Poland's president honors Nobel poet at funeral

AP News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2012 10:13 AM
Poland's president honors Nobel poet at funeral

A funeral held for Nobel-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska drew more than 1,000 people to a snowy cemetery on Thursday, and Poland's president praised her for producing verse that allowed readers to see the "tiniest particles of beauty" in everyday life.

Szymborska, one of Poland's most acclaimed writers in recent decades, died last week of lung cancer at the age of 88.

Freezing temperatures and falling snow at the Rakowicki Cemetery in the southern city of Krakow, where Szymborska lived, did not discourage the mourners, including Prime Minister Donald Tusk, writers and actors, from attending the ceremony.

An urn with Szymborska's ashes was placed in the family tomb, where her parents and sister are buried, to a recording of Ella Fitzgerald, Szymborska's favorite singer, singing "Black Coffee." The poet was a heavy smoker and a lover of black coffee.

"In her poems, she left us her ability to notice the ordinary, the tiniest particles of beauty and of the joy of the world," President Bronislaw Komorowski said.

"We bid farewell to Wislawa Szymborska, a poet of the sunny side of the world."

In 1996, the Nobel award committee compared her to two great composers, calling her the "Mozart of poetry" and a writer who mixed the elegance of language with "the fury of Beethoven" and who tackled serious subjects with humor.

Her work has been translated from Polish into English and many European languages, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Arabic.

Szymborska's secretary of many years, Michal Rusinek, said the modest poet would have probably thought the people attending her funeral were not for her, but a crowd heading to some nearby sports event.

"They say Ella Fitzgerald is in heaven, so you are probably listening to her now, having a coffee and a cigarette," Rusinek said. "You have left us a lot to read and a lot to think about. Thank you."

Szymborska has been called both deeply political and playful. Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observations to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images _ an onion, a cat wandering in an empty apartment after the owner's death, an old fan in a museum _ to reflect on topics such as love, death and the passing of time.

She published fewer than 400 poems.

Asked why, she once said: "There is a trash bin in my room."