… to shift my thoughts, I read poems by Wislawa Szymborska …

One book of poems I have always at my bedside, for when I need to shift my thoughts, is Wislawa Szymborka’s New and Collected poems 1957 -1997, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavenagh, published by Faber and Faber 1999

She lived from July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012

Apologies for not having the photographers’ names for the two images of her that are spanning decades.

I like the humour, the ironic style, the contradictions running through the poems like a clear spring.

I thought I share a poem in full, since I posted a fragment on Twitter the other day. And also because I remember the protagonist in my novel, Course Mirrors,’ is in search of The Real.


The real world doesn’t take flight
the way dreams do.
No muffled voice, no doorbell
can dispel it,
no shriek, no crash
can cut it short.

Images in dream
are hazy and ambiguous,
and can generally be explained
in many different ways.
Reality means reality:
that’s tougher nut to crack.

Dreams have keys.
The real world opens on its own
and can’t be shut.
Report cards and stars
pour from it,
butterflies and flatiron warmers
shower down,
headless caps
and shards of clouds.
Together they form a rebus
that can’t be solved.

Without us dreams couldn’t exist.
The one on whom the real world depends
is still unknown,
and the products of his insomnia
are available to anyone
who wakes up.

Dreams aren’t crazy—
it’s the real world that’s insane,
if only in the stubbornness
with which it sticks
to the current of events.

In dreams our recently deceased
are still alive,
in perfect health, no less,
and restored to the full bloom of youth.
The real world lays the corpse
in front of us.
The real world doesn’t blink an eye.

Dreams are featherweights,
and memory can shake them off with ease.
The real world doesn’t have to fear forgetfulness.
It’s a tough customer.
It sits on our shoulders,
weighs on our hearts,
tumbles to our feet.

There’s no escaping it,
it tags along each time we flee.
And there’s no stop
along our escape route
where reality isn’t expecting us.

Wislawa Szymborska 

Her Nobel Prize speech inspires … if you are shy to call yourself a poet, follow this link and soak it up.

Poets, not being profitable, get little screen-time. Wislawa Szymborska says … ‘Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens … Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?’

‘I’ve mentioned inspiration. Contemporary poets answer evasively when asked what it is, and if it actually exists. It’s not that they’ve never known the blessing of this inner impulse. It’s just not easy to explain something to someone else that you don’t understand yourself.’

‘Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.’

Her words bring to mind a Rumi quote: ‘Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.’ 

Follow this link to Brainpickings and find a number of write ups about Wislawa Szymborska

Brainpicking’s Bulgarian creator, Maria Popova honours language, and somehow manages to bring context and coherence to the irrational and the imagination. Her curiosity is unlimited. She writes about my favourite people in the world. Among them are poets like Wislawa Szymborska.


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12 responses to “… to shift my thoughts, I read poems by Wislawa Szymborska …

  1. An amazing and strong poem. No wonder to keep it near as a good help. 🙏🤗💖

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rob

    Thankyou Ashen. I like Wislawa’s poem which to me points to the deeply mysterious relationship between the inner and outer worlds as experienced by human beings. Personally I feel it is very likely that at some level they meet and are ultimately one. We get flashes of this through phenomena like predictive dreams and synchronicity.
    According to what I understand of Hindu belief, the whole show is the dream of Vishnu and all beings dream their dreams, both inner and outer realities with their distinctive natures, within that greater dream.
    Well something like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rob, for visiting. It’s sad that the imaginative realm of dreams is neglected in our material culture. These lines of the poem I shared on Twitter. Seems to resonate with people.

      Dreams aren’t crazy—
      it’s the real world that’s insane,
      if only in the stubbornness
      with which it sticks
      to the current of events.


  3. Beautiful face! The poem seems a natural extension of it!


  4. I find dreams can be crazy and mixed up, sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrifying. Maybe our dreams are a part of all that we are and have been. Some of mine are really quite interesting and leaves me wondering how my mind can create all of this. Maybe I am much more than this “reality” of life that I am currently living. I often wonder if there is life after death and we continue to create what we think, just what am I capable of creating with my thoughts. Until then the reality of this life sometimes feels restricting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Varies experiences in my life convinced me that my being is part of One Being, a superior intelligence whose spirit guides us from within. Mystics an some physicists tried, but there’s no way to explain this mystery to our rational mindset.
    And yes, heck, the reality of life in any particular time frame is restricting. ‘Form is a relic of eternal potential,’ my Sufi teacher used to say.


    • I agree with you that we are part of one being. And that we are guided from within. But I read an interesting concept once that we are here to expand consciousness. If that is the case We are creating all the time. I just can’t always get my head around that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ‘Life is short,’ says my son, in his early forties. For me, when past experiences arise in my lucid dreams, time turns malleable, eternal even, and life becomes a loving enfoldment. My quirky personality is a temporal work of art, and my body will return to dust, but I’m certain my insights, everyone’s insights, useful or not, will expand the collective consciousness and influence past and future constellations of meaning.

        I like the graffiti found in a Texas washroom: Time is nature’s way of stopping everything happening at once.

        Or D. T. Suzuki’s saying: ‘In this spiritual world there are no divisions such as past, present and future: for they have concentrated themselves into a single moment where life quivers in its true sense.’

        I relate to this quivering life in a post from 2018 https://courseofmirrors.com/2018/12/26/mystical-experiences-j-b-priestleys-dream/


        • Thank You Ashen for this. How wonderfully JB Priestly describes this beautiful transformation, and how we easily forget in this worldly reality. I have always remembered the magical child in me. (well sometimes I forget too.) I too have had some lovely unworldly experiences, like quite recently my cat Lilly visited for the second time and the last time I felt her AND I saw her and stroked her and could feel her thick fur and hear her deep purrs. I thought and still think now, “How wonderful”.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Love the poem, and the wise words that accompany it. Thanks for the introduction to Wislawa Szymborka, Ashen.

    Liked by 1 person

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