A Poem for National Poetry Month: “Hatred” by Wislawa Szymborska

WislawaSzymborska2SUBMITTED BY ELAINE MAGLIARO

Back in 1999, US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky read Wislawa’s Szymborska’s poem Hatred on the PBS Newshour Poetry Series. Unfortunately, the video of Pinsky’s poetry reading is no longer available—but the text of the poem is still posted online. Before his reading of Szymborska’s poem, Pinsky said, “The cycles of mistrust, savagery, revenge and violation in the Balkans remind us what a powerful, important force hatred is in the world. Hatred drives much of what happens, public as well as private. The Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska comments on hatred in her poem of that title.”

NOTE: Szymborska’s poem was translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

From HATRED
By Wislawa Szymborska

See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape—
our century’s hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It’s not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it’s never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won’t sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another –
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another –
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy…

Hatred is a master of contrast-
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif – the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It’s always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it’s blind. Blind?
It has a sniper’s keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

Click here to read the entire poem.

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Robert Pinsky Reads Wislawa Szymborska’s Poem, “Hatred” (PBS)

Wislawa Szymborska, 1923–2012: The great Polish poet disclaimed grand political schemes in favor of irony, wit, skepticism and the individual. (By Katha Pollitt for The Nation)

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996: Wislawa Szymborska (Press Release)

https://flowersforsocrates.com/2016/08/26/word-cloud-translation/

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20 Responses to A Poem for National Poetry Month: “Hatred” by Wislawa Szymborska

  1. Jim Foreman says:

    This is a perfect example of how the far-left progressives think and see the world. They live in a world of hate and mistrust where life must be miserable.

  2. Elaine M. says:

    Jim,

    You should read about Szymborska’s life. Learn more about her before you label her. She was born in 1923 and lived through difficult times under the Nazis and Communists.

    *****
    Excerpt from a New York Times obituary of the Nobel Laureate Poet:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/books/wislawa-szymborska-nobel-winning-polish-poet-dies-at-88.html

    Ms. Szymborska began writing in the Socialist Realist style. The first collection of what some have called her Stalinist period, “That’s What We Live For,” appeared in 1952, followed two years later by another ideological collection, “Questions Put to Myself.”

    Years later she told the poet and critic Edward Hirsch: “When I was young I had a moment of believing in the Communist doctrine. I wanted to save the world through Communism. Quite soon I understood that it doesn’t work, but I’ve never pretended it didn’t happen to me.

    “At the very beginning of my creative life I loved humanity. I wanted to do something good for mankind. Soon I understood that it isn’t possible to save mankind.”

    By 1957, she had renounced both Communism and her early poetry. Decades later, she was active in the Solidarity movement’s struggle against Poland’s Communist government. During a period of martial law, imposed in 1981, she published poems under a pseudonym in the underground press.

    She insisted that her poetry was personal rather than political. “Of course, life crosses politics,” she said in an interview with The New York Times after winning the Nobel in 1996. “But my poems are strictly not political. They are more about people and life.”

  3. Mike Spindell says:

    “Hatred is a master of contrast-
    between explosions and dead quiet,
    red blood and white snow.
    Above all, it never tires
    of its leitmotif – the impeccable executioner
    towering over its soiled victim.”

    Chilling words that hit the bullseye.

  4. Mike Spindell says:

    “This is a perfect example of how the far-left progressives think and see the world. They live in a world of hate and mistrust where life must be miserable.”

    Jim,

    Would you please elucidate what in the poem makes you think it is “leftist” politically?

  5. jim28foreman says:

    “Hate” is a buzzword of the left and practically everything they do is built on hate for someone or some thing. They are always talking about “hate filled speech” when it’s something with which they disagree. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to let things ride and go about their business.

    Jim

  6. Elaine M. says:

    jim,

    It appears that you’re a person who harbors hatred toward a large group of people of whom you disapprove.

  7. jim28foreman says:

    Bingo! You just proved my point; you accused me of hate. As I saw on a T-shirt one time, “You have me confused with someone who gives a shit”. If anything, I pity them for being so short sighted.

    Jim

  8. Elaine M. says:

    Jim,

    I have not criticized a whole group of people–as have you–and claimed that they live in a world of hate.

