Urszula Koziol was born in southeast Poland and has lived and worked in Wroclaw since 1950, where she studied Polish and taught for a number of years. Since 1968 she has edited the literary magazine Odra
, to which she contributes a highly original column. She has published eight volumes of poetry, two novels, short stories and plays for radio and the theatre.
She made her debut in 1957, but broke through with her second collection, In the Rhythm of the Roots
(1963). ‘Roots’ should be understood in a literal rather than a figurative sense, referring to the origins of life, that which lies under the surface, hidden from view, yet constitutes the basis of our lives and our society. ‘Whatever you do and wherever you do it – you are not alone.’ ‘In the Rhythm of the Roots’ means: going back to the essence in whatever one writes; looking for the source of whatever one sees, for what transcends appearances. Urszula Koziol is a poet of the essence, looking for the roots of human behaviour, of the condition of modern man in a world of conflict, chaos, war and runaway technology. Her poetry is subject to a strict intellectual discipline, directed by ethical principles that are free of moralism or political bias. She is not easy on the reader, but always precise, clear, to the point. She speaks out and testifies; her verse is in essence concrete, not abstract, it never lets go of the earth. She probes into the nature of our existence with a keen eye for ambiguities and contradictions, tries to allay its ceaseless motion, which comes to rest only in the poem. What she is looking for is, perhaps, life’s spirit, freed from its substance – life’s principle. Gradually, from an unmistakable inner need, she has created an important poetic oeuvre, constantly trying to answer the question which, in ‘In the Sign of the Water’ she words like this: ‘What am I, a flowing existence in an uncertain Between?’.
© Gerard Rasch (Translated by Ko Kooman)
[Urszula Koziol took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2001. This text was written on that occasion.]