Adam Ważyk Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

0111225141-Wazyk.jpg Adam Ważyk Published by Salem Press, Inc.

A cursory glance at Adam Ważyk’s output would suggest that he was a versatile writer who practiced all principal literary forms and pursued various interests. All his major works, however, refer in one way or another to his poetry, his poetic program, or his biography as a poet. Among his novels, for example, the most important one, Epizod (1961), is an autobiographical account of his participation in Polish avant-garde movements before World War II. His insightful essays, which cover a wide range of problems from Polish versification through the history of Romanticism to French Surrealism, seem to have one common denominator: They are various versions of Ważyk’s continuous quest for his own poetic roots. His plays are a somewhat irrelevant part of his output. He attached greater importance to his numerous translations of poetry from French, Russian, and Latin into Polish, and indeed he ranks among the most outstanding Polish representatives of the art of translation. The broad scope of his interests in this field (at various times, he translated such disparate poets as Alexander Pushkin, Arthur Rimbaud, Aleksandr Blok, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Paul Éluard, and Horace) reflects his constant search for a tradition and his changing conception of the role of poetry.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Adam Ważyk’s literary career falls very distinctly into three phases, which stand in sharp contrast as far as both their specific character and their current appreciation are concerned. His first two collections were acclaimed and still are regarded as highly original contributions to Polish avant-garde poetry of the 1920’s. After those promising beginnings, Ważyk lapsed into silence as a poet, to resurface only in the 1940’s. His volume Serce granatu opened the second phase of his career, during which he appeared to be one of the staunchest promoters and supporters of Socialist Realism in poetry. This period, undoubtedly Ważyk’s worst, came to an abrupt end in 1955 with the publication of his famous “Poemat dla dorosłych” (“Poem for Adults”), a harbinger of the anti-dogmatist renewal of Polish culture in the mid-1950’s. “Poem for Adults” remains Ważyk’s best-known work, although it has been artistically surpassed by his later work. It is the last phase of his development that seems to be most valuable from today’s point of view. In his poems published in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Ważyk in a certain sense returned to his poetic beginnings, but he also enriched his cubist method with a new significance resulting from his reflection on twentieth century history. Today, his poetry can by no means be considered a relic of the past; on the contrary, its impact on contemporary Polish literature is increasingly appreciated.

Return to Cubist Roots

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

This return was particularly noticeable in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when Ważyk’s poetry underwent a remarkable evolution while remaining faithful to his philosophical and psychological obsessions. The problem of discontinuity of perception acquired new significance, set against the background of twentieth century history and the poet’s own experiences. Ważyk’s most ambitious poems from that period can be interpreted as attempts to reconstruct the effort of human consciousness, memory, and logic, trying to set reality in order despite its apparently chaotic character. The long poem Labirynt, for example, is a paradoxical attempt to revive the old genre of the descriptive poem in order to prove its futility; seemingly a quasi-epic story taking place in a middle-class milieu in prewar Poland, it is actually a poem about the shortcomings of human memory, which can visualize the past only as a “labyrinth that leads no one knows where.” In another long poem, Wagon, the speaker’s observation post is a train compartment; his indiscriminate registration of juxtaposed objects, minute facts, and the travelers’ insignificant behavior proves to be another fruitless effort of the human mind faced with the chaos of external reality.

In poems such as these, and particularly in his last, excellent volume, Zdarzenia, Ważyk’s evident return to his cubist beginnings has, however, some new implications. The familiar method of juxtaposition of images serves more complex purposes. The world smashed into pieces is no longer a source of innocent illumination, nor is it a reason for yearning for some “order” imposed by history. On the contrary, the world’s disarray appears to be an irreversible process started by the twentieth century disintegration of stable systems of values. Although Ważyk in his final phase was far from moralizing, his poetry can be read as an indirect comment on the immorality of the present epoch.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Eile, Stanisław and Ursula Phillips, eds. New Perspectives in Twentieth-Century Polish Literature. Basingstoke, Hampshire, England: Macmillan, 1992. A historical and critical analysis of Polish literature. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Gillon, Adam, and Ludwik Krzyzanowski, eds. Introduction to Modern Polish Literature. Enlarged ed. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1982. An anthology of translations of Polish literature with some commentary.

Miłosz, Czesław. The History of Polish Literature. 2d ed. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1983. A critical study of the history of Polish literature that provides a historical and cultural background to the works of Ważyk. Includes bibliographic references.