89. ‚Witness‘ poet

Polish poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz, who was a member of the resistance during Germany’s occupation of Poland in World War II, has died, according to reports in the Polish press. He was 92. Writing in The Guardian, the British-Hungarian poet George Szirtes called him „one of the great European ‚witness‘ poets whose own lives were directly affected by the seismic events of the 20th century.“ Różewicz’s older brother was killed by the Gestapo in 1944, and Różewicz made it his mission to refute Theodor Adorno’s dictum that it is barbaric to create poetry after the atrocities committed at Auschwitz. Różewicz wrote, „at home a task / awaits me: / To create poetry after Auschwitz.“ Czeslaw Milosz wrote in an anthology of Polish poetry that Różewicz’s „first poems published immediately after the war are short, nearly stenographic notes of horror, disgust, and derision of human values. Long before anybody in Poland had heard of Samuel Beckett, Różewicz’s imagination created equally desperate landscapes.“ Różewicz’s bleak poem „cobweb“ begins:

four drab women
Want Hardship Worry Guilt
wait somewhere far away

a person is born
grows
starts a family
builds a home

the four ghouls
wait
hidden in the foundations

/ Annalisa Quinn, NPR

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