I was introduced to the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska six years ago in my World Lit class at Davidson. I was slumping something fierce that semester sophomore year and that class was a bright spot in my personal winter of discontent. Reading the work of Szymborska, a Nobel-Prize-winning poet from Poland, was a particularly bright spot within that bright spot. Her work, which is — and always will be — a sweethottness, invited me to reconsider objects and situations that I might otherwise quickly judge and dismiss with a critical eye; she urged me to take on a new perspective and change my point of view.
Take, for example, this excerpt from her poem “Lot’s Wife”:
They say I looked back out of curiosity,
but I could have had other reasons.
I looked back mourning my silver bowl.
Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.
So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape
Of my husband Lot’s neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead
He wouldn’t so much as hesitate.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Checking for pursuers.
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.
Ultimately, what I needed to do that year was change my perspective on my personal life — to drag myself out of my puddle of self-pity and discontentment. Szymborska, among others, helped me shake the dust off of my feet, readjust my outlook, and press onward.
She passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88.
Read the Times obituary here.