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This review is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

ASTONISHING Astonishments, Selected Poems of Anna Kamienska, edited by Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon (Paraclete Press) $24

The muses took up residence in Poland during the twentieth century. The poetry of Anna Kamienska (1920- 86), as well as that of Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Tadeusz Rozewicz, and Wislawa Szymborska, is evidence. This book is rightly titled Astonishments. The selected poems of Anna Kamienska, edited and translated by Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon, must be read. Kamienska is the poet of gratitude for being alive despite writing 'amidst the rat-tat-tat of firing squads and bomb explosion'.

Kamienska's poetry is a reminder of our blessings in poems such as 'A Prayer That Will Be Answered' and 'A Path in the Woods'. Or 'At the Border of Paradise':

It's strange
that green valleys are still here
as if happiness slept in them
and shady streams
we once knew for sure
existed
and that there still are roofs
under which small children sleep
filling the house with a different silence

It's strange
that clouds here still follow the sun
like gliding birds
and that there still is simple human goodness
besides what aspires upwards

that pure music stands at the door
which suddenly seems like a palace portico

It's strange
that we still
want so much to love and cry


Affirmation is her main preoccupation. The clear, direct, sincere address and openness have the innocence of childhood kept alive into ...


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