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Tomasz Rózycki is a poet, critic and translator who lives in the Silesian city of Opole in southwestern Poland with his wife and two children. He has published nine books since the mid-1990s, including the Koscielski Prize-winning epic poem Dwanascie Stacji (Twelve Stations, 2004) and the sonnet cycle Kolonie (Colonies, 2006), both of which were nominated for Poland’s most prestigious literary award, the NIKE. His many other awards include the Josif Brodski Prize, the Czechowicz Poetry Prize, the Rainer Maria Rilke Prize and the 3 Quarks Daily Prize in Arts and Literature (2010). His work has been translated into English, French, Slovak, Italian, German and Serbian. The Forgotten Keys, a selection from his first five books translated into English by Mira Rosenthal, was published in 2007. He is a member of jury Koscielski Prize (Lausanne) and Prix du Jeune Ecrivain en France.

Colonies

Zephyr Press
2014 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

In Mira Rosenthal’s translation of this work, English-speaking readers can themselves confront the sonnet as something supple, fresh and a little bit strange. Rózycki’s quirky and self-deprecating humour permeates the poems.

The sonnet, or ‘small song,’ arose in 13th-century Italy. It was successfully transplanted into English, through the supple voice of Thomas Wyatt, well before the birth of William Shakespeare. In Eastern Europe, however, the sonnet flowered much later. In Polish in particular, when it finally appeared, it met both popular acclaim and stiff-necked critical resistance. So the sonnet in Polish is, or can be, even now, a contentious and lively form. Tomasz Rózycki’s sonnet sequence Kolonie (Colonies), first published in Polish in 2006, demonstrates this clearly. In Mira Rosenthal’s translation of this work, English-speaking readers can themselves confront the sonnet as something supple, fresh and a little bit strange. Rózycki’s quirky and self-deprecating humour permeates the poems. So does his sense of the fundamental homelessness of 21st-century human beings. Nine of these 77 sonnets begin with some variation on the line ‘When I began to write, I didn’t know …’ and blossom into wry and hilarious reflections on the writing life. Others exude a heart-rending nostalgia for a world that is constantly being translated from meaning into money, and thus constantly destroyed.