Wislawa Szymborska
Quotations


After every war someone has to tidy up.

All imperfection is easier to tolerate if served up in small doses.

All is mine but nothing owned, nothing owned for memory, and mine only while I look.

All the best have something in common, a regard for reality, an agreement to its primacy over the imagination. Even the richest, most surprising and wild imagination is not as rich, wild and surprising as reality. The task of the poet is to pick singular threads from this dense, colorful fabric.

Any knowledge that doesn't lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.

"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.

Carry on, then, if only for the moment that it takes a tiny galaxy to blink!

Contemporary poets are skeptical and suspicious even, or perhaps especially, about themselves. They publicly confess to being poets only reluctantly, as if they were a little ashamed of it. But in our clamorous times it's much easier to acknowledge your faults, at least if they're attractively packaged, than to recognize your own merits, since these are hidden deeper and you never quite believe in them yourself.

Even a graphomaniac is an extremely complicated person.

Even the worst book can give us something to think about.

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

Existentialists are monumentally and monotonously serious; they don't like to joke.

Get to know other worlds, if only for comparison.

I am near, too near for him to dream of me.

I cannot speak for more than an hour exclusively about poetry. At that point, life itself takes over again.

I don't know the role I'm playing. I only know it's mine, non-convertible.

I have sympathy for young people, for their growing pains, but I balk when these growing pains are pushed into the foreground, when you make these young people the only vehicles of life's wisdom.

I like being near the top of a mountain. One can't get lost here.

I slide my arm from under the sleeper's head and it is numb, full of swarming pins, on the tip of each, waiting to be counted, the fallen angels sit.

I started earning a living as a poet rather early on.

I'm drowning in papers.

In every tragedy, an element of comedy is preserved. Comedy is just tragedy reversed.

In the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone's existence in this world. It looks like poets will always have their work cut out for them.

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."

Is a decision made in advance really any kind of choice.

It's just not easy to explain to someone else what you don't understand yourself.

I've had the good fortune to read a lot of great American writers in translation, and my absolute beloved, for me one of the greatest writers ever, is Mark Twain. Yes, yes, yes. And Whitman, from whom the whole of 20th-century poetry sprung up. Whitman was the origin of things, someone with a completely different outlook. But I think that he's the father of the new wave in the world's poetry which to this very day is hitting the shore.

Keep up the good work, if only for a while, if only for the twinkling of a tiny galaxy.

Let the people who never find true love keep saying that there's no such thing. Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.

Life lasts but a few scratches of the claw in the sand.

Memory at last has what I sought.

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.

No one in my family has ever died of love. What happened, happened, but nothing myth-inspiring.

Nothing can ever happen twice. In consequence, the sorry fact is that we arrive here improvised and leave without the chance to practice.

Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan.

Out of every hundred people, those who always know better: fifty-two.

Poetic talent doesn't operate in a vacuum. There is a spirit of Polish poetry.

Poets, if they're genuine, must keep repeating "I don't know." Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift that's absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their oeuvre.

Poets yearn, of course, to be published, read, and understood, but they do little, if anything, to set themselves above the common herd and the daily grind.

Poorly prepared for the dignity of life, I barely keep up with the pace of the action imposed. Reality demands.

Somewhere out there the world must have an end.

Take it not amiss, O speech, that I borrow weighty words, and later try hard to make them seem light.

This terrifying world is not devoid of charms, of the mornings that make waking up worthwhile.

Though I may deny poets their monopoly on inspiration, I still place them in a select group of Fortune's darlings.

Well, one is inspired by the whole of life, one's own and somebody else's. You know how sometimes you hear great music, and music is completely untranslatable into words, into any words. A certain tension that is born when one listens to music could aid you in expressing something absolutely different.

When I mention somebody, that doesn't necessarily mean that I identify with him, personally or poetically. I'm extremely happy when I encounter poets who are different than I am. The ones who have their own distinct poetics provide me with the greatest experiences.

You can find the entire cosmos lurking in its least remarkable objects.



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