Tymoteusz Karpowicz

Tymoteusz Karpowicz was born in 1921 in Zielona, near Wilno (Vilnius). He was a poet, playwright, literary historian, theorist and translator from German, Russian and Serbian. He took a doctorate in Polish philology at the University of Wrocław and since 1978, he taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a winner of the Jurzykowski Prize and was nominated for the NIKE award. He lived in Oak Park, Illinois. Karpowicz was regarded by critics as one of the so-called “linguist” poets; in his case this meant extracting the maximum ambiguity from words and phrases, multiplying their contexts, filling them with new material and causing them, “in the name of meaning”, to collide with other words, which makes his poems exceptionally ample, open to countless, not mutually exclusive, interpretations. In the words of Andrzej Zawada, Karpowicz “has performed vivisection on the language system mainly by deconstructing existing forms.” He further complicates the composition of his successive books by supplementing the “originals” with poems defined as “logical calques” and “artistic calques” (e.g. Back-to-Front Light) or “parallaxes” (e.g. Tree Rings). The long poem Dissolving Space is based on terms borrowed from trigonometry (each of the verses, defined as an “alpha”, is accompanied by four “functions”, which are parodies of witty phrases of a wide variety of individuals, both real and fictional, and also a “secret dimension” that assumes the form of a poem in prose), while the 400-page Back-to-Front Light reflects the formal structure of the New Testament. The volume Tree Rings includes a piece that is exceptional in Karpowicz’s oeuvre – the masterfully and romantically stylised poem “My Chechnya”, which expresses firm opposition to Russian intervention in that country. Karpowicz is also concerned with metaphysical issues, with endless inquiry into the resilience of language and extracting from it the falsifications that can result from creating metaphors without enough thought. This poetry is proverbially difficult to take in, and few people (apart from Andrzej Falkiewicz and Ryszard Nycz) have had the nerve to try and interpret it – but it has a lot of fans and imitators, who view it as a major turning point in the development of the Polish language. Karpowicz was also known as an expert on the works of Bolesław Leśmian, and wrote some radio and theatre plays, defined as “dramatised dreams”, almost surreal in form. Zbigniew Machej’s lengthy poem entitled The Karpowicz Questionnaire is all about Karpowicz and his work. He died on 29 June 2005.


  • Żywe wymiary, 1948
  • Gorzkie źródła, 1957
  • Kamienna muzyka, 1958
  • Znaki równania, 1960
  • W imię znaczenia, 1962
  • Trudny las, 1964
  • Odwrócone światło, Wrocław: Ossolineum 1972
  • Dramaty zebrane, 1975
  • Poezja niemożliwa. Modele Leśmianowskiej wyobraźni, Wrocław: Ossolineum 1975
  • Rozwiązywanie przestrzeni. Poemat polifoniczny, 1989
  • Słoje zadrzewne, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie 1999
  • Małe cienie wielkich czarnoksiężników, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2007.
  • Dzieła zebrane Tom 1, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2011.
  • Dzieła zebrane Tom 2, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2012.
  • Dzieła zebrane Tom 3, Wrocław: Biuro Literackie, 2013.