Anna Swir Analysis

Other literary forms

(European Poets and Poetry)

Though Anna Swir (sfihr) began writing and publishing poetry in the 1930’s, she was known principally as the author of children’s stories and plays until later in her career. Not until decades after World War II was Swir able to develop the spare, economical style that characterizes her mature work and has drawn so many admirers. Although Swir did not write literary criticism, her translator and fellow poet Czesaw Miosz, in the introduction to Talking to My Body, quotes several of Swir’s memorable aphorisms about writing, including “the poet should be as sensitive as an aching tooth.”


(European Poets and Poetry)

The bilingual edition of Anna Swir’s Building the Barricade, with translations by Magnus Jan Kryski and Robert A. Maguire, won the Polish Authors’ Association’s ZAiKS Prize in 1979. Though Swir’s work was not always well received in her native Poland because of her feminism and her uneasy relationship with Catholicism, her reputation has improved greatly, partially because of the support of Miosz, who wrote an appreciative monograph on her work in 1996. In the West, she has achieved a rare degree of recognition and popularity. Her poems have been received with high enthusiasm since English translations of her books began appearing in the late 1970’s and 1980’s and after Miosz chose twelve of her poems for inclusion in A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry (1996).


(European Poets and Poetry)

Carpenter, John R. “Three Polish Poets, Two Nobel Prizes.” Kenyon Review 20, no. 1 (1998): 148-156. Compares Talking to My Body with translations of the verses of two other Polish poets, Facing the River: New Poems (1995), by Czesaw Miosz, and Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems by Wisawa Szymborska (1981).

Hacht, Anne-Marie, ed. Poetry for Students. Vol. 21. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2005. Contains an analysis of Swir’s “Maternity,” as well as context and criticism.

Jason, Philip K., ed. Masterplots II: Poetry Series. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2002. Contains an in-depth analysis of the poem “I Wash the Shirt.”

Levine, Madeline. Review of Happy as a Dog’s Tail, by Anna Swir. Partisan Review 57, no. 1 (1990): 145-150. Places Swir in context by discussing other contemporary Polish poets, including Miosz and Adam Zagajewski, while commenting on questions of feminism and the mediation of the body in her work.

Miosz, Czesaw. “A Body of Work.” Threepenny Review 6 (1985): 4-5. This short biography touches on some thematic considerations of Swir’s work and discloses Miosz’s rationale in deciding to translate Swir’s poetry. An adapted version of this essay was reprinted as the introduction to Happy as a Dog’s Tail, and was rewritten and used as the introduction of Talking to My Body.

Miosz, Czesaw, and Leonard Nathan. “A Dialogue on the Poetry of Anna Swir.” Trafika 2 (1994): 193-200. Two of Swir’s translators discuss the poems, including issues regarding the poet’s conception of the body, her dissimilarity to other international poets, and her reception in the United States. An expanded version of this conversation was included as the afterword to Happy as a Dog’s Tail and a slightly edited version as the afterword to Talking to My Body.