Energetic, formally audacious poems by a recently rediscovered Polish writer, shining examples of art as resistance.
Zuzanna Ginczanka's last poem "Non omnis moriar," written shortly before her execution by the Nazis at the age of 27, is one of the most famous and unsettling texts in modern East European literature: using the lyric form of a Romantic testament and naming the person who betrayed her to the occupation authorities as a Jew, it exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of a national Polish culture based on exclusion and attempts to exorcise its demons through fierce irony.
Ginczanka, born in the Eastern Borderlands town of Równe (Rivne), now in Ukraine, was encouraged by Warsaw's doyen of poets, Julian Tuwim, to come to the capital, where her virtuoso wit, beauty and lyrical gifts made her an object of fascination and desire in the lively literary world of the interbellum. From the start, her poems tended to reverse traditional accounts of the relation of body to spirit, and to mock hypocrisy about sex, politics, and social identity.
Ginczanka's linguistic exuberance and invention--reminiscent now of Tsvetaeva, now of Marianne Moore or Mina Loy--are as exhilarating as the passionate fusion of the physical world and the world of ideas she advocated in the single collection published during her lifetime, On Centaurs.
About this Author
Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1945) was a Polish-Jewish poet and satirist. Born in Kyiv, Ginczanka was raised in Rowne, where her parents settled after fleeing from the Russian Civil War. Ginczanka was highly active in the Skamander poetic group, and her writing for Szpilki and Skamander magazines earned her a reputation as one of the most talented poets of the interwar period. In 1936, Ginczanka published her only volume of poetry, O Centaurach (About Centaurs). In 1945, Ginczanka was arrested and executed in Krakow, shortly before the end of World War II.
Alissa Valles is the author of the poetry collection Hospitium. Her translations include Zbigniew Herbert's Collected Poems and Collected Prose and Ryszard Krynicki's Our Life Grows, which was published by NYRB Poets.
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