If you love Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska’s work as I do, you’ll love this issue which features the poet’s work, along with ten brief essays that “consider” her writing and influence from Lawrence Raab, Carl Dennis, Sally Ball, Kathy Fagan, Jennifer Clarvoe, William Olsen, Michelle Boisseau, Rachel Wetzsteon, Marianne Boruch, and Tony Hoagland. Olsen describes Szymborska’s poems as “a little off to the side,” ironic not as “cosmic betrayals,” but as “human fictions.”
Szymborska is well accompanied by poets Maura Stanton, Mary Ruefle, Kim Addonizo, David Rivard, David Yezzi, and many others, including some of those who contributed the essays noted above. David Wagoner’s “Breakfast with Salesmen Before the Poetry Reading,” like these essays, sheds light on the work of poets and poems, “to give easy answers to harder and harder questions.”
The issue also includes ten stories and essays, including a terrific one-page mini-essay by Harrison Candelaria Fletcher, “Inheritance,” economical in size and generous in scope; a brief meditation on fishing by Richard Robbins; a story William Olsen might be tempted to characterize as “a little off to the side,” by Roberta Allen (“Barbeque”), which lives up to the promise of its first line: “If I were to write a story about a barbeque in Stone Ridge, would I change the location to Willow?”; and another, also delightfully off to the side, by Tom Whalen, “From the Life of a Project Manager.”
The Szymborska selections are smart ones, smartly translated by Joanna Trzeciak. Here is the poet at her most off-to-the-side-est:
When I utter the word Future,
the first syllable is already headed for the past.
When I utter the word Silence,
I destroy it.
When I utter the word Nothing,
I create something no non-existence can contain.