Poland’s Wislawa Szymborska, the woman the Nobel Prize committee called the “Mozart of poetry,” died in her hometown of Krakow on Wednesday.
She has been called both deeply political and playful, a poet who used humor in unforeseen ways. Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observation to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images ” an onion, a cat wandering in an empty apartment, an old fan in a museum ” to reflect on grand topics such as love, death and passing time.
Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said on Twitter that her death was an irreparable loss to Poland’s culture.
The Nobel Prize citation indicated that she was given the award “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” American poet Robert Haas said of her writing, “She’s a very pure poet and an unexpected choice because she writes poetry. There are no essays on man’s fate. There are no novels or theater. She’s lived in Krakow quietly most of her life and produced these marvelous, very simple poems.”
Szymborska, a lifelong smoker, succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 88.