Anna Swirszczynska

[Anna Swir] (1909 - 1984 / Warsaw)

Biography of Anna Swirszczynska

Anna Swirszczynska poet

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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She Does Not Remember

She was an evil stepmother.
In her old age she is slowly dying
in an empty hovel.

She shudders
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

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