Review: Love at First Sight

Love at First Sight
Wisława Szymborska (translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak; illustrated by Beatrice Gasca Queirazza), 34 pgs, Seven Stories Press,, $21.95 USD

Great poems move different people in different ways. Nobel-poet Wisława Szymborska’s pieces trace a reliable arc from simple seeds, through surprise development, and land in the subtle neighbourhood of the sublime.

“Love at First Sight,” from the Polish poet’s final book, Map: Last and Collected Poems, is a wonderful example. Szymborska begins with this worn cliché and plays at its edges like a kitten troubling the fringe of a beloved sweater. Surely love, romantic or otherwise, is more beautiful because it has been uncertain; surely an insatiable drive for connection is what truly makes love inevitable.

The book renders this subtle unravelling process at the hear of Szymborska’s poem in graphic form and does so with evocative illustrations from Italian artist Beatrice Gasca Queirazza. Her intimate and human drawings flawlessly conjure the subtle challenges and disentanglements of the original text while inter-weaving a visual poetry of their own. A motif of wheat seeds that might be feathers — interspersed with images of trains, travel, backpackers, telephones and migratory geese — laces the text. The images, like the lovers of the poem itself, are in motion and interconnected in myriad of unacknowledged ways.

The book itself — like love and great poetry — impresses at first glance but is well worth spending more time with.