I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems


Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the river.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

From “Nothing Twice“, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Elisa says:

    I think that I like the writer! How does the writing–or reading, affect you?

    1. Sigrun says:

      Hi Elisa, you’ve given me a real challenge here –
      First answer:
      I don’t know how she affects me, she is a new acquaintance to me so I really can’t put my feelings into words yet.
      Second answer:
      If I (in spite of answer 1) should try to say something about it, I will say: The writing of Szymborska gives me a sense of hope, a feeling of happiness & freedom – she manages to say incredible wise things about life & existence in such a beautiful simple language.

      Hopefully I will be able to put my thoughts and feelings about her work into a intelligible language some day ….

      For now she’ll have to speak for herself!

  2. Another thought provoking one by her. Thank you!

    1. Sigrun says:

      My pleasure! It really wasn’t my plan to study Szymborska right now (I’m writing an essay on Maggie Nelson, and have my head full of blue), but it seems like Szymborska has something to tell me – so I’d better start listening.

      1. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? I wasn’t expecting her or Tony Hoagland to take over my reading schedule lately, but it’s good to hang on and see where it takes you.

  3. I have loved her work for as long as it has been available in English. I do wish I could read in her original Polish.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Me too! There are only two works translated into Norwegian, both anthologies – I will read them in addition to my English translations.

  4. sv says:

    Reblogged this on E'n'M and commented:
    love it…..

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