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Monologue of a Dog

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  431 ratings  ·  62 reviews
From a writer whom Charles Simic calls "one of the finest poets living" comes a collection of witty, compassionate, contemplative, and always surprising poems. Szymborska writes with verve about everything from love unremembered to keys mislaid in the grass. The poems will appear, for the first time, side by side with the Polish originals, in a book to delight new and old
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Houghton Mifflin
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Jon Nakapalau
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Taunt yet expansive in empathy - I have long wanted to read Wisława Szymborska's poems and was happy to come across this wonderful introduction to her work. She is now on my 'read more radar.'

Sidharth Vardhan
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems, 4-europe, nobel, bestest
There are lots of beautiful ones. I will share only one.

The courtesy of the Blind

The poet reads his lines to the blind.
He hadn’t guessed that it would be so hard.
His voice trembles.
His hands shake.
He senses that every sentence
is put to the test of darkness.
He must muddle through alone,
without colors or lights.
A treacherous endeavor
for his poems’ stars,
dawns, rainbows, clouds, their neon lights, their moon,
for the fish so silvery thus far beneath the water
and the hawk so high and quiet in the sky
Imen  Benyoub
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poland
delicious beautiful Szymborska..


against a grayish sky
a grayer cloud
rimmed black by the sun.

on the left, that is, the right
a white cherry branch with black blossoms.

light shadows on your dark face.
you'de just taken a seat at the table
and put your hands, gone gray,
upon it.

you look like a ghost
who's trying to summn up the living.

(and since I still number among them,
I should appear to him and tap:
good night, that is good morning,
farewell, that is hello.
and not grudge questons to any of his a
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gbbw, poetry
Prose can hold anything including poetry
but in poetry there's only room for poetry

-from Stage Fright

A Contribution to Statistics

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
-- fifty-two

doubting every step
-- nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
-- as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
-- four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
-- eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
-- sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken
Peycho Kanev
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
She is one of the greatest. All I can say is already said here. Do read!
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2013
I think I just have a thing for Polish poets. To me, they just seem incomparable. If only I understood Polish. I know translations, even the best of them, have a level of dilution. Milosz, Zagajewski, Szymborska, they're poems are like seeing The Grand Canyon for the first time, you know it's there, you eyes don't lie, but yet, you can't believe it. "The Courtesy of the Blind", my favorite poem in this collection, is biblical in insight and humanity. ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nobel, poetry
A Note

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;  

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up drenched in one downpour or

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with y
Matthew Mousseau
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.
- The Three Oddest Words, pg. 29

* * *

They jumped from the burning floors -
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There's enough time
for hair to come loo
Jane Reye
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Plato, or Why

For unclear reasons
under unknown circumstances
Ideal Being ceased to be satisfied.

It could have gone on forever,
hewn from darkness, forged from light,
in its sleepy gardens above the world.

Why on earth did it start seeking thrills
in the bad company of matter?

What use could it have for imitators,
inept, ill-starred,
lacking all prospects for eternity?

Wisdom limping
with a thorn stuck in its heel?
Harmony derailed
by roiling waters?
holding unappealing entrails
and Good —
why the shad
Laura Leaney
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Paycho Kanev's one line review.
These poems are remarkable. The words are so light, yet they transmute into ineffable deep feeling. I read the book once and then re-read all the poems in it. My favorites are "The Silence of Plants," "Photograph from September 11," and The Courtesy of the Blind." I loved this book of poems. ...more
Nahid Soltanzadeh
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I loved how she maneuvered seemlessly between big existential questions and little details of ordinary life through one single poem. Most of the poems challenged my perception of what matters in different ways.

Especially when she talks about things like war, displacement, or a disaster like 9/11, she brings things, feelings, experiences, lives, etc into spotlight that are often ignored. And the simplicity of her language makes those experiences accessible in a way that I've rarely seen in other
Oct 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
i like her cosmic consciousness
Mardel Fehrenbach
Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous poems that strike a chord and open up new vistas of perception. They beg to be reread.
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
First Love

They say
the first love’s most important.
That’s very romantic,
but not my experience.
Something was and wasn’t there between us,
something went on and went away.
My hands never tremble
when I stumble on silly keepsakes
and a sheaf of letters tied with string
—not even ribbon.
Our only meeting after years:
two chairs chatting
at a chilly table.
Other loves
still breathe deep inside me.
This one’s too short of breath even to sigh.
Yet just exactly as it is,
it does what the others still can’t manag
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed this collection well enough, but I only found about 3 AMAZING poems:

A Few Words on the Soul
A Contribution to Statistics
Photograph from September 11

It's kind of fun to see the original Polish poem, but it almost seems like a waste to include them. I don't read Polish. Who really benefits from that? At least the book was quicker to finish that way.
Salty Swift
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Polish Nobel prize winner delivers a fine poetry collection, including the most moving tribute to a dog that is guaranteed to make you weep. Masterful!
Ervirdi Rahmat
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jarang-jarang baca (dan merasa ngerti) puisi. Kali ini suka bgt.

