cover image Everything I Don't Know

Everything I Don't Know

Jerzy Ficowski, trans. from the Polish by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer. . World Poetry, $16 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-954218-99-4

The first English-language translation of the work of Polish poet and WWII resistance fighter Ficowski (1924%E2%80%932006) draws from 11 of the poet's collections dating from 1957 to 2006. Here is an unusual mind capable of masterful metaphors: "Down sits the black-bearded gardener,/ God the Father/ with the planets in his basket,/ and bites into the full fruit" ("Apricot Time"). Some of his images are surrealist, as in "All Around London," which opens "The yellow hands of bananas/ stick out from under the awnings%E2%80%94/ they're checking for rain," and later declares that "the Vistula/ is a dry smudge of blue/ on the map of memory.// Because here there are rains of tears/ that cannot revive anything." The atrocities of the Holocaust linger in these pages and are explored through Ficowski's direct but light touch: "I was unable to save/ a single life// I couldn't stop/ a single bullet// so I circle cemeteries/ that aren't there... I run// to the aid uncalled for/ to the rescue delayed// I want to get there on time/ even if it's already over." These surprising, clear, and appealing poems are to be enjoyed again and again, marking Ficowski as a poet readers won't want to miss. (Oct.)