Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission

Metaphors of Dissent
Poetry from Beyond the Borders
Translations to English first published in the Pacific NW by
Mr. Cogito Press [John M. Gogol & Robert A. Davies]
and Trace Editions [Charles Seluzicki]

A representative Mr. Cogito sampler of poems by
and an essay on Polish poet Ryszard Krynicki

note from zbigniew postcard to gogol


Excerpt: conclusion of Smuggling Mandelshtam into Texas, John M. Gogol
[he refers to a Texas customs official who stopped John in an old VW entering El Paso first publication]

Slowly he pores over page after page On the Word and Culture,
looking for the secrets he would have trembled
hidden in them. in his Texas boots
If hed only been able to translate to read:
the message, the final lines of the essay Classical poetry is the poetry of revolution.



Citizen R.K. Does Not Live
A selection of poems by Ryszard Krynicki Illustrations by Tom Cassidy
© 1985, 2008 Mr. Cogito Press Mr. Cogito Poetry Chapbook Series




By saying: How can I fight
for human rights,
when Ive got a wife and child?
you yourself sentence them to a punishment
whose measure is unknown even to

the executioners.

Translated by
Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh


My little daughter
until now infallible
is learning to read and write
and only now is she beginning
to err

and I relive
all my old human errors

1-7/1977 Translated by Antony Graham


Its the twentieth century, so
I go to bed with a paper,
my glasses, pills and wristwatch
are in reach;
I dont know if I'll fall asleep,
I don't know if I'll wake up,

Thats all

12/1977 Translated by
Stanislaw Baranczah & Clare Cavanagh


I was lucky enough to overcome fear:
I didnt sign the loyalty oath
and yet Im free. Free?

My time of trial only now

12/1981 Translated by
Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh


For Zbigniew Herbert and Mr. Cogito
Tongue, that wild meat growing in a wound,
in an open wound of the mouth, the mouth that feeds on deceitful truth,
tongue, this bared heart beating outside, this naked edge
that is a defenseless weapon, this gag suffocating
the defeated uprisings of words, this beast day by day tamed
by human teeth, this inhuman thing growing in us and
surpassing us, this beast fed with the poisoned meat of a body,
this red flag which we swallow and spit out with blood, this
divided something that encircles us, this real lie that seduces,

this child that learning the truth, truthfully lies

Translated by Grazyna Drabik

Mr. Cogito

Mr. Cogito in the Ink



Citizen R.K. does not live
with a wife: (or anything
of his): does not live off his pen,
the unpalatable pen of trademark parker
stuck in his throat: is sado-
(chews on the wings
of his parker pen)
masochistic (with his pen revivifies bodies
of former days, to
torment them): born (doesnt know
why): though of a family
of workers: is a parasite (of
language): distinguished
blood donor (perhaps alien blood
flows in his veins): against our
death penalty: crossing a border,
what didnt he try to smuggle: a birth
certificate, his organism
(collective), and a pen (parker): even though
takes no notes: (communicates
by telepathy): (is a tightwad
on the phone, and has corrupted generations
of wristwatches): before sleeping counts to 19
84: (does he count any longer on anything)) Lives
though its not clear
whether he has earned such a life

Translated by Frank Kujawinski

Citizen RK


I dont know if the poet
can really be impartial
like a doctor who treats
two bitter enemies the same,

since he has to take sides
as only a sister of mercy can,
patient witness

to a patients pain

July 1977 Translated by
Stanislaw Baranczah & Clare Cavanagh


By entering the grand lottery
of the Center for Childrens Health
you honor the memory of the 2,000,000 children
who perished in battle and were brutally
murdered in World War II.
You bring help and relief
from suffering to thousands of children
crippled and afflicted with disease.
You fulfill your noble and honorable
civic duty.
You have a chance to win
many valuable prizes such as
the Fiat 125p and 126p car,
the C-330 tractor, television sets,
radios, refrigerators, sewing machines, washers

and a host of other attractive products.


Translated by Magnus J. Krynski
and Robert A. Maguire

R ecognized by many critics as one of the most individual voices in contemporary Polish poetry, Ryszard Krynicki is also representative of a wider poetic movement. He is one of the most outstanding figures of the Generation of 68, an informal group of poets who entered the literary scene in the late 1960s and soon contributed to what has been perhaps the most dramatic breakthrough in Polish culture since World War II
In the case of the most talented of them, such as Krynicki or Adam Zagajewski, this discovery led to a new conception of poetrys role in society; they began to view the lyric as totalitarianisms natural enemy In December of 1981, the poet was detained and given, like many other intellectuals, the chance to sign the loyalty oath (mentioned in the poem The Time of Trial), which he refused to do.
[This] could give the impression that Krynick is a run-of-the-mill engage poet, a bard of this or that social or political cause. In fact, as the reader will certainly discover, he is simply too good a poet to be reduced to such a role. His cause, if any, is much more universal than any one ideology or doctrine; it lies in his personal search for the meaning of individual existence, his private crusade against the specter of despair, absurdity, nothingness. It may be the nothingness of a world in which entire countries disappear from the maps, people vanish into the dungeons of secret police, and meat never appears at the butchers. But it may also be the nothingness of the world in a broader sense, a world in which the meaning of individual life is incessantly threatened by indifference, transitoriness, oblivion. The individual is seen here as subject to multiple pressures of various kindsnot simply political or social pressures, but also those of love, the fear of death, or metaphysical doubt under which he must strive to maintain his shaky and frail integrity. It is worth noting how much Krynickis style changed in the course of his twenty years of writing.
[There is an] increasing importance in his work of the idea of the poem as a tiny splinter from some vast, ungraspable block of truth. While his early poems were simply mirrors multiplying the image of the worlds absurdity, his recent gnomic verse resembles rather a set of magnifying glasses, through which some inner sense of this apparently absurd world is patiently, though not passionlessly, scrutinized. weirdmap



Reach OCHC: PO Box 3588, Portland, OR 97208-3588encanto@ochcom.org