Anna Kamieńska (1920-1986) was a prominent member of that particularly distinguished generation of Polish writers who experienced the Second World War as young men and women, many of whom died at the hands of the Nazis. During the war she taught in underground schools in the Lublin region, having studied Education in Warsaw. She continued her studies after the War and subsequently became deeply involved in the literary life of the Polish capital, working on the important monthly magazine Creativity. Her first published poems appeared in 1945 and her last in herTwo Darknesses: Selected Poems (1984)from which the poems in this current volume are selected and translated. HerNotebooksappeared posthumously in 1987.
Her work was deeply influenced by the War, the Holocaust, and the suffering of Poland, as well as more personal grief, especially as a result of the early death in 1967 of her husband, Jan Spiewak, also a poet. Kamieńska is undoubtedly a religious poet yet she is also a technically and stylistically adventurous ‘modern’ poet. Although Biblical allusions and aspects of Catholic mysticism pervade her work, there is nothing predictably pietistic about it. She has been called a Catholic Existentialist, and her admiration for the great French ‘patron saint of outsiders’, the unorthodox, Judaeo-Christian mystic Simone Weil who died during the War, is significant. The thirty-five poems in the collection include the major ten-part sequence ‘Job’s Second Happiness’, as well as major poems on Dr Korczak, Edith Stein, Andrei Rublow, the Janów Orchestra and ‘A Short Conversation with Simone Weil’.
Shortly before Kamieńska’s death, which was unexpected, Tomasz Krzeszowski visited her and read her the translations in progress, including the Job poems. She was delighted with the project and gave it her blessing.
Tomasz P Krzeszowski, a lexicographer and poet, was Professor of English at the University of Gdańsk at the time of making these translations, and was subsequently a Professor at the University of Warsaw.
Questions on rights to reproduce the translations should be addressed to Desmond Graham.