Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday's Poems: Anna Swir

'War made me another person. Only then did my own life and the life of my contemporaries enter my poems'
Anna Swir

He Did Not Jump from the Third Floor 
Anna Swir

The second World War

Tonight they dropped bombs
on the Theatre Square.

At the Theatre Square
Father has his workshop.
All paintings, labor
of forty years.

Next morning father went
to the Theatre Square.
He saw.

His workshop has no ceiling,
has no walls
no floor.

Father did not jump
from the third floor.
Father started over
from the beginning.

An Artist Moves
Anna Swir

At dawn
We leave on tiptoe

Father carries the easel
And three paintings, mother
A chest and the eiderdown
Inherited from grandmother, 
I myself
A pot and a teakettle.

We load it all on a car, quickly,
So the janitor does not see.
My father is pulling the cart, quickly,
So the janitor does not see.
My father
Is pulling the cart, quickly,
My mother pushes at the rear quickly,
I push also, quickly, quickly, quickly,
So that the janitor does not see.

We owe 

a half year's rent.


The Ghetto: A Mother

by Anna Swir

Cuddling in the arms her half-asphyxiated baby, howling,
she ran up the staircase of the apartment building that was set ablaze.

From the first floor to the second.
From the second to the third.
From the third to the fourth.

Until she had jumped onto the roof.
There, having choked with air, clinging to the chimney,
she looked down from where she could hear
the crackle of flames which were reaching higher and higher.

And then she became motionless and silent.
She kept silent to the end, till the moment
at which she suddenly clenched her eyelids,
stepped to the roof edge and, throwing forward her arms,
she dropped her baby down.

Two seconds earlier than she herself leapt down.

Anna Swir (1909-1984)  is  one of Poland's finest poets. Although she wrote poetry for over 50 years it was her experience in Nazi occupied Poland  and her time as a member of the anti-Nazi resistance in Poland that really shaped her poetry. 

Swir was arrested and faced a Nazi firing squad during the war, waiting 60 minutes to be executed.  As well as writing poetry for Polish resistance underground publications, Swir worked as a military nurse, caring for the wounded during the Warsaw Uprising.

Many of her poems record what she witnessed, particularly the experiences and ravages of war, although it was 30 years after the war before Swir found  a language to write of her wartime experience. 

Swir uses her poetry to resurrect experiences and memories. As one reviewer notes those wartime experiences changed her poetry profoundly, bringing a concern for the value of and the simplicity and immediacy of life. 

As one writer notes, Swir wrote her poems as:
  ' de facto little pieces of reportage'.
An earlier blog piece on Anna Swir and her poetry is here.

No comments: