We welcomed participants from Chile, Morocco, India, the UK, the Netherlands, and all over the U.S. for this session, during which we shared the poem “Possibilities,” by the Nobel Prize-winning Polish writer Waclava Szymborska as translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh, posted below. As an exercise in approaching the poem with an open mind, we began with just the poem itself, without a title or author name, and we invited two volunteers to read the poem aloud.
Discussants recognized the poem’s form (a list, like a multiple-choice test, a comforting coping mechanism or uncannily settling, open to vagaries, as a reader I sought order, seems based on contingency, a mix of thoughts without coherence, reflects what we choose to carry and bear) and debated whether the poem belied a lack or excess of agency. One participant said she loved the way the narrator’s specificity suggested self-knowledge; another abhorred the poem’s insistent centering of the self. The proliferation of I’s was noted in contrast to the single line describing the narrator’s eyes.
After disclosing the poem’s title and thinking about whether it changed our reading, we offered as a prompt an invitation to “write about a possibility.” Five participants read their writing. The range of responses was — as always — inspiring. One writer shared a fully formed piece that wrote of not one possibility but many, including the possibility of loving. Another writer balanced the possibility of bad outcomes against good, and wondered if the pain of our world in this moment can end.
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Please join us for our next session Saturday, June 6th at 2pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.
We look forward to seeing you again soon!
Possibilities By Wisława Szymborska I prefer movies. I prefer cats. I prefer the oaks along the Warta. I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky. I prefer myself liking people to myself loving mankind. I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case. I prefer the color green. I prefer not to maintain that reason is to blame for everything. I prefer exceptions. I prefer to leave early. I prefer talking to doctors about something else. I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations. I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems. I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries that can be celebrated every day. I prefer moralists who promise me nothing. I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind. I prefer the earth in civvies. I prefer conquered to conquering countries. I prefer having some reservations. I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order. I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages. I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves. I prefer dogs with uncropped tails. I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark. I prefer desk drawers. I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here to many things I’ve also left unsaid. I prefer zeroes on the loose to those lined up behind a cipher. I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars. I prefer to knock on wood. I prefer not to ask how much longer and when. I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being. From Nothing Twice, 1997. Wydawnctwo Literackie. Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh. Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh