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Joanna Trzeciak’s translations include Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the Heldt Translation Prize. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sobbing Superpower

W. W. Norton & Company
2012 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

Hearts can smart, and kindnesses be minded. Sobbing Superpower‘s world-class document, compellingly assembled by Joanna Trzeciak, gives us an EKG-cum-EEG for an entire era – its double helix inscribed by that most sensitive device…

Hearts can smart, and kindnesses be minded. Sobbing Superpower‘s world-class document, compellingly assembled by Joanna Trzeciak, gives us an EKG-cum-EEG for an entire era – its double helix inscribed by that most sensitive device: a soul the equal of the world’s occasion. A second global war had cast its blooming shade abroad, when Różewicz’s carouseling lovers sang, on fabulous beast-back, in scarlet carnivale: ‘let us adjust the paper ribbons and wreaths / crouch down: let hip touch hip / your thighs are alive / let us flee let us flee.’ But Różewicz is himself too alive to history’s evidence to pass off life and death as mutually exclusive: ‘Man is killed just like an animal / I’ve seen: / truckloads of chopped up people … // Concepts are only words: / … / truth and lie / beauty and ugliness / courage and cowardice. // … / I’ve seen: / a man-both / vicious and virtuous.’ The etymological job of the skeptic: to keep an eye on things. Różewicz is that rare character – skeptic as full of passion as of intelligence, of warmth as wariness. Thanks to Trzeciak’s deft, deferential translation, English readers see his place among stars of his Central-European generation – Herbert, Szymborska, Popa, Holub – poets who illustrate the power of a single plainsong to be heard over milling mobs; one sensibility to outweigh hours of broadcast nonsense; one oddball to resist the prefixed troopers; one poem’s power to outlast the props of all sub-supers, super-subs. Over 60 years, with grand themes but plain speech, with mortal passion but Heraclitic judgment, in torment and in tenderness, Różewicz proves as wary of philosophy’s bureaucracy as government’s; as wary of heaven’s offices as man’s. Alert to our condition’s own momentous momentariness, he’s funny, fierce, or casual; but never inconsequential.