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Wislawa Szymborska

also known as Wisława Szymborska-Włodek

essayist , translator , poet

Wislawa SZYMBORSKA, Polish poet, translator and literary critic. Gold Cross of Merit 1955; Order of Polonia Restituta 1974. Polish Writers’ Association 1952-1983, member General Board 1978-1983; Editorial Staff Zycie Literackie (weekly) since 1953.


Wislawa Szymborska was born in Kórnik* in Western Poland on 2 July 1923. Since 1931 she has been living in Krakow.

Wislawa Szymborska died on February 1, 2012 at the age of 88.


During 1945-1948 she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.


Szymborska made her début in March 1945 with a poem "Szukam slowa" (I am Looking for a Word) in the daily "Dziennik Polski".

During 1953-1981 she worked as poetry editor and columnist in the Kraków literary weekly "Zycie Literackie" where the series of her essays "Lektury nadobowiazkowe" appeared (the series has been renewed lately in the addition to "Gazeta Wyborcza"-"Gazeta o Ksiazkach"). The collection "Lektury nadobowiazkowe" was published in the form of a book four times.

Szymborska has published 16 collections of poetry: Dlatego zyjemy (1952), Pytania zadawane sobie (1954), Wolanie do Yeti (1957), Sól (1962), Wiersze wybrane (1964), Poezje wybrane (1967), Sto pociech (1967), Poezje (1970), Wszelki wypadek (1972), Wybór wierszy (1973), Tarsjusz i inne wiersze (1976), Wielka liczba (1976), Poezje wybrane II (1983), Ludzie na moscie (1986). Koniec i poczatek (1993, 1996), Widok z ziarnkiem piasku. 102 wiersze (1996). Wislawa Szymborska has also translated French poetry.

Her poems have been translated (and published in book form) in English, German, Swedish, Italian, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and other languages. They have also been published in many foreign anthologies of Polish poetry.

Wislawa Szymborska is the Goethe Prize winner (1991) and Herder Prize winner (1995). She has a degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters of Poznan University (1995). In 1996 she received the Polish PEN Club prize.

Szymborska is the author of more than fifteen books of poetry. Her collections available in English include Monologue of a Dog (Harcourt, 2005), Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska (Norton, 2001), Poems, New and Collected, 1957-1997 (Harcourt, 1998), View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems(Harcourt, 1995), People on a Bridge (Forest, 1990) and Sounds, Feelings Thoughts: Seventy Poems (Princeton UP, 1981). She is also the author of Nonrequired Reading (Harcourt, 2002), a collection of prose pieces.

While the Polish history from World War II through Stalinism clearly informs her poetry, Szymborska is also a deeply personal poet who explores the large truths that exist in ordinary, everyday things. "Of course, life crosses politics," Szymborska has said "but my poems are strictly not political. They are more about people and life."

In the introduction to Miracle Fair, Czeslaw Milosz wrote: "Hers is a very grim poetry…a comparison with the despairing vision of Samuel Beckett and Philip Larkin suggests itself. Yet, in contrast to them Szymborska offers a world where one can breathe."

Writing in the New York Review of Books, Stanislaw Barańczak said: "Wit, wisdom and warmth are equally important ingredients in the mixture of qualities that makes her so unusual and every poem of hers so unforgettable."

In 1996, Szymborska won the Nobel Prize. Her other awards include the Polish Pen Club prize, an Honorary Doctorate from Adam Mickiewicz University, the Herder Prize and The Goethe Prize.


  • book

    • Chwila

    • Monologue of a dog

  • collection of poems

    • Wiersze wybrane

    • Poems new and collected

    • Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska


Like many Poles, Szymborska became disillusioned with communism. 'I looked back in terror where to step next...'


Polish Writers’ Association 1952-1983, member General Board 1978-1983. Editorial Staff Zycie Literackie (weekly) since 1953.


  • Writers

    Czesław Miłosz


Wincenty Szymborski