Karol Wojtyła was born in Wadowice in 1920. He inherited from his parents a deep fascination with the poetry of the Polish Romanticism. His friends recall that he learned by heart several Romantic poems, including the famous stanzas by Juliusz Slowacki about the Slavic pope.
It was very early that he started to write his own poetry yet initially it was theatre that young Karol turned to as the outlet for his gifts. He lacked the self-aggrandizing qualities often associated with actors. He was a sober, studious boy. Nonetheless, his patriotic passions were perfectly suited to a particular kind of Polish theatre which florished in the early 1930's.

As a teenager Karol Wojtyla met Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk who taught him about "the Living Word," a style of performing which emphasized language, monologues and simplicity of sets. Kotlarczyk ran the Amateur University Theatre in Wadowice. Wojtyla began acting in plays at school and branched out into Kotlarczyk's productions.

During his first year at the Jagiellonian University, Wojtyła joined a literary group and made his debut on 15 October 1938 during a poetry evening. He also enrolled in drama classes and Studio 39, a student theatre group. In June 1939, during the Festival of Cracow, Studio 39 gave an immensely popular performance of a comedy by Niżyński, based on a Cracovian legend about a magician named Twardowski, and Karol Wojtyła played one of the main parts.
The poem Over This, Your White Grave was written in that period, in the spring of 1939.

Over this, your white grave
the flowers of life in white—
so many years without you—
how many have passed out of sight?
Over this your white grave
covered for years, there is a stir
in the air, something uplifting
and, like death, beyond comprehension.
Over this your white grave
oh, mother, can such loving cease?
for all his filial adoration
a prayer:
Give her eternal peace...

After the German invasion of 1939 the Jagiellonian University was closed down so Karol Wojtyła was forced to interrupt his studies. He wrote "Job", a dramatic poem based on the Old Testament.. The Nazis waged systematic Kulturkampf, Cultural War by closing libraries and shutting cultural institutions to the Poles. A Pole could be shot for going to the theatre and even for speaking Polish in the wrong place. Karol Wojtyla first worked in the local quarry and then in the chemical factory Solvay to avoid being sent to Germany.

Together with his friend Juliusz Kydryński, he organised secret concerts and drama performances, recitals and foreign-language classes in private houses. When Kotlarczyk came to Krakow in the summer of 1941, Wojtyla and his friends helped him start the underground Rhapsodic Theatre which managed to stage 10 plays before the end of the occupation.. By focusing on Polish words and texts, they were risking their lives for their country. They were also providing manna for people starved for the sound of their own language. In a letter to Kotlarczyk, Wojtyła showed the missionary passion behind his cultural resistance. He wrote his teacher that he wanted to build "a theatre that will be a church where the national spirit will burn."
The poem entitle “The Quarry” recalls the wartime experiences:

He wasn't alone.
His muscles grew into the flesh of the crowd, energy their pulse,
As long as they held a hammer, as long as his feet felt the ground.
And a stone smashed his temples and cut through his heart's chamber.
They took his body and walked in a silent line
Toil still lingered about him, a sense of wrong.
They wore gray blouses, boots ankle-deep in mud.
In this, they showed the end.
How violently his time halted: the pointers on the low voltage dials jerked, then dropped to zero again.

White stone now within him, eating into his being, taking over enough of him to turn him into stone.

Who will lift up that stone, unfurl his thoughts again under the cracked temples?
So plaster cracks on the wall.
They laid him down, his back on a sheet of gravel.
His wife came, worn out with worry; his son returned from school
Should his anger now flow into the anger of others?
It was maturing in him through his own truth and love
Should he be used by those who came after, deprived of substance, unique and deeply his own?
The stones on the move again; a wagon bruising the flowers.
Again the electric current cuts deep into the walls.
But the man has taken with him the world's inner structure, where the greater the anger, the higher the explosion of love.

From the very beginning the works, both poetic, and dramatic of Karol Wojtyła were saturated with spirituality and inspired by the Romantic tradition. The early lyrics were followed by the biblical dramas or dramatic poems Job and Jeremiah, both written in 1940. After the end of the World War Two, Karol Wojtyła who had by that time resigned from his ambitions to become an actor and took holy orders, did not reject the theatre fully. He wrote two plays Our God's Brother in 1945 and The Jeweller's Shop in 1960 which was in 1988 made into a film.

