Wisława Szymborska Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Wisława Szymborska is primarily a poet, but she also published several collections of short articles written during her career as a columnist at the weekly Życie Literackie in the years 1968-1981. Lektury nadobowiązkowe (1973; nonrequired reading) is a collection of witty, short essays inspired by a vast and eclectic selection of books ranging from the classics of literature to cooking and gardening manuals. Szymborska began publishing Lektury nadobowiązkowe in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza in the mid-1990’s.

In Życie Literackie, Szymborska also hosted (anonymously) a column for aspiring writers. Her witty responses to hopeful writers have been collected in the volume Poczta literacka (literary mail, 2000).


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Wisława Szymborska is known as the first lady of Polish poetry. Her poetry is elegant, witty, and delightfully intelligent. Szymborska is that rare phenomenon: a poet of universal appeal. Her poems—beloved by both demanding intellectuals and high school students—introduced humor, irony, and wit into the dreary reality of Communist Poland. Her work, however, is by no means of merely local consequence. Szymborska’s poetry has been translated into nearly all European languages as well as into Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Hindu.

Szymborska received numerous literary awards, including the City of Cracow Award, the Polish Pen Club Award, the Solidarność Award, the Jurzykowski Foundation Award, the Kallenbach Foundation Award, the Goethe and Herder Prizes, and the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1996. Szymborska is also known for her superb translations of French poetry, especially of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Aaron, Jonathan. “In the Absence of Witnesses: The Poetry of Wisława Szymborska.” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 11, no. 2 (1981/1982): 254-264. An insightful overview of the major themes in Szymborska’s poetry based on the 1981 and 1982 English language collections of her poems.

Balbus, Stanisław, and Dorota Wojda, eds. Radosc czytania Szymborskiej. Cracow: Znak, 1996. A collection of seminal essays dealing with Szymborska’s work, written by prominent Polish poets, critics and journalists. Available only in Polish.

Cavanagh, Clare. “Poetry and Ideology: The Example of Wisława Szymborska.” Literary Imagination 2, no. 1 (1999): 174-190. An analysis of Szymborska’s poetry written by its American translator. Cavanagh emphasizes the dialogical character of Szymborska’s work, as well as its affinities with poststructuralist thought.

Czerniawski, Adam, ed. The Mature Laurel: Essays on Modern Polish Poetry. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 1991. A collection of essays dealing with twentieth century Polish poets. Two important articles on Szymborska appear in a collection: Adam Czerniawski, “Poets and Painters,” and Edward Rogerson, “Anti-Romanticism: Distance.”

Krynski, Magnus J., and Robert A. Maguire. Introduction to Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems by Wisława Szymborska. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. This good English-language collection of Szymborska’s poetry contains an excellent introduction discussing the poet and her work.

Legezynska, Anna. Wisława Szymborska. Poznań, Poland: Rebis, 1996. This extremely helpful work contains Szymborska’s biography and a careful analysis of each poetry collection. In Polish.