Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, GOING HOME, by WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

GOING HOME, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Going Home" by Wis?awa Szymborska, encapsulates a moment of profound vulnerability in the life of a man who appears to be accomplished but is undone by an unspecified ordeal. The man, who is "nearly forty," comes home and collapses into a fetal position, retreating into the most primal form of human vulnerability. Szymborska, in her keen observation, employs domestic details and contrasts them with cosmic ideas, thereby infusing the poem with layers of meaning that explore the intersection between the personal and the universal.

The poem starts with the man coming home and saying "nothing," which in itself is telling. Communication has broken down, or perhaps words are insufficient to encapsulate his emotional or psychological state. It is "clear, though, that something had gone wrong." The vagueness of "something" hangs heavy, allowing readers to fill in the blank with myriad possibilities-a personal failure, a professional crisis, or an existential dread. Despite the ambiguity, the impact is palpable: he lies "fully dressed," pulls the "blanket over his head," and "tucks up his knees," effectively turning inward, both physically and emotionally.

In a striking simile, Szymborska likens his condition to existing "inside his mother's womb," a poignant image that alludes to the desire to return to a pre-conscious state, where needs are met without question, and existence is not yet marred by the complexities of adult life. His regression to this fetal position speaks volumes about the human need for shelter and protection, especially when confronted with life's inexplicable hardships.

And yet, life goes on. The poem informs us that "Tomorrow he'll give a lecture / on homeostasis in metagalactic cosmonautics," emphasizing the dissonance between his professional expertise and his emotional breakdown. The irony couldn't be more pronounced. Here is a man capable of discussing homeostasis, a biological process that allows an organism to maintain stability in constantly changing conditions, and yet his emotional equilibrium is so easily shattered. The sophisticated topic of "metagalactic cosmonautics" also contrasts sharply with his current, childlike state, adding another layer of irony.

In the end, the man "has curled up and gone to sleep," which might be read as a temporary escape but also as a necessary pause for regaining balance. Sleep serves as a form of homeostasis, after all-a reset button that allows both the body and the mind to heal and recalibrate.

"Going Home" is a masterful study in contrasts, utilizing domesticity to explore cosmic imbalances and deploying scientific jargon to shed light on the ineffable aspects of human vulnerability. The poem captures the essence of what it means to be human-vastly complicated, deeply fragile, and forever oscillating between states of equilibrium and disarray. Through this concise yet expansive narrative, Szymborska captures the paradoxical nature of existence, highlighting the profound tragedies and equally profound hopes that comprise a life.


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