Paling suka ini:

The Three Oddest Words

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

I always felt like I was missing something when I read Szymborska. Recently, I was at a salon with a Polish poet, and she read Szymborska out loud for the group in the original Polish. The words were so musical in the original! The poet told us that she loved the translations done by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak because even though they couldn't recreate the music of the poems, they could capture exactly what Szymborska was trying to say. I made sure to get one of the collections trans ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Terrific collection, and the essay by Billy Collins gives some insight into why she is so popular with English-speaking audiences. My favorite poem was this one:

A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth

She’s been in this world for over a year,
and in this world not everything’s been examined
and taken in hand.

The subject of today’s investigation
is things that don’t move themselves.

They need to be helped along,
shoved, shifted,
taken from their pace and relocated.

They don’t all want to go, e,g., the books
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this volume of poetry. Szymborska is a thoroughly cynical poet - living in Poland during the 20th century clearly influences her work. "Monologue of a Dog Ensnared in History" is a great poem, easily understood, and one which rattles on. She uses great parallel repetition, "There are dogs and dogs..." and later "There's fate and fate." Poland as the dog of its master is clearly distinguishable, even in a personal poem.

Such distillation is also visible in the poem, "The Three Oddest Wor
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Amazingly, Szymborska continues to improve. Now in her 80s, the Polish poet’s newest collection (poems originally copyrighted in Polish for 2002) is as strong and fresh as any she’s written, which given that she is who she is is no small feat. It’s a collection where each poem wants re-reading, for pleasure and deeper understanding, and the whole leaves you not at all because you begin re-reading it as soon as you finish it. Like Frost and Heaney and a handful of others, the poems speak to you i ...more
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Wislawa Szymborska is how old now? 85? But these poems, her most recent to have been translated into English, at least to my knowledge, are not the poems of an old lady. Hers is a poetry of perspective, of point of view, of describing objects and landscapes and emotions in one way but without forgetting that they can also be described in an endless number of other ways. Recommended.
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Some of these poems are not among her strongest. Even slightly off, she gets 5 stars. The deceptive simplicity and transparency, how she makes difficult psychological and even metaphysical realizations, things that would have been right at the edge of your consciousness, at the top of your intellectual tongue, plain, even obvious.

easily read it on the bus trip home yesterday. hurrah!!
Patti K
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This selection was published in 2006 though written in Polish in 2002. She won the
Nobel prize for literature in 1996 and it was well-deserved. These poems are full of
wit, contemplation, and unusual points of view. I was amazed at her strength of image
and content. Unfortunately, the author died last year, so no more poems.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I really wish I spoke Polish because I feel like this would be much more moving in the original language. Things are always slightly lost in translation in regards to poetry.

However, Szymborska does provide beautiful poems with vivid imagery. The title poem (the one about the dog) made me tear up a little.
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Ms. Szymborksa holds a Nobel Prize for Literature - 1996 - and it is richly deserved. Another accessible poet who writes poems for everyone. Absolutely staggering in their insight and richness. A slender volume that one savors long after.
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My poetry group is reading this Nobel laureate, Polish poet. I find her poems very approachable - insightful. she talks about ordinary events and gives them fascinating twists. It's fun to find a non-North american poet -- whom I can understand! ...more
Nicholas During
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Trying to teach myself to read poetry and here, pretty conventionally since she just died, is where I started. And I loved it. I don't have much to say because I am very far from a poetry expert, but I found these poems to be both accessible and moving. I highly enjoyed them, and am a big fan ...more
Jennifer Stoy
This was a luminous, thoughtful collection of poems. I think my favorite of the group was "Among the Multitudes" for the lines "Nature's wardrobe/holds a fair supply of costumes" and the imagery and what-ifs of the collection are lovely to read. ...more
Myranda Gillow
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites. Szymborska is by turns heartbreaking, poignant, funny, and just so real. I would recommend for anyone, but especially for people who think poetry isn't for them. ...more
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Wisława Szymborska (Polish pronunciation: [vʲisˈwava ʂɨmˈbɔrska], born July 2, 1923 in Kórnik, Poland) is a Polish poet, essayist, and translator. She was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. In Poland, her books reach sales rivaling prominent prose authors—although she once remarked in a poem entitled "Some like poetry" [Niektórzy lubią poezję] that no more than two out of a thousand peopl ...more

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“I am who I am.
A coincidence no less unthinkable
than any other.

I could have had different
ancestors, after all.
I could have fluttered
from another nest
or crawled bescaled
from under another tree.

Nature's wardrobe
holds a fair supply of costumes:
spider, seagull, field mouse.
Each fits perfectly right off
and is dutifully worn
into shreds.”
Some People

Some people flee some other people.
In some country under a sun
and some clouds.

They abandon something close to all they’ve got,
sown fields, some chickens, dogs,
mirrors in which fire now preens.

Their shoulders bear pitchers and bundles.
The emptier they get, the heavier they grow.

What happens quietly: someone’s dropping from exhaustion.
What happens loudly: someone’s bread is ripped away,
someone tries to shake a limp child back to life.

Always another wrong road ahead of them,
always another wrong bridge
across an oddly reddish river.
Around them, some gunshots, now nearer, now farther away,
above them a plane seems to circle.

Some invisibility would come in handy,
some grayish stoniness,
or, better yet, some nonexistence
for a shorter or a longer while.

Something else will happen, only where and what.
Someone will come at them, only when and who,
in how many shapes, with what intentions.
If he has a choice,
maybe he won’t be the enemy
and will leave them to some sort of life.”
More quotes…