Rozewicz Comes to America, II

Herewith our second of two samplings of the work of Tadeusz Różewicz, the last in his mighty generation of Polish poets to be fully heard in America.  These three little poems find our poet in a characteristically laconic mode. The translator is Joanna Trzeciak.

Click here for our first sample, a fantasia on who might have encountered whom in the cafes of Europe before the war.


philosopher’s stone

we need to put

this poem to sleep
before it starts
before it starts
for compliments
called to life
in a moment of forgetting
sensitive to words
it looks to
a philosopher’s
stone for help
o passerby hasten your step
do not lift up the stone
there a blank verse
to ashes



words have been used up
chewed up like chewing gum
by lovely young mouths
and turned into a white
weakened by politicians
they serve to whiten
to cleanse the oral
when I was a child
a word
could heal wounds
could be given
to a loved one
now weakened
wrapped in newspaper words
still poison still stink
still inflict wounds
hidden in heads
hidden in hearts
hidden under dresses
of young women
hidden in holy books
they explode
and kill



an avalanche fell upon our heads
made of granite gravel granules
one might say that poets
have stoned poetry to death
with words
only the stuttering
Demosthenes put
stones to good use
he churned them
inside his mouth
until they drew blood
and became one of the greatest
in the world
when I first set out
I too stumbled over a stone


For more on Różewicz and Joanna Trzeciak, click here.

The reader might be forgiven for observing that Little Star cannot seem to restrain itself when it comes to Polish poetry.  For more Polish literature on, click here, and order Little Star #2 for this dazzling line-up: Adam Zagajewski, Wisława Szymborska, Richard Krynicki, and Anna Swir.

Order Sobbing Superpower here

These poems will appear in SOBBING SUPERPOWER: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Różewicz, translated by Joanna Trzeciak. Utwory Zebrane copyright © by Tadeusz Różewicz. Poem by Jan Różewicz  copyright ©  by Malgorzata Różewicz. English translation copyright © 2011 by Joanna Trzeciak. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means wihtout the prior written permission of the publisher.

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2 Responses to Rozewicz Comes to America, II

  1. Tomasz Popielicki says:

    I am terribly sorry to correct you but your pronounciation tip on Tadeusz Rozewicz’s name is incorrect and seriously misleading.
    The last name of the Poet is pronounced: Roo- zhe -vitsh and not as proposed in your text starting with the sound /W/.
    Please correct.

  2. Donald Hudson says:

    I just saw that Sobbing Superpower has been shortlisted for the Griffin Prize:

    Don Hudson