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They Came to See a Poet

Selected Poems

Tadeusz Rozewicz

Translated by Adam Czerniawski

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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
ISBN: 978 0 856462 38 2
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Published: November 1991
224 x 145 x 24 mm
234 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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    When all the women in the transport
    had their heads shaved
    four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs
    swept up
    and gathered up the hair

    Behind clean glass
    the stiff hair lies
    of those suffocated in gas chambers
    there are pins and side combs
    in this hair

    The hair is not shot through with light
    is not parted by the breeze
    is not touched by any hand
    or rain or lips

    In huge chests
    clouds of dry hair
    of those suffocated
    and a faded plait
    a pigtail with a ribbon
    pulled at school
    by naughty boys.

    The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948

    Translated by Adam Czerniawski

    Tadeusz Różewicz is Poland’s most popular and influential poet. Born in 1921, he belongs to the generation of writers whose work was indelibly marked by Poland’s traumatic and tragic war-time experience. ‘What I produced is poetry for the horror-stricken. For those abandoned to butchery. For survivors.’ Rejecting traditional aesthetic values – which struck him as offensive in the face of what he had witnessed – Różewicz has created a stark, direct poetry rooted in common speech, fashioned ’out of a remnant of words, salvaged words, out of uninteresting words, words from the great rubbish dump, the great cemetery.’

    Yet Różewicz’s poetry is not confined to recording the horrors of war. They Came to See a Poet includes poems addressing childhood, friendship, love, eroticism, art, the poet’s rôle and obligations, religion, ageing, death and the anxieties of modern civilization. In 2003 Tadeusz Różewicz was awarded the Montale Prize, the latest of many awards and honours.

    Tadeusz Rozewicz
    Tadeusz Różewicz was born in 1921 in Radomsko, a town in central Poland. He fought in the Resistance against the Nazis, and after the war studied art history at Krakow University. He has published numerous collections of poetry, and his experimental and often controversial plays have been widely performed. His poetry ... read more
    Adam Czerniawski
    Adam Czerniawski, born in Warsaw in 1934, lived in the Middle East from 1941–47 before coming to England. He has translated widely from Polish as well as publishing original poetry, short stories, criticism and a memoir both in Polish and English. He lives in Wales and has worked in a ... read more
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