Recommended: Scattering the Dark
An Anthology of Polish Women Poets

Scattering the Dark

Celebrating Polish American Heritage month and the publication of Scattering the Dark: An Anthology of Polish Women Poets, some 50 members of the the Polish Women’s Alliance of America gathered at the Copernicus Center in Chicago October 9 for an afternoon of poetry and camaraderie. Two poets, Joanna Kurowska and Lidia Rozmus, read from their work, and the PWA’s Barbara Mirecki gave a brief talk about the 31 Polish and Polish American women poets included in the book and about the dramatic changes in Poland that occurred over the 76-year period during which these women were born, from 1909 to 1985. Donna Urbikas was also on hand to sign copies of her new book My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia.

Most of the poets in Scattering the Dark are not terribly well known to American readers, with the exception of Nobel Prize laureate Wisława Szymborska, who is represented by ten poems in the collection. Known for the simplicity and power of her poetry, Szymborska’s poems in many ways typify the subtle humor and irony in the work of many of the women writers included in the anthology. Here is a fragment from “The Joy of Writing”:

Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of brass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.
Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of the mortal hand.

As poet Edward Hirsch has said, “Polish poetry is one of the great poetries of the world, and these cosmopolitan, multilingual poets speak to each other–and to us–across the decades, overcoming a great silence, redirecting the myths, reimagining the role of the poet, and the nature of poetry itself.” This book is most useful and welcome, especially for younger readers who will be drawn in by this poetry of ordinary experience and playful language rendered into English by skilled and inspired translators.

Scattering the Dark, edited by Karen Kovacik is available for $20 wherever fine books are sold. The Polish Women’s Alliance was founded in 1915. In 1921. Maria Skłodowska Curie visited Chicago, and PWA Group 211 members were among the first to respond to her request for the funds she needed for her scientific research. Group 211 became the Maria Skłodowska Curie Society and made substantial donations to Curie’s Radiological Institute in 1921 and 1929.

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