He continued to write lyrical poetry but published his poems under the pseudonyms of of Andrzej Jawień, Piotr Jawień or Stanisław Andrzej Gruda. The lyrics appeared in various Polish religious and philosophical journals. Many years later they were collected and published in the volume

The Place Within - the poerty of John Paul II
Professor Piotr Kuhiwczak from the University of Warwick recalls the reaction to the Pope’s literary works after his election in 1978.

It seemed that after his election to the Holy See, Karol Wojtyła, now His Holiness Pope John Paul II concentrated on his theological works and sermons. The world reading public was surprised once more in March 2003 when his last volume of poetry "Roman Tryptych - Meditations" was published.

Listen: the even knocking of hammers,
so much their own,
I project on to the people
to test the strength of each blow.
Listen now: electric current
cuts through a river of rock.
And a thought grows in me day after day:
the greatness of work is inside man.
Hard and cracked
his hand is differently charged
by the hammer
and thought differently unravels in stone
as human energy splits from the strength of stone
cutting the bloodstream, an artery
in the right place.
Look, how love feeds
on this well-grounded anger
which flows in to people's breath
as a river bent by the wind,
and which is never spoken, but just breaks high vocal cords.
Passers-by scuttle off into doorways,
someone whispers: "Yet here is a great force."
Fear not. Man's daily deeds have a wide span,
a strait riverbed can't imprison them long.
Fear not. For centuries they all stand in Him,
and you look at Him now
through the even knocking of hammers.

Bound are the blocks of stone, the low-voltage wire
cuts deep in their flesh, an invisible whip—
stones know this violence.
When an elusive blast rips their ripe compactness
and tears them from their eternal simplicity,
the stones know this violence.
Yet can the current unbind their full strength?
It is he who carries that strength in his hands:
the worker.

Hands are the heart's landscape. They split sometimes
like ravines into which an undefined force rolls.
The very same hands which man only opens
when his palms have had their fill of toil.
Now he sees: because of him alone others can walk in peace.
Hands are a landscape. When they split, the pain of their sores
surges free as a stream.
But no thought of pain—
no grandeur in pain alone.
For his own grandeur he does not know how to name.

No, not just hands drooping with the hammer's weight,
not the taut torso, muscles shaping their own style,
but thought informing his work,
deep, knotted in wrinkles on his brow,
and over his head, joined in a sharp arc, shoulders and veins vaulted.
So for a moment he is a Gothic building
cut by a vertical thought born in the eyes.
No, not a profile alone,
not a mere figure between God and the stone,
sentenced to grandeur and error.

Karol Wojtyła’s writing was not limited to lyrics and drama. He emerged as an important theologian and philosopher. His most famous works are "Love and Responsibility" published in 1960, "The Active Person" from 1969, and "Issues on the Subject of Morality" issued in 1991. He was also the author of numerous articles published by the church press such as a cycle of articles An Ethical Primer from the late 1950s which were published in book form in 1979.

John Beseeches Her

Don't lower the wave of my heart,
it swells to your eyes, mother;
don't alter love, but bring the wave to me
in your translucent hands.
He asked for this.
I am John the fisherman. There isn't much
in me to love.
I feel I am still on that lake shore,
gravel crunching under my feet—
and, suddenlyHim.
You will embrace his mystery in me no more,
yet quietly I spread round your thoughts like myrtle.
And calling you MotherHis wish—
I beseech you: may this word
never grow less for you.
True, it's not easy to measure the meaning
of the words he breathed into us both
so that all earlier love in those words
should be concealed


So many grew round me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

Girl Disappointed in Love

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits—
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love-
why don't you see?
The human heartwhat is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

As the Pope, John Paul II published a number of books which were mainly of autobiographical character. The first of them was Do Not be Afraid from 1982, followed in 1994 by Crossing the Threshold of Hope. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination John Paul II published his spiritual autobiography Gift and Mystery. His years of work as the archbishop of Cracow he recalled in the volume Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way published in 2004. His last published work was a volume Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium which appeared just a few weeks before his death.

Doctor Piotr Kuhiwczak of University of Warwick believes that Pope’s works will remain in history of literature.