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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.