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Polish Poetry in Translation

Published August 21, 2019 Posted by

The latest issue of New England Review (40.2) includes "Polish Poetry in Translation: Bridging the Frontiers of Language" edited by Ellen Hinsey [pictured], NER's international correspondent, with translations by Jakob Ziguras.

ellen hinseyHinsey discusses her approach to this collection, coming to the difficult question of "how to choose among so many brilliant authors? Should one pick a range of poets, or focus on individual key texts that might reflect a Polish reader’s idea of major 'missing' poems?"

To answer this, Hinsey enlisted the help of Warsaw-based scholars Magdalena Rembowska-Płuciennik, Tamara Brzostowska-Tereszkiewicz, Beata Sniecikowska, Andrzej Karcz and Agnieszka Kluba. She asked that "each draw up a short list of essential Polish poems that, with a few exceptions, are unknown in English translation."

Featuring a "selection of work by eighteen poets born as early as 1877 and as recently as 1970, arranged in a loosely chronological progression," the NER editors note, "You won’t find Miłosz, Herbert, or Szymborska here. The poets in this selection are largely unknown in English. Their unfamiliarity in English—and belovedness in Polish—was the central organizing principle. These are poems that Poles who care deeply about poetry wanted to share beyond the boundaries of their own language."

Indeed, as Hinsey details the scholars' selection process, "Despite learned conversations about historical criteria and canonical subtleties, they avowed that, in the end, their choices were governed above all by love."

Select poems from the issue are available to read online as well as the editors' notes and an audio page with Kevin Moss, Fulton Professor of Modern Language & Literature at Middlebury College, offering pronunciations of the poets' names.

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