Other literary forms

(European Poets and Poetry)

Though Stanisaw Baraczak (bo-RA-zhok) is principally known in his native Poland as a poet, he is also a prolific translator and essayist. In the English-speaking world, he may be best known for his translations of the 1996 Nobel Prize-winning poet Wisawa Szymborska with his frequent collaborator Clare Cavanagh. He has also translated a large amount of English-language poetry into Polish to great acclaim; Cavanagh has acknowledged him as “perhaps the most gifted and prolific translator from English in the history of Polish literature.” A translation of his book-length investigation of the writing of fellow Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, Uciekinier z Utopii: O poezji Zbigniewa Herberta (1984; A Fugitive from Utopia: The Poetry of Zbigniew Herbert, 1987) was published by Harvard University Press. Several of his essays, which predominantly explore Eastern European writers and life under censorship, are collected in Breathing Under Water and Other East European Essays (1990).

Stanisaw Baraczak Achievements

(European Poets and Poetry)

Stanisaw Baraczak received the Kocielski Foundation Prize in 1972, the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Literary Award in 1980, and the Terrence Des Prés Prize in 1989. His poetry collection Chirurgiczna precyzja: Elegie i piosenki z lat, 1995-1997 (1998; surgical precision) won the influential Nike Literary Award (1999) for being the best book published in Poland in 1998. He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989 and a medal for meritorious service from his alma mater, Adam Mickiewicz University, in 1995. He is the recipient, with his cotranslator Cavanagh, of the 1996 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems (1995), their translation of the poetry of Szymborska. In addition, he has played a significant role in introducing Polish poetry to a wide English-speaking audience through his tireless translations and criticism, following in the path of his predecessor Czesaw Miosz.

Stanisaw Baraczak Bibliography

(European Poets and Poetry)

Baraczak, Stanisaw. “A Conversation with Stanisaw Baraczak.” Interview by Daniel Bourne. Artful Dodge 12-13 (1985): 56-64. The poet treats issues of political suppression and censorship, the role of translation in his creative development, and the need of a metaphysical dimension in political writing.

Cavanagh, Clare. “The Art of Losing: Polish Poetry and Translation.” Partisan Review 70, no. 2 (2003): 245-254. In discussing her philosophy and practice of translating, Cavanagh analyzes several of Baraczak’s poems, tracing ways in which their work translating, together and separately, has influenced his poetry and incorporated new forms and voices into the tradition of Polish verse.

_______. “Setting the Handbrake: Baranczak’s Poetics of Displacement.” In Living in Translation: Polish Writers in America, edited by Halina Stephan. New York: Rodopi, 2003. Cavanagh argues that while many critics perceive a gap between Baraczak’s politically engaged early work and his later “metaphysical” poetry, written after his immigration to the United States, a “distinct poetics of displacement” is visible in both his early and later poetry.

Kraszewski, Charles S. “Eschatological Imagery in the Early Verse of Stanisaw Baraczak.” Polish Review 46, no. 1 (2001): 43-61. An article exploring the apocalyptic language and imagery used by Baraczak from 1968 to 1980.

Serafin, Steven, ed. Twentieth-Century Eastern European Writers: Third Series. Vol. 232 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001. Contains a brief essay on Baraczak examining his life and works.