| Tadeusz Dąbrowski

Tadeusz Dąbrowski – (b. 1979) Poet, essayist, critic. Editor of the literary bimonthly Topos. He has been published in many journals in Poland and abroad, in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Boston Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Tin House, Harvard Review, Crazyhorse, Poetry Daily, Poetry Review, Poetry London, Akzente, Sprache im technischen Zeitalter, Sinn und Form, and manuskripte, among others. Recipient of stipends awarded by Landis & Gyr Foundation (Switzerland, 2019), Literaturhaus Zürich (Switzerland, 2016), Yaddo (USA, 2015), Omi International Arts Center (USA, 2013), the Vermont Studio Center (USA, 2011), Literatur Lana (2011), Internationales Haus der Autoren Graz (2008), Polish Minister of Culture (2007, 2010), Literarisches Colloquium Berlin (2006, 2012), and the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators (Visby, 2004, 2010). He has also been the winner of numerous awards, among others, the Horst Bienek Prize (2014), the Kościelski Prize (2009), the Literary Award of the Capital City of Warsaw (2014), the Hubert Burda Prize (2008) and, from Tadeusz Różewicz, the Prize of the Foundation for Polish Culture (2006). He has been nominated for NIKE, the most important Polish literary award (2010). His work has been translated into 30 languages. Author of eight volumes of poetry in his native Polish, the most recent one, entitled Scrabble, has been released in 2020. He lives in Gdańsk on the Baltic coast of Poland.


It’s as if you’d woken in a locked cell and found
in your pocket a slip of paper, and on it a single sentence
in a language you don’t know.

And you’d be sure this sentence was the key to your
life. Also to this cell.

And you’d spend years trying to decipher the sentence,
until finally you’d understand it. But after a while
you’d realize you got it wrong, and the sentence meant
something else entirely. And so you’d have two sentences.

Then three, and four, and ten, until you’d created a new language.

And in that language you’d write the novel of your life.
And once you’d reached old age you’d notice the door of the cell

was open. You’d go out into the world. You’d walk the length and breadth of it,

until in the shade of a massive tree you’d yearn
for that one single sentence in a language you don’t know.

Translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

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