Death will not correct
a single line of verse
she is no proof-reader
she is no sympathetic
lady editor

a bad metaphor is immortal

a shoddy poet who has died
is a shoddy dead poet

a bore bores after death
a fool keeps up his foolish chatter
from beyond the grave

by Tadeusz Rózewicz

© Tadeusz Rózewicz, 2004. Translation © Adam Czerniawski, 2004.

This is the first in a new series of weekly poems from the Poetry Centre. We hope you enjoyed a fine summer.

Notes from Anvil Press:

Tadeusz Rózewicz (born in 1921,) is perhaps Poland’s most highly regarded living poet. He is also a well-known playwright. He came to prominence in then-communist Poland in the fifties, and his poems began to be translated and published in English about the same time. Adam Czerniawski, a Polish émigré living in England, is his principal translator in Britain and is a close friend of the poet. This poem comes from the collection entitled They Came to See a Poet. Originally published by Anvil Press in 2004, a third edition of the book is to be published in January 2011. You can learn more about Rózewicz here.

Rózewicz is famous for the kind of minimalism that resulted from the view that Nazi atrocities during the Second World War, which affected Poland particularly badly, somehow made poetry superfluous, or even offensive. He found that he could write truthfully and accurately only through a stark, direct form of poetry rooted in common speech, poetry that had abandoned traditional formal niceties.

Poems of this kind are more translatable than many, since they consist largely of spare, direct statement, without metaphor. It is worth pondering what makes this a poem rather than just a series of statements. Poems are made of words not ideas, yet this plain poem is a poem because of its economy – its movement is faithfully echoed in English, its rhythms carefully controlled, the whole having the satisfying finality of a classical epigram.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern. You can read more about Anvil here.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.