April 21, 2011

Beauty in flames: The war poetry of Anna Swir


Young members of the Polish resistance

Fledgling press Calypso Editions is publishing Building the Barricade and Other Poems, a new translation of Anna Swir‘s breathtaking poems about the Warsaw Uprising in which hundreds of thousands of Polish resistance fighters and civilians died fighting the Nazis. Each short, perfect poem focuses on its topic–a burning library, the city’s rats, a woman asking a neighbor to take her dead husband’s place for the night–with a dreadful clarity. The fractured madness of life in wartime has rarely been depicted with such courage, humanity, and vision.

The launch party for the book and celebration of Swir’s writing takes place tonight at Chin Music at Pacific Standard in Brooklyn.It will also include poetry readings by Edward Hirsch, Matthew Zapruder, and Piotr Florczyk. It’s National Poetry Month if you need an excuse, but one hardly needs excuses to seek out such powerful poetry.


i.m. Wiesiek Rosiński

He was fifteen,
the best student of Polish.
He ran at the enemy
with a pistol.

Then he saw the eyes of a man,
and should’ve fired into those eyes.
He hesitated.
He’s lying on the pavement.

They didn’t teach him
in Polish class
to shoot into the eyes of a man.