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New England Review – Polish Poetry in Translation

New England Review - Volume 4 Number 2, 2019Magazine Review by Andrea Diamond

Ellen Hinsey and Jakob Ziguras were invited to assist the New England Review in compiling a collection of poems written by previously untranslated Polish authors in a special issue titled “Polish Poetry in Translation: Bridging the Frontiers of Language” (Volume 40 Number 2, 2019). No doubt, Ellen Hinsey, who had previously used love as her guide to identify works to include in her book Scattering the Dark: An Anthology of Polish Women Poets, was chosen for her care and attention.

The introduction to Hinsey’s anthology is referenced in an editor’s note in this issue and highlights difficulties that translation presents. Hinsey describes how even best efforts are often unable to fully create expressions and understandings in English that exist uniquely in Polish (and other languages) while also preserving beauty in the verses.

Here, Ziguras’s translations go a long way in addressing such difficulties. These translations convey Poland’s dynamic and tumultuous past while celebrating the freedoms and enjoyments these authors explore and achieve in writing. The product is a fresh, delectable lyric of color, ease, and musicality as well as a depth of emotion and human experience that these authors originally expressed.

For example, “Trunk” by Kazimierz Wierzyński masterfully inscribes metaphor with moving efficacy: “In the attic sleeps my return: a trunk.” The tension of despair, a fractured country, homelessness, and subsequent wandering is magnetic. Wierzynski’s lament ends with palpable sorrow: “Such is the trap. Nothing to take from here, nor bear unto the end.” Just one among many potent works in this issue, it preludes the treasures readers will find here—riches of human triumph and perseverance.


About the reviewer: Andrea Diamond is a creative writing student at Utah State University.

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