Talking to My Body

Anna Swir, Czesław Miłosz, Leonard Nathan, trans.

A member of the Resistance during the Nazi occupation and a military nurse in a makeshift hospital during the Warsaw Uprising, Anna Swir once waited an hour fully expecting to be executed. Affected deeply by her experience, she wrote poetry which rejected the grand gestures of war in favor of a world cast in miniature, a world in which the body and individual survive. Co-translated by Nobel Laureate Czesław Miłosz and Leonard Nathan, with an introduction by Miłosz, who writes: “What is the central theme of these poems? Answer: Flesh. Flesh in love and ecstasy, in pain, in terror, flesh afraid of loneliness, giving birth, resting, feeling the flow of time or reducing time to one instant. By such a clear delineation of her subject matter, Anna Swir achieves in her sensual, fierce poetry a nearly calligraphic neatness.”

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ISBN: 9781556591082

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) was born in Warsaw in 1909, the daughter of an impoverished painter. During World War II she was part of the Polish Resistance and wrote for underground publications. She died of cancer in 1984.

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About the Translator

Leonard Nathan was the author of nine volumes of poetry, including Returning Your Call, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, and many other awards and honors, he was an avid bird watcher. He died in 2007.

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About the Translator

Czesław Miłosz was born in Lithuania in 1911 and lived in Poland until 1951, when he was granted asylum in France. He was the author of dozens of books, including the poetry books Facing the River and Collected Poems, and the prose volumes A Year of the Hunter and Beginning with My Streets. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, and taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1961 to 1998. He died in Kraków in 2004.

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Reviews

“As Czesław Miłosz says, ‘Her poetry is about not being identical with one’s body, about sharing its joys and pains and still rebelling against its laws.’ The poems delight in all things physical, painting a passionate picture of the soul as a reified, pulsating entity that argues with the body.” —San Francisco Review

Talking to My Body is an extremely rewarding book… Her best poems are so original as to deliver that mild shock we’ve come to recognize as real poetry.” —Boston Book Review

“What is the central theme of these poems? Answer: Flesh. Flesh in love and ecstasy, in pain, in terror, flesh afraid of loneliness, giving birth, resting, feeling the flow of time or reducing time to one instant. By such a clear delineation of her subject matter, Anna Swir achieves in her sensual, fierce poetry a nearly calligraphic neatness.” —Czesław Miłosz, from the introduction