Wislawa Szymborska was born in Bnin, Poland on July 2, 1923. After the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939, she found work as a railway clerk to avoid deportation to Germany as a forced laborer. In her free time, she studied at illegal underground universities. After World War II, she resumed her formal studies in Polish literature and sociology at Jagiellonian University, but never earned a degree. In 1945, she published her first poem, I Am Looking for a Word, in a weekly supplement to the local newspaper. Her first book of poetry was published in 1952. Her other volumes of poetry include View with a Grain of Sand, People on a Bridge, Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems, and Here. In 1991 she won the Goethe Prize and in 1995 she was awarded the Herder Prize. She won the Nobel Prize for Poetry in 1996 and was awarded The Order of the White Eagle in recognition of her contribution to her country's culture in 2011. From 1953 to 1981, she worked as a poetry editor and columnist for the literary weekly Literary Life, where she wrote a column called Non-Required Reading. She died of lung cancer on February 1, 2012 at the age of 88.
Billy Collins has published six collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels and The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, his latest, sold more than 25,000 copies in its first year. He teaches at Lehman College of the City University of New York and at Sarah Lawrence College. He was named U.S. Poet Laureate in June 2000.