LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 39, No.4 - Winter 1993
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas, University of Rochester
Copyright © 1993 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
ABOUT TYMOTEUSZ KARPOWICZ
University of Illinois at Chicago
Tymoteusz Karpowicz was born on December 15,1921, in the remote village of Zielona, near Vilnius. During the Nazi occupation he was a member of the Polish underground resistance movement. After the war, he studied Polish philology at Wroclaw University where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. and became an assistant professor. In 1948, he published his first volume of poetry "Living Dimensions." Resisting the new official trend, 'social realism,' which followed in 1949, he retreated from literary life and did not publish again until the so-called 'Polish October' in 1956. At this time, he became the president of the Polish Writers' Union in Wroclaw. Since 1956, he has edited several literary magazines, such as "Nowe sygnaly" (New Signals), Polish weekly review, which was shut down by the Polish authorities in 1957 because of its overly independent stand. He also lost his editorial position, again for political reasons, from among the staff of "Poetry" in Warsaw and "Odra" in Wroclaw.
In 1971, he received the prestigious fellowship of the "Foundation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Europeenne" (Paris) and in 1973 he was invited to join the University of Iowa "International Working Program". In 1974, he was appointed visiting associate professor of Polish literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he taught for two years. He spent the next two years in West Germany (1976-78) in Bonn, West Berlin and at Munich and Regensburg Universities. In 1978, he returned to the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures as a full professor. He retired from the now Department of Slavic and Baltic Literatures in 1993. After the March 11 declaration of Lithuanian independence, he wrote several articles in the Polish press encouraging Poland to recognize the state of Lithuania.
Prof. Tymoteusz Karpowicz has written eight volumes of poetry, 20 plays, over 100 articles, reviews and literary commentaries, a book of criticism and an anthology. Both his poetry and plays were translated abroad. He organized an International Conference on Cyprian K. Norwid and Boleslaw Lesmian and also another conference on Julian Przybos at the UIC. He is a member of PEN-CLUB and the World Phenomenological Institute. Although he has never received any official literary awards in Poland, because of his dissident political stand, upon arrival to the United States, in New York in 1975, he was awarded the prestigious Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Award and was twice a recipient of the Illinois Arts Council Annual Award.
Tymoteusz Karpowicz is the best interpreter of his own poetry, in part because it is a poetry in statu nascendi, in the process of being born. And that is as it should be, for Tymoteusz Karpowicz believes that poetry is an act of creation, an act of bringing to life, an act of making intelligible, of breaking into the unknown, of being fully human, an act that is sometimes a shout and sometimes a whisper, but it always says: I live.
Because it is a poetry on the move, in process of coming to new life, to read his poems, the reader or listener has to get up and move along, from word to word, image to new image, day to day, and place to place—from a deep hunger to its satisfaction and on to hunger again, from sorrow to joy and then to sorrow again, from the primordial in man to the civilized in man to the primordial again, from birth to death and thence to birth again.
There is no end to the surprises, to the shocking words, to the sharp verbal turns, to the strange metaphors, the radical shifts of intellect. Tonight, there is a fish, the breaking of the light of dawn, a voyaging branch, and then the dance of a woman in, of, out of, beyond love, then a wolf's Christmas caroling, and an evening stroll, a meeting with sorcerers, and death, and dedication, and hope. I am a man: and I consider nothing human alien to me.
The poems are taken chiefly from his two major works entitled Reversed Light and the Resolving of Spaces. Each finished poem is really a series of poems that are structured on what can only be called paradoxes of life. Usually, there is a statement of paradox such as the "beauty of absence". Then follows a poem, which Prof. Karpowicz calls the artistic copy of reality. But then this poem is seen as not fully adequate to express the full experience, emotion, and idea of reality, and so another poem on the same paradox follows, this time a logical copy of reality, one consciously more scientific.
This method of return and reassessment is continued and even expanded in the subsequent work of The Resolving of Spaces, but in this work the author puts in doubt his own initial poems even more severely and subjects them to his own critical analysis. He does this by calling up persons from other disciplines of life who comment on, evaluate, and sometimes mock his poem. Why this self-criticism? Because as the author, Karpowicz realizes the inadequacy of all that he has said, and he assumes the responsibility of judgment himself. He does this out of duty to his own understanding of reality, that it is richer than our ability to show it. La realite depasse la fiction.
And yet he goes on, seeing it as the duty of an artist to struggle always to catch the mystery of life through aesthetic and philosophic means, no matter the inadequacies of expression and the impossibility of full victory.