Tadeusz Różewicz, 1921-2014

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Tadeusz Różewicz died yesterday. There has been very little news of his death in the western press — I learned of it this morning in a blog post by George Szirtes in The Guardian Online, where he places Różewicz’s work within a historical context (post-world war 2 poetry of witness; the marvelous Penguin Modern European Poetry series of the 1970s; the Objectivists — I’ve also written a little about this last connection in an earlier post, “Poems and Things” May 10, 2013). I don’t have access to my books at the moment — I have several collections in translation by Różewicz, including a tattered blue softcover Pengiun Modern European Poetry edition of his selected poems from 1976 (translated by Adam Czerniaski) and the very fine, much more recent 2011 Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems, translated by Joanna Trzeciak, which was nominated for a Griffin Prize in 2012 and has thoughtful annotations for every poem. So I went to the VPL this afternoon and sat down with a volume of his poems translated by Bill Johnston (New Poems, Archipelago Books, 2007). I opened it at random — another small, blue softcover, but this one pristine, unthumbed — and found this poem, which I reproduce in full. It captures the wry but gentle tone of many of his poems.

rain in Kraków

rain in Kraków
rain
falling on the Wawel dragon
on the bones of giants
on Kościuszko Mound
on the Mickiewicz Monument
on Podkowiński’s Frenzy
on Mr. Dulski
on the trumpeter from St. Mary’s tower

rain
rain in Kraków
dripping on the white Skałka church
on the green commons
on the Marshal’s coffin
beneath silver bells
on the gray foot soldiers

the clouds hunker down
settle in over Kraków
rain
rain falling
on Wyspiański’s eyes
on the unseeing stained glass

the mild eye of blue
a thunderbolt from a clear sky
long-legged maidens in high heels
fold colourful umbrellas
it’s growing brighter
the sun
emerges
I walk from one monastery to another
seeking the dance of death

in my hotel room
I attempt to hold on
to a poem that’s drifting away

on a sheet of paper
I have pinned a purple copper
butterfly
a patch of blue

rain rain rain
in Kraków
I read Norwid
it’s sweet to sleep
sweeter to be of stone

goodnight dear friends
goodnight
living and dead poets
goodnight poetry

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