To the Letter


Translated from by

Published: December 5, 2023


ISBN: 9781953861726
This item will be released on December 5, 2023.
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Book Description

Tomasz Różycki’s To the Letter follows Lieutenant Anielewicz on the hunt for any clues that might lead 21st century human beings out of a sense of despair. With authoritarianism rising across Eastern Europe, the Lieutenant longs for a secret hero. At first, he suspects some hidden mechanism afoot: fruit tutors him in the ways of color, he drifts out to sea to study the grammar of tides, or he gazes at the sun as it thrums away like a timepiece. In one poem, he admits “this is the story of my confusion,” and in the next the Lieutenant is back on the trail. “This lunacy needs a full investigation,” he jibes. He wants to get to the bottom of it all, but he’s often bewitched by letters and the trickery of language. Diacritics on Polish words form a “flock of sooty flecks, clinging to letters” and Lieutenant Anielewicz studies the tails, accents, and strokes that twist this script. While the Lieutenant can’t write a coherent code to solve life’s mysteries or to fill the absence of a country rent by war, his search for patterns throughout art, philosophy, and literature lead not to despair but to an affirmation of the importance of human love. Różycki collects moments of illumination – a cat dashing out of a window and “feral sun” streaking in, a body planting itself in the ground like rhubarb and flowering. He collects and collects, opens a crack, and clutches a shrapnel of epiphany. 

A truly lyrical longing for the world to be transformed.
Polish Book Institute

The map of Eastern and Central Europe is a palimpsest, bearing the traces of countless traumatic erasures and obliterations, and still changing day to day… Tomasz Różycki’s idiosyncratic rapprochement with tradition is an attempt to make peace with his losses, even as they mount.
Times Literary Supplement

Rózycki’s quirky and self-deprecating humor permeates the poems. So does his sense of the fundamental homelessness of 21st-century human beings.
From the Judges’ Citation, International Griffin Poetry Prize

In Tomasz Różycki’s lyric profusion, I hear the sharp blasts of a mordant intellect, but not without the human notes of an infinite melancholy playing in the background. This is the soundtrack of a valiant mind, a layered imagination that nonchalantly apprehends and formally measures the tarnished world in demotic language such that it enchantingly restores simplicity and bewilderment to our existence.
Major Jackson

One of the most remarkable sonnet sequences of our time: the work of a wandering, restless, and moral mind, here rendered with clarity and vividness by the translations of Mira Rosenthal.
Susan Stewart, Princeton University

The world that Tomasz Różycki shows us is neither sentimental nor straightforward nor unambiguous. It is a world of global reality, a postmodern mix of arrangements and styles in which the desire for meaning, even temporarily anchored, seems to be the dream of a daydreamer, a naïve seeker of something permanent from ads, TV frames, newspaper gossip, collective hysteria: words, the entire pop cultural pulp in which—whether we like it or not—we are sunk up to our ears.
Paweł Huelle, “A Letter to a Young Poet: on Tomasz Różycki,” Words Without Borders

Praise for Colonies

Colonies is a deeply lyrical book juxtaposing love poems and poems, although also personal, that have a wider frame of references. ‘Personal’ for Różycki means also transpersonal; the persona of his poetry holds the memory of an entire family or tribe, or perhaps even of society in general. And there’s no mockery here. Różycki’s poetry is serious, a private response to the historic moment. Without a doubt, a vital new poet has emerged from the Polish language.
Adam Zagajewski