'Mozart of poetry' Wislawa Szymborska dies aged 88
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'Mozart of poetry' Wislawa Szymborska dies aged 88

2nd February 2012

Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska, who is regarded as one of the greatest ever female poets and was once described as 'the Mozart of poetry' by the Nobel Prize committee, has died at the age of 88.

Szymborska, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996 for her life-long contribution to the arts, died last night (February 1st) at her home in Krakow, her personal secretary Michal Rusinek confirmed.

Her poetry was at times described as both deeply political and playful, using humour in imaginative ways to convey deeper meaning.

Poland's foreign minister Radek Sikorski said her death was an 'irreparable loss' to the country's culture.

'Szymborska was our guardian spirit. In her poems we could find brilliant advice which made the world easier to understand,' he added.

The poet was notoriously judgmental of her own work, only publishing 400 poems in six decades and admitting that the majority of her writing never made it out of her house.

The Washington Post commented: 'Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observation to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images to reflect on grand topics such as love, death and passing time.'

When awarding Szymborska the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, American poet Robert Haas, a member of the award panel, described her as a very 'pure' poet and something of an 'unexpected choice'.

'There are no essays on man's fate. There are no novels or theatre. She's lived in Krakow quietly most of her life and produced these marvellous, very simple poems,' he added.

President Bronislaw Komorowski, who last year presented Szymborska with The Order of the White Eagle - the country's highest distinction - said that she will forever be recognised as an individual who transcended the arts.

'For decades she infused Poles with optimism and with trust in the power of beauty and the might of the word,' he added.

Szymborska, who was a heavy smoker throughout her life, died in her sleep of lung cancer in Krakow, where she had lived for 80 years.

© W&G Foyle Ltd