Review: Here by Wislawa Szymborska


Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stainslaw Barańczak


81 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Sources: Publisher and Public Library



I can’t speak for elsewhere,

But here on Earth we’ve got a fair supply of everything. . .


Here by the poet Wislawa Szymborska is a book that I’ve been dipping in and out of for almost a year.  I’ve read it front-to-back twice but failed to write a review.  I think it’s time to change that since it’s a good volume and will probably be on my best of 2011 list at the end of the year.

Here is the poet’s latest volume of poetry. At just 81 pages, the book is a great volume to carry along to read a poem or two when you have the time though once I read the first poem, I sat down to read the rest.  It’s also a bilingual edition so readers can see what the poems look like in Szymborska’s native language, Polish, alongside of their translations.

The subjects that the poet writes about vary but all are interesting. One of my favorite poems is “Teenager”, in which Szymborska imagines a meeting of her teenage self and who she is today.


So many dissimilarities between us

that only the bones are likely still the same,

the cranial vault, the eye sockets.


Relatives and friends still link us, it is true,

but in her world nearly all are living,

while in mine almost no one survive from that shared circle.


I got shivers reading that last stanza. For most of us, we go from being the youngest members of our families to the oldest as we slowly by surely lose those we love.  It’s a thought that I’ve encountered several times this year in other works such as Stewart O’Nan’s Emily, Alone and Michael Lee West’s Consuming Passions.

Other favorites from the collection includes “An Idea” which is a great poem for those of us who try to talk ourselves out of good ideas and “Vermeer”


So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum

in painted quiet and concentration

keeps pouring milk day after day

the World hasn’t earned

the world’s end.


As with most volumes of poetry there are a few poems that I didn’t care for but overall Here is a readable collection that’s great for those who are new to reading poetry and those who have been doing it for years.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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6 Responses to Review: Here by Wislawa Szymborska

  1. I’ve been reading a book of poetry and have enjoyed parts of it, but have no idea how to review it.

    • Vasilly says:

      It’s so hard to do, Kathy! I hate even calling this a review since I don’t go into detail about structure and what-not. What about calling the post your thoughts on the book instead? That way it can be completely informal and still help your readers decide whether or not to read it? Good luck.

  2. zibilee says:

    This does seem like a really great collection, and I enjoyed reading the poems that you excerpted for us in your review. I always say that I need to read more poetry. Perhaps this is the book that will get me started! Great review!

  3. Care says:

    I think I’m being primed to really jump into some poetry. I’m reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids right now and I have no clue all the poets she is quoting and admiring.

  4. Bellezza says:

    I love the cover, first of all, you just want to sit across from that woman and talk with her! Then, I loved how the volume is only 80 pages or so, which is about all I can handle of poetry, choosing to read a few dipping in and and out as you say. The last stanza gave me shivers too, and at the age of 50, I can totally relate to comparing oneself to oneself in her teens. Great review!

  5. I have a copy of her View with a Grain of Sand that I pick up periodically. Funny, when I love one novel of an author’s, I often rush out and get more (even if I don’t get around to reading them). But I haven’t adopted that habit with poets. And I should.

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