    *****

    Look out how you use proud words.
    When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back.
    They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can’t hear you calling–
    Look out how you use proud words.

    ~ Carl Sandburg

  9. jim28foreman says:

    Carl Sandburg is right, I use proud words because I am proud…. proud to be an American and proud of my lifestyle which is not based on hate. But comparing me to the Jack-boots of government forces which are used to drive people down, is totally wrong.

    Jim

  10. Mike Spindell says:

    “Carl Sandburg is right, I use proud words because I am proud…. proud to be an American and proud of my lifestyle which is not based on hate.”

    Nah Jim,

    You’re just a guy trying to promote yourself and your writings as your first link showed. You come on here looking for attention, under the usual mistake of guys like you who assume this is a left wing website. So far all you’ve delivered is invective and name calling. This is proven by the fact that all I asked you to do was explain why you though the poem was leftist and you answered it with a non-sequitur, rather than anything resembling logic.

    “Bingo! You just proved my point; you accused me of hate.”

    Umm…..Jim…..Are you so confused that you didn’t realize that it was you that first accused anyone of hate?

    ““Hate” is a buzzword of the left and practically everything they do is built on hate for someone or some thing.”

    So far you’ve put up a very childish bunch of comments and I would hope that the writing you tout would be on a higher literary level than that. Stick around though because you are fun to skewer since so far you’ve shown you’ve got nothing but empty, silly rhetoric. 🙂

  11. Elaine M. says:

    Mike,

    We’re familiar with the modus operandi.

  12. Jim, I am not sure, but you may have read the poem wrong. The poet, Wislawa Szymborska, was on the receiving end of unremitting hate for the first half of her life, first under Nazi rule, then the Communists when they took over Poland. She learned at an early age to be wary, because she lived in a totalitarian state. For a Nobel Prize winner, she did not write a lot of poems, but what she did write is clear and concise. Most of her work is contemplative, but she did not back off from writing about death, torture, war and even Hitler. I can only imagine what it was like for a teenage girl when the Nazis invaded Poland. She wrote from the heart, and about the things she had seen and experienced. Both the beautiful and the ugly.

  13. Elaine M. says:

    Chuck,

    I have most of Szymborska’s poetry books. Szymborska never tried to dazzle with fancy language. She is one of my favorite poets. I return to her work time and again.

  14. Elaine, she did make up neologisms in Polish, usually as witticisms, but they are next to impossible to translate into English. For that reason, those of us who don’t know a word of Polish, will never be able to fully appreciate her sharp wit.

  15. Comedy is where you find it.

  16. Gene,
    Back in the 1980s, my wife developed some inner ear problems and needed surgery. Her doctor referred her to the Shea Clinic in Memphis. We went early in the day and surgery was scheduled the following day. After going through extensive tests. her last appointment at the end of the day was with the anesthesiologist. We went to his office in the clinic. I cannot spell or pronounce his name, but I would swear there was not a single vowel in it. He was cheerful, chatty, and there were airplane pictures everywhere. Most of them were MiG-15s. He interviewed my wife and got a history. When he finished I asked if he was a pilot (silly question, I know). He pointed to the MiG-15 photo on the wall behind him and said that was his plane. He told me when he had served, and it was Korean War era.

    We talked flying for a while, then I asked him if he had flown in Korea. He recoiled, saying, “I am Polish. I am NOT Russian.” As in, “Not no, but HELL NO.” Then we both had a good laugh.

  17. Mike Spindell says:

    The NY Yankees once had a pitcher named Eli Grba apropos of nothing. 🙂

  18. Pingback: “TORTURES”–A Poem by Wislawa Szymborska | Flowers For Socrates

  19. Pingback: “CONSOLATION”: A Poem by Wislawa Szymborska | Flowers For Socrates

  20. Fats Navarro says:

    It is chilling to see the hatred of this “Jim”. A man who has a little intellect and foolishly chooses to display it where it will stand out among more the more sensitive and intelligent readers. The people who look at people as objects are the most dangerous kind-they will kill you to prove their point. It must be sad to live a life of symbols and puerile characterization of other humans. The man “Jim” is the kind of person that the poet was describing-full of hatred.

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