Miracle Fair: Selected Poems by Wislawa Szymborska
W.W. Norton & Company/$24.95

Astrologically speaking, Cancers are known to take a great pleasure in home and shelled solitudes. These traits play out well for poet Wislawa Szymborska, who was born in Kornik in Western Poland in July 1923. Imagine in this loud age a poet who says upon winning the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, "I am very happy, stunned and frightened."

Frightened, indeed, of losing privacy as she feels that poetry isn't born of "noise, in crowds or on a bus" but in peace and quiet. Fiercely private, Szymborska rarely does interviews or readings. She quietly releases slim collections of poetry every few years. Poetry that she writes for the individual reader as she addresses the personal.

Miracle Fair contains the type of prose that may at first seem deceptively simple. Paradoxically, Szymborska is accessible to both the verse averse and the poetic elite. In "Surplus" she writes of the new discovery of a star and its low impact of the actuality of our own life cycle as the star has been there for centuries. She writes of a woman's feeling of helplessness sleeping next to a lover she's become invisible to in "I am too close for him."

"I'm too close to/ to close for him to dream about me/ I slip my arm out from under his sleeping head/ It's numb, full of imaginary pins and needles. And on the head of each, ready to be counted/ dance the fallen angels."

"Miracle Fair," the title poem, addresses the miraculous in the everyday by drawing on a remarkable sense of observation. It ends, "The world is everywhere," luring the reader to conjure a list of miracles that rest even in the mundane for "everything is additional: the unthinkable is thinkable."


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