WM: As a translator, how do you come to the poets you're working on, or how have you come to, say, Szymborska?
CC: It keeps changing all the time. I came to Szymborska because I was Stanislaw Baranczak's research assistant at Harvard, and I was correcting his English for articles, and somebody asked him to do some translations of a contemporary poet--it happened to be Krynicki, who I'm just coming back to now. And he didn't feel like he was up to it himself, and we just really liked working together. And he was so generous, as a teacher, a collaborator. He never said, "Oh you don't know enough," or "your Polish isn't good enough"--both of which were completely true-he just said, "Go for it." And that's how we started on that anthology.  And then when we got to Szymborska, this was the mid-eighties, and I think it was in 1986 that her collection Ludzie na moscie (People on a bridge) came out. It had just come out while we were working on this thing, and we were going to pick some poems out of there, and we couldn't pick, we just did the whole collection. And then we just felt like, you know, it's not enough. So we j ust started doing nonstop Szymborska, basically. It took us a while to get it all done (it always takes me longer than him) and to find a publisher. But it basically started with that, not being able to pick out of Ludzie na moscie. Even back then I kept thinking, it's a little bit like Elizabeth Bishop, she reminds me of Elizabeth Bishop, she's so unassuming as a poet, and I loved translating her so much that it made me underestimate her, because it just seemed like too much fun, too much pleasure. I remember Stanislaw saying back then, "I think she's as great as Milosz." And it was really great for him to say that, because it validated my feelings. I kept thinking, "If I like her this much it can't be true." And he was right, and Stockholm agreed with him. That was really great. So, that's how we did Szymborska.
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