In addition to poetry and essays, she wrote a column for the Polish newspaper Literary Life, answering questions from ordinary people who wanted to write poetry. Here are a few excerpts, presented by the Poetry Foundation.
I have one volume of Szymborska's poetry, View with a Grain of Sand, and in it are a few favorites—but unfortunately, that book remains packed away in the garage, so I can't summon one up. Though I can search the Internet, and so I've found a lighthearted poem to share here, called "Pi." Also a recording of her reading one of her poems in Polish, together with the English translation. Please enjoy!
PiThe admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can't be comprehended six five three five at a glance,
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is, by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.
The longest snake on earth calls it quits at about forty feet.
Likewise, snakes of myth and legend, though they may hold out a bit longer.
The pageant of digits comprising the number pi
doesn't stop at the page's edge.
It goes on across the table, through the air,
over a wall, a leaf, a bird's nest, clouds, straight into the sky,
through all the bottomless, bloated heavens.
Oh how brief - a mouse tail, a pigtail - is the tail of a comet!
How feeble the star's ray, bent by bumping up against space!
While here we have two three fifteen three hundred nineteen
my phone number your shirt size the year
nineteen hundred and seventy-three the sixth floor
the number of inhabitants sixty-five cents
hip measurement two fingers a charade, a code,
in which we find hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert
alongside ladies and gentlemen, no cause for alarm,
as well as heaven and earth shall pass away,
but not the number pi, oh no, nothing doing,
it keeps right on with its rather remarkable five,
its uncommonly fine eight,
its far from final seven,
nudging, always nudging a sluggish eternity
She’s been in this world for over a year,
A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth
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,
taken from their place and relocated.
They don’t all want to go, e.g., the bookshelf,
the cupboard, the unyielding walls, the table.
But the tablecloth on the stubborn table
– when well-seized by its hems –
manifests a willingness to travel.
And the glasses, plates,
creamer, spoons, bowl,
are fairly shaking with desire.
what form of motion will they take,
once they’re trembling on the brink:
will they roam across the ceiling?
fly around the lamp?
hop onto the windowsill and from there to a tree?
Mr. Newton still has no say in this.
Let him look down from the heavens and wave his hands.
This experiment must be completed.
And it will.
(Translation: Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak)