Nobel Poet Charms in Polish

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for literature, was the star of a moving poetry event last night at Beit Ariela in Tel Aviv. The central auditorium at the municipal library was packed, and people fought for room on the stairs and spilled over into two side halls. There were quite a few people there who spoke only Hebrew.

Wislawa Szymborska worked from 1953-1981 as poetry editor and columnist for a literary weekly. The prolific Szymborska has published numerous collections of poetry, which have been translated into many languages, including Hebrew.

Last night's event included laudatory speeches, poems set to music, Israeli poets reading Szymborska' poems in Hebrew translation, and readings by the guest of honor herself.

Her humble appearance and the seemingly understated tone of her poetry contradicted and underscored the adoring "star" treatment she received from the welcoming audience.

Speakers included Polish Ambassador Jan Piekarski, Prof. Zohar Shavit (as a city council member), Avigdor Levin, director of the municipal culture department, author Miriam Akavia, who knew Szymborska before the world fell in love with her and without whom this visit would probably not have occured.

Then came the poets, and Szymborska removed her headphones to listen to them reading her work in Hebrew.

The audience was clearly excited, as were the poets who got to sit near the evening's muse.

Then came the main event: Szymborska read nine poems, and Rafi Weichert (who translated all of her work published in Hebrew, and was the co-star of the evening) read them in translation.