cover image Monologue of a Dog

Monologue of a Dog

Wislawa Szymborska, , trans. from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, foreword by . Harcourt, $22 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101220-6

Nobel laureate Symborska takes on current events and ancient conundrums in this elegant, terse new collection. The title abbreviates the opening poem, "Monologue of a Dog Ensnared in History": the dog stands for all the citizens who served, or simply failed to resist, dictators, then wondered at the revolutions that displaced them. Other poems consider wartime victims: "What if... I'd been born/ in the wrong tribe,/ with all roads closed before me?" One poem perhaps destined for widespread reprinting depicts with tact and awe the jumping, falling casualties of September 11. Yet Symborska (View with a Grain of Sand ) also excels with slower, less topical concerns. "Joy and sorrow," she explains, "aren't two different feelings" for the human soul; rather, the soul "attends us/ only when the two are joined." Symborska and her translators (the Polish is on facing pages) achieve a diction suited to her drily understated wisdom, and some of her work may be quoted far and wide; "Life is the only way," another poem advises, "to get covered in leaves,/ catch your breath on the sand,/ rise on wings." (Nov.)