Friday, January 25, 2008


Wislawa Szymborska is one of my favorite poets. In the following poem, Tortures, she begins every stanza with the same sentence. She employs repetition to help make her point. Szymborska often uses simple language to make searing commentaries about the world, war, and life.

by Wislawa Symborska

Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain,
it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
In tortures all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it's just the earth that's grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

Nothing has changed. It's just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

I have an original poem about sledding in winter at Wild Rose Reader today.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More.


Jules at 7-Imp said...


Thanks. I'm going to have to explore more of Szymborska's work. She's new to me.

Jules, 7-Imp

Elaine Magliaro said...


Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. I've posted a couple of her poems before.

tanita✿davis said...

This is an exquisite cry of despair: nothing has changed. This is the second poem today where I've read such beautiful words that describe and define such an ugly thing.

Thanks for sharing someone who leaves me so thoughtful.

susan said...

Love this. I prefer simple language. It allows me to pay closer attention to the emotions a poem evokes and therefore engages me more than if I'm preoccupied trying to decipher complicated metaphors or having to look up every other word in a dictionary. Not to say I don't enjoy poetry I have to work at a little to understand rather I am awestruck how ordinary words can profoundly move me.

Elaine Magliaro said...


Szymborska has written many other poems that leave
one thoughtful as this one does.


I agree with you! Szymborska has a great talent for using ordinary language to write extraordinary poetry.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I wonder if you've posted her before and I commented that she was new to me then. I wouldn't put that past me. I need to actually start making notes of these great poets I stumble upon on Poetry Fridays. Pen-and-paper notes. A list. Mental notes aren't cuttin' it. Either way, she's amazing.

Jules, 7-Imp