Poetic Traces in the Home Archive of Julian Przyboś

The Warsaw apartment shared by Julian Przyboś and Danuta Kula is home to several dozen folders brimming with typed and handwritten manuscripts, letters, press clippings, conference programs, and event flyers (often annotated with the poet’s notes). Most of the work in the collection has already been published. Mixed in with the manuscripts are typewritten pages noting final revisions to implement before publication. A traditional approach to these materials so meticulously organized by Przyboś’s wife would turn up little of note to expand scholarship on the poet. Perhaps a few redactions in the manuscripts bear mention, for we could use them to reconstruct alternative versions of specific poems, even if the resulting variations would be subtle. The archive, however, also bears witness to the poet’s life and offers a record of its time. Several folders are full of the petty scribbling of daily life, calendar pages, postcards, and notes offering material for analysis that may be difficult to decode but are nonetheless of value on a literary, linguistic, and material level. We can also read into the kind of paper used, the color of the ink, the effort and haste evident from the handwriting, incidental notes in the margins of whatever papers were at hand, and the condition of the pages (which often retain the traces of having been handled several times over, as if the poet liked to tamper with his notes). The material value of the documents added to the archive during the publication process has certainly degraded over time. We could, of course, edit the textual contents of the notes and publish them with commentary that gives shape to these findings. Yet, with certain objects, the word recedes to the background, and such editorial maneuvers seem misguided, for they capture only a narrow aspect of the materials in question to preserve and share with readers.