Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Anna Swir’s ‘The Same Inside’

Sometimes we find kinship in unexpected places. Poet Anna Swir’s poem “The Same Inside” captures the meeting of twin souls perfectly.

Anna Swir (or Anna Świrszczyńska)(1909-1984) was a Polish poet who wrote about WWII, love, and the experience of women in post-war Europe. When Nazis occupied Poland, she joined the resistance movement, serving as a military nurse and writing anti-Nazi publications. She was very nearly executed for her participation. Out of her struggle, however, formed a sharp mind, and she used her clear assessments of the human experience in her poetry. He so appreciated her poetry that Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz ended up translating many of Swir’s poems into English.

Though I am a fan of much of Swir’s poetry, “The Same Inside” holds a special place in my heart. In it, Swir describes a chance meeting that changes how the narrator understands her place in the world. This narrator is heading to her lover’s house for a liaison when she stumbles into an old woman who is begging at the corner. As the two women chat, the narrator discovers that the beggar “was/the same inside…from the same kind” as she was. Whatever their differences of background and circumstance, they both understand life and the world in the same way. Their spirits know each other. As the narrator tries to end the interaction, she realizes just how superficial her relationship with her lover has been. She no longer understands why she is heading to his place because she realizes that their interactions have been cold, pale things. She feels more intimacy with a woman that she hardly knows than the man that has been in her bed. The poem encapsulates how romantic partners do not always fulfill one another’s needs the way they should and suggests that people should hold out for a spiritual synergy in their relationships.

In addition to the video above, the full text of the poem is below. Many thanks to Poem Hunter for sharing it.

The Same Inside
by Anna Swir

Walking to your place for a love feast
I saw at a street corner
an old beggar woman.

I took her hand,
kissed her delicate cheek,
we talked, she was
the same inside as I am,
from the same kind,
I sensed this instantly
as a dog knows by scent
another dog.

I gave her money,
I could not part from her.
After all, one needs
someone who is close.

And then I no longer knew
why I was walking to your place.
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9 thoughts on “Poetry Sunday: Anna Swir’s ‘The Same Inside’

    1. Swir is a great wordsmith! Of course I’m a bit biased; Central and Eastern European poets tend to be my favorites. I’m sure that says something about my psyche.

      Out of curiosity, how does your class handle poetry? Does it deal more with reading, writing, interpreting, or some verb I haven’t even thought of?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol… I love the idea of poetising my class:). Each term we have a poetry workshop, where I produce a small selection (6-8) and they split up into groups of 3 or 4 and discuss the techniques the poet has used to get the message across for their chosen poem and then present their finding to the class. I go round to ensure no one is floundering and at the end of the session, I also provide a handout with the context, history and some explanation about the poem. These days, we mostly look at poems written by contemporary poets.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m a great fan of all my students becoming acquainted with a range of poetry as poets use a number of techniques that can also be usefully borrowed by prose writers. As the best poems are also highly crafted, it also introduces new writers in my groups to the notion that writing has to be worked at once the first draft has been written. It’s become a really popular session – and a number of my students have started writing poetry as a result. Which is great:).

        Liked by 1 person

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