Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński
is regarded by Poles, literary scholars and ordinary readers alike, as one of
the greatest Polish poets of the 20th century. Many would rank him
alongside Czesław Miłosz, Zbigniew Herbert, and Wisława
Szymborska as one of the Polish writers most deserving of a place in the
pantheon of world literature. Yet he is virtually unknown to English-language
readers; he has rarely appeared in translation, and then only in obscure
journals and often in woefully inadequate versions.
Baczyński was born in Warsaw on January 22, 1921. His parents were
intellectuals, though of different kindshis father was a patriot with
socialist, even anarchist sympathies who had fought in the legions that won
Poland's independence in 1918; his mother, a practicing Catholic, was a
children's writer with a profound love of poetry who remained a major influence
on her son. It has been said that the duality these two represented underpins
of many of the tensions in Baczyński's poetry and also in his life. The
young Baczyński began writing poetry at an early age; by the time he was
18 he was producing mature work. In the summer of 1939 he graduated from the
elite Stefan Batory Grammar School in Warsaw; a few months later war broke out
and Poland was occupied by the Nazis.
In the early years of the war, Baczyński continued to write
copiously, and studied Polish literature in the underground university. It was
there he met Barbara (Basia) Drapczyńska; they married in June 1942. It is
to her that his extraordinary love poems are dedicated. Baczyński
published his work in small clandestine editions under the pseudonym "Jan
Bugaj" By 1942 he was already acknowledged as a major poet.
In 1943, Baczyński took the momentous decision to join the Armia
Krajowa (Home Army), the Polish resistance. Despite his poor health (he was
asthmatic) and the efforts of colleagues who recognized his genius and tired to
keep him from the front lines, he insisted on remaining in active service. In
spring 1944 he took part in several operations. Then the Warsaw Uprising broke
out in August, 1994. Baczyński was involved in the fighting from the
beginning. On August 4, he was killed in action. A few days later Basia also
perished, still unaware of her husband's death.
Baczyński's mother Stefania carefully preserved his manuscripts.
Eventually, in 1961 Baczyński's collected works were published for the
first time; they had been gathered and edited by Kazimierz Wyka, a brilliant
Kraków critic who had championed the poet's work even while Baczyński was
still alive. The legend of Baczyński grew.
BOOKS OF POETRY:
Spiew z pozogi Warszawa: Wiedza, 1947); Utwory zebrine, ed. by Aniela
Kmita-Piorunowa and Kazimierz Wyka (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1961); Utwory wybrane, ed. by Kazimierz Wyka
(Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1964); Wiersze,
ed. by Jan Sochon (Bialystok: Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, 1984); Poezje, ed. by Jerzy Swiech(Lublin: Wydawn Lubelskie, 1992).
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS:
White Magic and Other Poems trans. by Bill Johnston (Los
Angeles: Green Integer, 2005).
See Green Integer title(s) by this author