Friday 25 March 2022

Serious Angel - Jan Twardowski translated by Sarah Lawson and Malgorzata Koraszewska - Waxing Series No. 3

Serious Angel
Waxing Series No. 3
Sarah Lawson (Translator)
Malgorzata Koraszewska (Translator)
ISBN 9781904556176

I picked up this volume for a few reasons. First Jan’s grandniece recommended his poetry to me. She is the confirmation sponsor of my oldest daughter. Second our parish has been staffed by Polish Pallottine Fathers and I want to pass the book on to our priest. And third just from the bit I gleamed about Father Twardowski trying to track down some of his work in English was inspiring. I wish more of his works were available in translation. This book was issued in a limited edition run of 350 copies. And I am very thankful I was able to track one down. The description of this volume is:

“Jan Twardowski, Poland's best-known poet, can finally be read in English thanks to this selection of translated poems. As a parish priest currently living and working in Warsaw, his poems are, not surprisingly, about religion, but in a non-traditional way. The approach is often a wry, oblique one, based on real experience and humor, rather than on dry theological premises. Waxwing Series.”

The introduction to this volume begins with these words:

“Jan Twardowski (1915-) is the best-loved poet in Poland. Even People who do not usually read poetry light up at the mention of his name and quote you a few lines. He has been writing and publishing prolifically since 1959, and his books have sold in the hundreds of thousands, yet he has been almost completely unknown in the English-speaking world.”

And further on:

“When he writes about death, love, and loss, he writes frankly as a man who has experienced them himself and understands the pain of others. His poems are simple – at least on the surface – and full of concrete images and startling juxtapositions.”


“Father Twardowski’s wry humour and simplicity may almost make you forget that he is often writing about the most profound mysteries of the Christian faith. He tackles the great subjects of human life and gets to the emotional essence of them.”

The poems in this collection are:

Sunt Lacrimaew Rerum
At the Tail End
He Looked
Overheard and Noted Down
The World
Trees and Non-Believers
I do not Fabricate
When Great Art is too Great
The Absent One Is
A Childless Angel
About a Sparrow
About the Little Ones
I am Afraid of Your Love
Nothing More
Before a Journey
A Serious Angel
About Pain
Ant Dragon-Fly Ladybird
The Certainty of Uncertainty
Saint Nitwit
I Trusted the Road
A Hare Turns White

I worked my way through these poems the day the book arrived. Then later I went back through and read some randomly. It is an excellent collection of poems. And With only one other volume available in English it leaves an ache in my heart. 


     did you create
     our joy, anxiety,
     our despair and wit,
     our happiness, unhappiness
     out of nothing


     God omnipotent but so humble

     He is everywhere but seen nowhere
     He is hanging on to the cross with both hands

     pure because of having everything He has nothing 
                                        For Himself

     He hears patiently that He will be of no further use

     only the Almighty can be so small

     still they say to Him out of spite
     that He has a Jew for a Son

     About Pain

     What pain can change into 
     into anger into stamping foot
     into an open book closed slowly
     into a prayer
     private crying directly to the pillow
     a letter written five times incoherent and nonsensical
     silence at the table
     pacing up and down around the truth
     touching your lonely mouth with a teaspoon
     into something impossible – still not the last
     into the same love again
     taking a long time to end

     so allow us Mother
     let the pain continue

Those are three of the poems that grabbed me most during my first read through. This is an excellent collection of poetry. I am thankful the name Jan Twardowski was mentioned to me. And will keep my eyes out for more of his works to be translated into English. An excellent collection. Well worth the read if you can track it down. According to Goodreads Jan Twardowski has 90 works, most are in Polish, two translated into English, and a few translated into Spanish. If you can read him in the original Polish or other translated languages based on my reading of these poems I would recommend you give his works a try.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Jan Twardowski in English:
Kiedy Mowisz When You Say (bilingual edition)
Country Bumpkins Move to Paris: Letters Home 1970 to 1972 (Editor)
Country Bumpkins Move to London: Letters Home 1979 to 1983 (editor)

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