FINALIST: 2014 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize
Tomasz Różycki walks to work every day through the city of Opole, in the Polish region of Silesia, where he has lived since his birth in 1970. The fact that he is walking is important: the rhythm of feet on concrete and cobblestone, the familiar view across the Odra River, the regular length of time it takes him to reach his destination. Poetry has a long friendship with walking, good for pacing the flow of thought and establishing a strong rhythm. We are familiar with the idea in the Anglophone tradition from the late eighteenth century, when the Romantic poets transformed walking into a cultural and aesthetic act of taking pleasure in a landscape. For William Wordsworth, almost daily excursions on foot as well as longer walking tours functioned as a way to compose and revise poems that sprung from his meditations on the countryside. But what is important in Różycki’s daily walking is not so much any pastoral awareness it brings about but the fact that such rambling often leads to more sustained interest in the history of a place. Wordsworth’s pedestrian experience of the Lake District moved him to write a guidebook that traced the history of the region; so, too, Różycki’s paced knowledge of his part of Silesia roots him in a historical curiosity. In Colonies, his sixth collection, this curiosity blooms into an outright aesthetic obsession.
—from the Translator’s Introduction
Tomasz Różycki is a poet, critic, and translator. Over the last ten years, he has garnered almost every prize Poland has to offer, as well as widespread critical and popular acclaim in translation in numerous languages. Różycki is the author of seven volumes of poetry, most recently Kolonie (Colonies) and Księga obrotów (The Book of Rotations). Over the course of his career, he has developed an extraordinarily distinctive, personal poetic voice that combines highly concrete imagery with evocative references to the historical legacy of his family and his time. He has lived his whole life in Opole, a previously German city that was repopulated by Poles relocated from the Ukrainian area of eastern Poland taken over by the Soviets after World War II. He is considered to be an inheritor of the tradition of Czesław Miłosz and Adam Zagajewski, and his highly formal work deals with questions of both literary and ancestral tradition. His awards include the Krzysztof Kamiel Baczyński Prize (1997), the Czas Kultury Prize (1997), The Rainer Maria Rilke Award (1998), the Kościelski Foundation Prize (2004), and the Joseph Brodski Prize from Zeszyty Literackie (2006). He has been nominated twice for the Nike Prize (Poland’s top literary honor) and once for the Paszport Polityki (2004). He lives in his hometown of Opole with his wife and two children and teaches at Opole University. Zephyr Press has also published his The Forgotten Keys.
While on a Fulbright Fellowship to Poland, Mira Rosenthal discovered her passion for translating contemporary Polish poetry. Her translations and scholarship on Polish literature have received numerous awards, including fellowships from the PEN Translation Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Her own poetry has been published widely, and her collection The Local World, winner of the Wick Poetry Prize, came out from Kent State in 2011. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Houston and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Indiana University. She is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
Colonies, by Tomasz Różycki
from Polish by Mira Rosenthal
ISBN 0-9832970-3-1 (paper)
6 x 8
180 pages [Bilingual Polish/English]
Tomasz Różycki’s Colonies is one of the most remarkable sonnet sequences of our time: the work of a wandering, restless, and moral mind, here rendered with clarity and vividness by the translations of Mira Rosenthal.
In Tomasz Różycki’s lyric profusion, I hear the sharp blasts of a mordant intellect, but not without the human notes of an infinite melancholy playing in the background. This is the soundtrack of a valiant mind, a layered imagination that nonchalantly apprehends and formally measures the tarnished world in demotic language such that it enchantingly restores simplicity and bewilderment to our existence.