Postwar Polish Poetry

Some of the most moving poetry seemed to come out of Poland after World War II. Polish history reads like a particularly bloody video game of conquest and reconquest of those fertile fields smack in the center of Europe. Everybody wanted them. But the Holocaust and the Nazi/Russian battles seemed to sear something in the Polish soul. Miłoz’ anthology, Postwar Polish Poetry contains a treasury of poems. Many of these writers have appeared here over the years, but Anna Swir is new to me. Her full name is Anna Świrszczyńskaya, and she was a nurse during the Warsaw Uprising.

Here is one of the sections from Building the Barricade:

I’ve Been Waiting These Thirty Years

That young beanpole was maybe six feet tall,
that light-hearted worker from Powiśle
who fought
in the hell on Zielena Street, in the telephone building.
When I changed the bandage
on his leg that was torn open
he winced, he laughed.

‘When the war’s over
we’ll go dancing, miss.
It’s on me.’

I’ve been waiting for him
these thirty years.

Translated by Magnus Jan Krynski
and Robert A. Maguire


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