pornography
Our Ancestors' Short Lives
A Palaeolithic Fertility Fetish
Parting With A View
The People On The Bridge
Plotting With The Dead
Poetry Reading
The Railroad Station
Reality Demands
Retrning Birds
Rubens' Women
Seen From Above
Soliloquy For Cassandra
The Suicide's Room
A Tale Begun
The Terrorist, He's Watching
Thank-you Note
Theatre Impressions
Thomas Mann
The Tower Of Babel
Travel Elegy
True Love
Under One Small Star
An Unexpected Meeting
View With A Grain A Sand
We're Extremely Fortunate
Writing A Resume
Copyright© 1998 Roth Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved -- Table of Poems from Poem Finder®

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace; 1st edition (May 26, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156002167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156002165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Ahh... where do I begin to explain why I admire, adore, and revel in Szymborska's poetry? It all began in roughly 1996-97 when I learned that this Polish poet, previously unbeknown to me, had been awarded the Nobel Prize. While I don't consider the Swedish Academy to be the ultimate authority on good literature and count only several of the previous prize winners among my favorite authors (Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, O'Neill to name a few), I anticipated that an encounter with her poetry is bound to be special. The brief biographical sketches I then read and her photograph emitted wisdom, modesty, and wit. Or at least that what I think I must have sensed at the moment. In any case, after reading several of Szymborska's poems on-line (at a wonderful site called 'Poems from the Planet Earth') I was irrevocably enamored with her verses. Since then I have read and reread them on occasions too numerous to be counted, and I've read them to friends and strangers.
I find that Szymborska writes with great clarity, never failing to gracefully walk the fine line between excessive (hmm..) eloquence and ascetic laconism. Her metaphors and characterizations are incredibly precise, and her poetry is rich with aphorisms. At the same time, it has somewhat of a haiku-like quality. Whether writing of grand and global matters or of minute things and creatures she is critical yet humane, and -- very genuine. The poems are sharp and witty but never cynical. Simply put, Szymborska's work is sheer brilliance from a poet with love for the human and the inanimate.
I wonder whether the paperback scheduled for release this autumn will contain new poems... On a final note -- all translations I have had the privelege to read (Maguire, Baranczak, Cavanagh) are marvelous -- an occurence that is very unusual, and, hence, very precious.
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Format: Paperback
This book was and still is my first poetry book; not because I haven't read anyone else's, but it's the first compilation that I was really willing to pay the often outrageous prices for. (LOL) I am not an avid poetry reader, nor am I familiar with the current favorite contemporary poets, but I find that she really does succinctly portray "life's improbability as well as its transient beauty" quite well.
As a younger reader , I do have a bit of a problem identifying with the poetry that she writes pre-1972 (that is, the first few sections before the 'Could Have' section), because I don't really know much about it. As a note though, I probably should say that 'Nothing Twice,' which is about the probabilities of chance, from the pre-1972 section has been a real gem. Anyhow, the travelogues, the places, the books are things that frankly, I'd ask my parents and they probably wouldn't know either, or know very little about. I suppose if I researched enough, I would have no trouble understanding her message, but the stuff I really bought this book for was the pro-1972 sections. I can identify the issues because they're fairly general knowledge and have a certain mocking humor to some of them, but the words do just pull you in. The poems are addressed to one, and to all, and you feel like you're part of the whole. There are instances in which you feel like she's writing about you and the instances you've gone through, and that's what makes you feel amazed at the depth of understanding she has on these matters.
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By A Customer on September 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I never cared much for poetry, but this book has changed my mind. I - who some might consider uneducated - am curious about what is experienced, within us and without us, in life. Still, I find a lot of poetry difficult to understand since an education from Oxford or Harvard seems a requirment to get through it. This wasn't the case with the poems in this book. I'm able to digest much of the words and pharses in Szymborska's poetry which evoke different images, feelings and thoughts as easily as reading fictional prose. I even had shivers sent through my body reading a poem in this book. This existential jolt happens only rarely and only when I listen to music which affects me deeply. This is poetry I can appreciate.
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By A Customer on December 21, 1996
Format: Paperback
For those of you who have never had the taste or temperament for a book of poetry, View With A Grain Of Sand is the book that just might change you forever. These remarkably readable poems by the 1996 winner of the Nobel Prize for Poetry, Wislawa Szymborska, gives the perfect voice to ideas that have been quietly alive within us since we were first able to personalize a thought. Our most grandiose moments - birth, death, love - are placed in a common perspective with words of such simplicity as to make the message even more profound. Indeed, it is the very use of this everyday language that makes these poems so powerful.
Ms. Szymborska eases humanity off its pedestal. The stars, the sun, the passing of time, and even a grain of sand will continue to go on very well without us, and will do quite well, thank you. Is it new when we are told that we are not the center of the universe - not the most important creation? Surely, by now, many of us accept this. What makes these poems so poignant is that they bring this realization to a deeper level.
From the title poem View With A Grain Of Sand,
"We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name, ..."
Or, from True Love,
"True love. Is it normal?
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?"
What makes Ms. Szymborska such a wonderful poet is that her poetry is so enjoyable to read. At first, revelations appear through no great intellectual effort on the part of the reader. They are discovered through the poet's beautiful use of language and our personal identification with her themes. Second and third readings lead to an even deeper personal involvement.
These are poems you want to share with others. This is the greatest praise.
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