Guest poem sent in by Neville Clemens
(Poem #1797) A Note
Life is the only way to get covered in leaves, catch your breath on the sand, rise on wings; to be a dog, or stroke its warm fur; to tell pain from everything it's not; to squeeze inside events, dawdle in views, to seek the least of all possible mistakes. An extraordinary chance to remember for a moment a conversation held with the lamp switched off; and if only once to stumble upon a stone, end up soaked in one downpour or another, mislay your keys in the grass; and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes; and to keep on not knowing something important.
(Translated from the Polish, by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.) It's hard to follow a poetic commentary on Life with a commentary on it. Every line in this poem draws a sigh out of the reader. And to think of it, if they stand *alone*, many of the lines might seem quite...well...unpoetic: "mislay your keys in the grass" Hmm. Not quite up there with spectacular descriptions of searing sunsets and passionate romances. Or is it? The magic of the poem, I daresay, is in the opening line. It is only when *dovetailed* with this opening line that the rest of the poem's lines acquire their magical qualities : "Life is the only way..." It wakes the reader up! We're all ears now; what is this Life thing? Oh let's see what it's all about. This is going to be deeply philosophical and wrenching. Intense. But then Szymborska follows it up with all these simple and yet wonderful, wonderful lines that defy any sort of intellectual analysis. It defies them. Denies them the opportunity to probe the poem for this or that with their rude speculative tools. Follows it up with lines that are almost Koan-esque in nature, accessible only to the intuition and leaves the reader with the sense that he/she now shares this secret knowledge of Life with the poet - a knowing, and at the same time a Not Knowing that gives us joy, the joy "to keep on not knowing something important." - Neville Kimbol Soques had posted a comment on Poem #224 with a link to Szymborska's Nobel acceptance speech. I think it's worth posting a link to that speech again, so here it is: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1996/szymborska-lecture.html