Ryszard Krynicki

Ryszard Krynicki

Ryszard Krynicki—an editor, publisher, and acclaimed translator as well as a poet—lives in Krakow with six cats and his collaborator Krystyna Krynicka, with whom he runs a5, one of Poland’s finest publishing houses. His poetry has won the Polish Poets’ Award, the Robert Graves-PEN Club Award, and the Zbigniew Herbert International Literature Prize.

Magnetic Point: Selected Poems

Poetry by Ryszard Krynicki

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

born in transit I came upon on the place of death So Ryszard Krynicki begins the early lyric that gave his 1969 debut volume Act of Birth its title (a poem which ends: “I live / in the place of death”). These are not simply metaphors. One of the greatest poets of postwar Poland, Krynicki was born in 1943 in a Nazi labor camp in Austria, where his parents, Polish peasants from Ukraine, served as slave laborers.…
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A revelation. And a treasure. I thought I’d known most of the current Polish poets—but here was a glaring omission. He writes with an undercurrent of horror, and yet affirms the sacred, making me believe in the power of poetry to redeem us. As he writes, not without some irony, ‘the world still exists.’ His translators are superb.

—Grace Schulman

Clear water knapped to obsidian sharpness— this is the quality of Ryszard Krynicki’s poems. Krynicki plays on his almost-impossible instrument a human music unheard elsewhere. Within its notes: personal history; politics; the earth’s beings, salts, and resins; friendships and eros; ferocity and acceptance; the pages of newspapers and cities; mortality’s subtle explorations. This long-awaited translation brings to English-language readers a poet who retunes the ears.

—Jane Hirshfield

Part Issa haiku, part mystic speech, these delicate poems come from a time when men and women died for poetry. I almost feel unworthy of them, having never known the wall of fire and charred darkness of war…

—Henri Cole

Krynicki has a rare gift of naming things even in shortest poems, he goes straight to the essence. Among Polish poets and readers he has the reputation of a master, of an archer who never misses.

—Adam Zagajewski

Krynicki’s work is greatly compact—it resists what Herbert [Zbigniew] called ‘gibberish from the tribune black newspaper froth,’ and aspires to a kind of sacred speech.

—Edward Hirsch

These are spellbinding poems: hieroglyphs, ‘reports from the agents of secret reality,’ traces left by the poet Issa reincarnated as a snail. In Clare Cavanagh’s English, Ryszard Krynicki’s Polish courts silence and flickers in paradox. It’s a chaste and dire art: political, private, inviolable. I’m transfixed. Here’s poetry doing its true work in two languages at once.

—Rosanna Warren
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