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Astonishments: Selected Poems

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  115 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Kamienska came of age during the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Poland and lived under Communism. These experiences, as well as the sudden death of her husband, led her to engagement with the Bible and the great religious thinkers of the 20th century. Her poems record the struggles of a rational mind with religious faith, addressing loneliness and uncertainty in a remar ...more
Hardcover, 133 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Paraclete Press (MA) (first published 2007)
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4.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  115 ratings  ·  18 reviews


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Steven Godin
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, poland-czech
Stunning. The closest poetry has come to move me to tears. You get a great sense Kamieńska really was a poet in complete gratitude for being alive, writing amidst the firing squads and bombings of Nazi occupied Poland, but she expresses herself without the need for sentimentality, even softened by a touch of subversive humor. Her poems touch on the loss of Jewish and Yiddish culture from her homeland as a result of the Holocaust, as well as themes of grief, love, loneliness, and the spiritual li ...more
Edward
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Edward by: L
Introduction, by Grażyna Drabik and David Curzon

--A Path in the Woods

Early Poems

from Goodnight to Mother (1959)
--The Mouths of Streets
--She Gets Up
--I Was Standing
--"Look," Mother Says

from In the Bird's Eye (1960)
--Futile

from Sources (1962)
--A Hand

from Impermanent Things (1963)
--[The time of harvest and the time of poems is passing]

from Revocation of Myth (1967)
--Grandparents

from Exile (1970)
--Anaximander Lands at the Shore of Exile and Founds the City of Sozopolis
--Angels

The White Manuscript
...more
Abby
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
“A poem has to be pinned to the world with something specific, something ugly. Life holds on to suffering. Otherwise, a poem would disappear, life would fly away.” — Anna Kamieńska, from a notebook, 1979

Polish poet Anna Kamieńska is well-acquainted with tragedy. She grew up during the Nazi occupation of Poland, lost her mother at a young age, and then her husband died unexpectedly. Amid this tragedy, she rediscovered Christianity. Her poems are simple and direct (and, being in translation, it is
...more
Anima
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The Empty Places"
Let us hurry to love people
Jan Twardowski

I didn’t manage to love anyone
even though I hurried so much
It was as if I had to love only empty places
the dangling sleeves without the embrace
the beret abandoned by the head
the armchair that also should get up and leave the room
the books no longer touched
the comb with a silver hair left in it
the cots babies outgrew
the drawers full of unnecessary things
the pipe with a chewed mouthpiece
the shoes molded to the shape of a foot
that depart
...more
Philip
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poetry lovers
Shelves: poetry, favorites
This is the best collection of poems I have read in quite some time. They are tragically beautiful. They are heroic. Like a well spoken eulogy and damp eyes all around, everything you would hope a beautiful funeral should be this book is as poems.

Kamienska deals with spirituality and the meta-physical as someone who came to faith late in life, which sets a different tone from religious authors who were born into it. It carries a certain uniqueness that I've found lacking in other collections.

My
...more
Annie
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, wishlist
This little volume of poetry surprised me. Delicately sensitive and insightful, with intriguingly paradoxical thoughts. Excellent, elegant translation too.
Anatoly Molotkov
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Leaf/ teach me to fall/ on the indifferent earth." This brilliant, inquisitive collection is unfortunately out of print, but it's still easy to find. It contains both poems and excerpts from the notebooks, which seem to become a favorite mode in Anna Kamienska's later years. Readers like myself who don't appreciate religious poetry might have to skip a few pages that are especially god-friendly. There is plenty of depth to explore here in any case.
L
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
On the Threshold of the Poem

On the threshold of the poem shake off the dust
the powder of hate from your soul
set aside passion
so as not to defile words

Into this space step alone
and the tenderness of things will enfold you
and lead you toward the dark
as if you had lost worldly sight

There whatever was named will return
and stand in the radiance so you and I
can find each other
like two trees that were lost in fog
AC
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Striking imagery and contemplative musings. Kamienska's poetry is often personal and confessional without being over-done or casting about for validation for a pity party. Many of her longer poems succeed (and I confess I generally dislike poems that extend beyond one page) but her shorter poems pack a concentrated punch.
Rick
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable selection of her poetry but she was much more than a poet. She was variously a Polish communist intellectual and a marginalized supporter of democratic reform. These poems reveal nothing of that aspect of her life but treat the wild grace of human hope in the face of war, loss and uncertain but consoling faith.
Tatyana
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Tell me what’s the difference
between hope and waiting
because my heart doesn’t know
It constantly cuts itself on the glass of waiting
It constantly gets lost in the fog of hope”
Kate Savage
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This happens with me, with poetry: when I finish a book I put it down with a wry face and think well I didn't like that at all, that wasn't at all for me. And then I proceed to spend the next days and nights haunted by certain phrases, stanzas, that suddenly seem to be just shy of revelation.

I write in order to comprehend not to express myself
I don’t grasp anything I’m not ashamed to admit it
sharing this not knowing with a maple leaf


I read Kamienska alongside Vanessa Place, that wisecrack skewer
...more
Dan Gobble
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books, poetry
One of those collections I'll turn to again and again. One of my favorites:

"Lack of Faith"

Yes
even when I don't believe
there is a place in me
inaccessible to unbelief
a patch of wild grace
a stubborn preserve
impenetrable
pain untouched sleeping in the body
music that builds its nest in silence

(p. 88)
Monicaaa
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anna Kamienska's poetry is written on a very personal level that deals with both loss and grief. It's not overdone. She uses religion as an ongoing theme in her writing. Personally, I enjoyed her poems that weren't heavy on the religious symbolism or her writings at the end of the book. She's well worth reading through, definitely stacking up to her contemporaries.
dthaase
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A Polish poet often compared with Czeslaw Milosz. This is a wonderful collection of direct poems wrestling with love and grief and the spaces in-between. Also compiles some of her thoughts from her notebooks.
Diana
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love these poems. Anne Porter is a terrific writer, so down to earth, but always looking beyond...I come back to these poems and feel centered on the One who is everything.
Penny
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2008
Astonishments is one of my favorite books! The last quarter of the book is dog-eared on nearly every page.
Paul
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Accessible and altogether astonishing in quietude, rumination, and solitude.
Jesse
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36 followers
Polish poet, writer, translator and literary critic who wrote many books for children and adolescents.
“I don’t write poetry when I wish, I write when I can’t, when my larynx is flooded and my throat is shut.” 16 likes
“My poems are more my silence than my speech. Just as music is a kind of quiet. Sounds are needed only to unveil the various layers of silence.” 12 likes
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