I DON’T LIKE HEARING that poetry is dying or dead –

I prefer the absurdity of writing poems

to the absurdity of not writing poems…

Possibilities

I prefer movies.

I prefer cats.

I prefer the oaks along the Warta.

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”, by Wisława Szymborska

(Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh)

Wislawa-Szymborska_

Wisława Szymborska

I DON’T LIKE POETRY criticism, unless it’s written by someone who cares about criticism almost as much as he cares about poetry, and who in the moment of writing cares more about the sentence he’s constructing than about either one of them.

I DON’T LIKE HEARING that poetry is dying or dead. I particularly don’t like it when it’s clear that the person making the claim hasn’t bothered to so much as glance at any contemporary writing. That said, I also don’t like hearing that such claims can be safely ignored because they’ve been repeated over and over for eighty years. Poetry is an ancient art. Were it to die, it wouldn’t vanish overnight. It would vanish like a town in a glacier’s path—by inches, over lifespans.

– David Orr


Wisława Szymborska, (born July 2, 1923, Bnin—died February 1, 2012, Kraków)

In 1996 The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Wislawa Szymborska “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”

Wisława Szymborska’s poetry addressed existential questions. It is unique among its kind and does not easily lend itself to categorization. Wisława Szymborska strives to illuminate the deepest problems of human existence, surrounded by the transitoriness of the now and everyday life. She weaves in the machinery of eternity in a momentary experience of the here and now. Her poetry is characterized by a simplified, “personal” language that is unlike contemporary language, often with a little twist at the end, with a striking combination of spirituality, ingenuity, and empathy.


David Orr (born 1974) is an American journalist, attorney, and poet. He is the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review and Professor of the Practice at Cornell University. 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gunta says:

    Loved every bit of the poem, but I think “I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
    that can be celebrated every day.” was a favorite! 😀

    1. Sigrun says:

      YES – isn’t it wonderful! 😊

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