You may not think poetry is your bag. This lady knew that, but it didn't put her off. She only wrote 252 poems during her life, and that is not many in a poet's career. Quantity is not the only criteria by which poets are judged, thankfully. Born in Poland in 1923, she lived during 'interesting times' , and wrote about 'big ' things. What it means to be human, war, torture, imagination, death. I read her poems in translation, as regrettably, I cannot read Polish, so thanks go to her translators, without whom I would still be unaware of this witty, bright, imaginative woman who manages to speak to me about living. Did I mention she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Oh yes. And this is an extract from her Nobel lecture in 1996. Even if you have never read a poem in your life, and never intend to, read this. It will change your mind. Probably.” – inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits.
It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners – and
I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it.
Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born
from a continuous “I don’t know.” There aren’t many such people. Most of the earth’s inhabitants work to get by. They work because they have to. They didn’t pick this or that kind of job out
of passion; the circumstances of their lives did the choosing for them. Loveless work, boring work, work valued only because others haven’t got even that
much, however loveless and boring – this is one of the harshest human miseries. And there’s no sign that coming centuries will produce any changes for the
better as far as this goes. I sometimes dream of situations that can’t possibly come true. I audaciously imagine, for example, that I get a chance to chat with the Ecclesiastes, the
author of that moving lament on the vanity of all human endeavors. I would bow very deeply before him, because he is, after all, one of the greatest poets, for
me at least. That done, I would grab his hand. “‘There’s nothing new under the sun’: that’s what you wrote, Ecclesiastes. But you yourself were born new
under the sun. And the poem you created is also new under the sun, since no one wrote it down before you. And all your readers are also new under the sun,
since those who lived before you couldn’t read your poem. And that cypress that you’re sitting under hasn’t been growing since the dawn of time. It came
into being by way of another cypress similar to yours, but not exactly the same. And Ecclesiastes, I’d also like to ask you what new thing under the sun you’re
planning to work on now? A further supplement to the thoughts you’ve already expressed? Or maybe you’re tempted to contradict some of them now? In
your earlier work you mentioned joy – so what if it’s fleeting? So maybe your new-under-the-sun poem will be about joy? Have you taken notes yet, do you
have drafts? I doubt you’ll say, ‘I’ve written everything down, I’ve got nothing left to add.’ There’s no poet in the world who can say this, least of all a great
poet like yourself.” The world – whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of
people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars
surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don’t know; whatever we might think of this measureless
theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might
think of this world – it is astonishing. But “astonishing” is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We’re astonished, after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally
acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we’ve grown accustomed to. Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se and
isn’t based on comparison with something else.
MLA style: “Wislawa Szymborska – Nobel Lecture”. Nobelprize.org. 27 Nov 2011
MIRACLE FAIR The commonplace miracle: that so many common miracles take place. The usual miracle: invisible dogs barking in the dead of night. One of many miracles: a small and airy cloud is able to upstage the massive moon. Several miracles in one: an alder is reflected in the water and is reversed from left to right and grows from crown to root and never hits bottom though the water isn't deep. A run-of-themill miracle: winds mild to moderate turning gusty in storms. A miracle in the first place: cows will be cows. Next but not least: just this cherry orchard from just this cherry pit. A miracle minus top hat and tails: fluttering white doves. A miracle (what else can you call it): the sun rose today at three fourteen a. m. and will set tonight at one past eight. A miracle that's lost on us: the hand actually has fewer than six fingers but still it's got more than four. A miracle, just take a look around: the inescapable earth. An extra miracle, extra and ordinary: the unthinkable can be thought.