How to Start Writing (and When to Stop): Advice for Authors

Wisława Szymborska, edited and translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
Published in 2021
by New Directions

In this rare compilation edited and translated by Clare Cavanagh, Nobel Prize–winning poet Wisława Szymborska offers insightful advice, originally written anonymously for a column in the Polish journal Literary Life. Characterized by her biting sense of humor and wisdom, Szymborska’s advice is often unforgiving and matter-of-fact, providing criticisms as well as confessions that humble the most accomplished of writers: “I myself started out with rotten poetry and stories.” Illustrated with the poet’s own collages, this guide to the writing of poetry invites the reader into the mind and revelations of a beloved poet. “The strategic ‘we’ she employs in How to Start Writing (and When to Stop) does more than guide its readers through the joys—and miseries—of writing (and not writing) well,” writes Cavanagh in the introduction. “Her seriously lighthearted alter ego provides the closest look we’re likely to get at the marvelous workshop in which she drafted, revised, discarded, and sometimes, mercifully, even preserved the poems that make up her small, but weight oeuvre.” 


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