{notes on the soul}

Around Glasgow 567 HDR

On Fortuna’s Wheel. Which is apparently in George Square, Glasgow.

A friend sent this along a few weeks ago and I’ve been puzzling over it, bit by bit, ever since. No matter what you believe about souls, this is a gorgeous translation of Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska’s work – a whimsical, exasperated, sideways look at something we neither see nor can pinpoint – but which millions have debated. What are our souls? Do they exist? Are they only borrowed for awhile? Do click through to read the whole thing.

A Few Words on the Soul

by Wislawa Szymborska
~ translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

Born in Bnin, Poland, Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

Stanislaw Baranczak is the Alfred Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Literature, Emeritus, at Harvard University. Clare Cavanagh is an associate professor of Slavic languages at Northwestern University.

After that bit of whimsical exploration, if you know which end is up, head on over to Jone’s Check It Out for Poetry Friday’s roundup. For more happiness, don’t neglect to read Kate Messner’s utterly inspired poem, which I found on Mary Lee’s blogsite. And check out my latest find – zincwhite, which uses recycled typewriters and colored pencils to make fashion and jewelry, and probably will ship outside the UK, but only if you ask them very nicely.

It’s been a heckuva week – got my first review from Kirkus on HAPPY FAMILIES – and it’s quite positive – finally finished the first leg of the long journey on the other SUPER SEEKRIT PROJECT, and am in the death-and-daggers scenes of my mystery. Which is why, of course, I am procrastinating and spending time on the internet looking up types of guns, as if that really matters. Here’s hoping more “finished!” shouts emerging from this direction soon! HAPPY FRIDAY.

4 Replies to “{notes on the soul}”

  1. I am going to be thinking about that poem for a while. I love:

    Joy and sorrow
    aren’t two different feelings for it.
    It attends us
    only when the two are joined.

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