Biography of Anna Swirszczynska
Anna Swirszczynska (also known as Anna Swir) was a Polish poet whose works deal with themes, including her experiences during World War II, motherhood, the female body, and sensuality.
Swirszczynska was born in Warsaw and grew up in poverty as the daughter of an artist. She began publishing her poems in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation of Poland she joined the Polish resistance movement in World War II and was a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising. She wrote for underground publications and once waited 60 minutes to be executed. Czeslaw Milosz writes of knowing her during this time and has translated a volume of her work. Her experiences during the war strongly influenced her poetry. In 1974 she published "Building the Barricade", a volume which describes the suffering she witnessed and experienced during that time. She also writes frankly about the female body in various stages of life.
Anna Swirszczynska's Works:
Wiersze i proza (Poems and Prose) (1936)
Liryki zebrane (Collected Poems) (1958)
Czarne slowa (Black Words) (1967)
Wiatr (Wind) (1970)
Jestem baba (I am a Woman) (1972)
Poezje wybrane (Selected Poems) (1973)
Budowalam barykade (Building the Barricade) (1974)
Szczesliwa jak psi ogon (Happy as a Dog's Tail) (1978)
Cierpienie i radosc (Suffering and Joy) (1985)
Collections in English translation
Thirty-four Poems on the Warsaw Uprising (1977), New York. Transl.: Magnus Jan Krynski, Robert A. Maguire.
Building the Barricade (1979), Kraków. Transl.: Magnus Jan Krynski, Robert A. Maguire.
Happy as a Dog's Tail (1985), San Diego. Transl.: Czeslaw Milosz i Leonard Nathan.
Fat Like the Sun (1986), London. Transl.: M. Marshment, G. Baran.
Talking to My Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) Transl.: Czeslaw Milosz i Leonard Nathan.
Building the Barricade and Other Poems of Anna Swir Tr. by Piotr Florczyk (Calypso Editions, 2011).
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Anna Swirszczynska Poems
He Was Lucky
The old man leaves his house, carries books. A German soldier snatches his books flings them in the mud.
The Same Inside
Walking to your place for a love fest I saw at a street corner an old beggar women. I took her hand,
The Second Madrigal
A night of love exquisite as a concert from old Venice played on exquisite instruments.
The Ghetto: A Mother
Cuddling in the arms her half-asphyxiated baby, howling, she ran up the staircase of the apartment building that was set ablaze. From the first floor to the second. From the second to the third.
The Sea And The Man
You will not tame this sea either by humility or rapture. But you can laugh in its face.
The Greatest Love
She is sixty. She lives the greatest love of her life. She walks arm-in-arm with her dear one,
She Does Not Remember
She was an evil stepmother. In her old age she is slowly dying in an empty hovel.
I’ll Open The Window
Our embrace lasted too long. We loved right down to the bone. I hear the bones grind, I see our two skeletons.
Happy As A Dog's Tail
Happy as something unimportant and free as a thing unimportant. As something no one prizes and which does not prize itself.
Myself And My Person
There are moments when I feel more clearly than ever that I am in the company of my own person.
Look in the mirror. Let us both look. Here is my naked body. Apparently you like it, I have no reason to.
I Knocked My Head Against The Wall
As a child I put my finger in the fire to become a saint.
She Does Not Remember
She was an evil stepmother.
In her old age she is slowly dying
in an empty hovel.
like a clutch of burnt paper.
She does not remember that she was evil.
But she knows
that she feels cold.
Translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan