Wislawa Szymborska Biography


Szymborska was born in Kornik in western Poland on July 2, 1923. In 1931, her family moved to Krakow. During World War II, when Germany occupied Poland, Szymborska attended school illegally. In March 1945, she published her first poem, “Szukam slowa” (“I am Looking for a Word”) in the daily Dziennik Polski. Later that year, she began a course of study in Polish literature and sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, which she completed in 1948. She also finished her first collection of poetry that year, but the book was not published because the ruling Communist party in Poland found the work too complex and bourgeois. She revised the work to make it more political, and it was published in 1952 as Dlatego zyjemy (That’s What We Live For). Szymborska was later to disavow the political position she took in this and other early socialist-realist verse. From 1953 to 1981, Szymborska worked on the Krakow literary weekly Zycie Literacia (Literary Life) as poetry editor and wrote a weekly column. Her columns were later collected in several volumes under the title Lektury nadobowiazkowe (Optional Readings).

While she worked at Zycie Literacia, Szymborska’s reputation in Poland grew steadily, although she remained an intensely private person. She published poetry, won national and international prizes, and traveled abroad to read and discuss her work. She published several slim volumes...

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