Polish Nobel winning poet Szymborska dies at 88

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska thanks members of the Polish Pen Club after receiving a Pen Club award on September 30. REUTERS/Stringer

WARSAW, Feb 1 - Polish Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska, once described as the “Mozart of Poetry,” died on Wednesday, after suffering from lung cancer. She was 88.

“She died quietly, in her sleep,” Szymborska’s assistant Michal Rusinek was quoted as saying by the state news agency PAP.

The shy poet became a reluctant celebrity when she became the fourth Pole to win the literary Nobel Prize in 1996.

Vaclav Havel, the playwright and former president of Czechoslovakia, once called Szymborska “such a pleasant, decent and modest lady.”

Szymborska, also a literary critic and a translator of French poetry, published several slim volumes after Stalinist censorship was lifted in 1957. She disowned earlier poems which reflected Stalinist era literary style and content.

Her work includes “Calling out to the Yeti” (1957), in which she compared Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the abominable snowman, “People on the Bridge” (1986) and “The End and the Beginning” written in 1993.

Her poetry was known for its use of fables, anecdotes and extended metaphors, often peppered with irony and bitter humor.

Asked once why she published fewer than 350 poems, Szymborska replied: “I have a trash can in my home.”

Last year, she was awarded Poland’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the White Eagle, by President Bronislaw Komorowski.