Friday, September 12, 2008

POETRY FRIDAY: Hunger at Camp Jaslo

Here is Hunger at Camp Jaslo, one translated version of a poem written by Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. It doesn’t read exactly the same as Starvation Camp at Jaslo, which was translated by Joanna Treciak and is included in the book Miracle Fair: Selected Poems by Wislawa Szymborska. I do believe both versions get the poet’s point across.

Hunger at Camp Jaslo
By Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Grazyna Drabik and Austin Flint

Write it. Write. In ordinary ink
on ordinary paper: they were given no food,
they all died of hunger. "All. How many?
It's a big meadow. How much grass
for each one?" Write: I don't know.
History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read,
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody's place in the line.

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original poem about chocolate pudding and a link to a Szymborska poem I posted yesterday in remembrance of September 11, 2001.

Jennie has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Biblio File.


Anonymous said...

Powerful, moving, and true. Thank you for posting it, Elaine.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I'm a big fan of Szymborska's work.

Karen Edmisten said...

How powerful, sad and awful. I hadn't seen this before. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Wow.

They sang with their mouths full of earth.

What can you say to that? And how ironic that he creates such beauty from such horror.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Karen and Laura,

Szymborska is truly a favorite poet of mine. She often uses simple and common language to write with such power. I've posted a number of her poems here at Blue Rose Girls--and one or two at Wild Rose Reader.

Julie said...

I just saw this posting today, Elaine - thanks for sharing Szymborska with us. She manages to make the political very personal, doesn't she? I'm thinking a lot about politics lately (who isn't?) and I noted on my own blog that today is a sad day in history - September 19 (1941) was the day Nazi's first made German Jews wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing. Szymborska understands how small incremental indignities lead to that "big meadow." I'm feeling melancholy, I guess, and wish the world could move another direction. Seamus Heaney's poetry examines some of the same heartbreaking territory about the Irish "troubles" - but I love the sonnet "Fosterling" when he finally says "So long for air to brighten,/ Time to be dazzled and the heart to lighten." I keep that above my computer to remind me to let my heart "lighten" too, once in awhile.