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Fiction

July 20, 1986|Wanda Urbanska

TREMOR: SELECTED POEMS by Adam Zagajewski; translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $12.95). Throughout the 20th Century, Poland's insistent political needs have dominated its literature, leaving poets and writers with little license, or opportunity, to explore life's nuances and vagaries. Although he was born in 1946, Adam Zagajewski is a product of this tradition. As a member of what Czeslaw Milosz calls "the angry generation of 1968," Zagajewski's early poetry satirized the totalitarian state. However, in his splendid new volume (masterfully translated by Renata Gorczynski), the poet breaks out of this historical halter. His poem "To Go to Lvov" is a meditation on his hometown, now a part of the Soviet Ukraine; in it, Zagajewski integrates the political and the contemplative in a luxurious, lyrical fashion:

The bells pealed and the air vibrated, the cornets

of nuns sailed like schooners near

the theater, there was so much of the world that

it had to do encores over and over. . .

(T)here was too much of Lvov, and now

there isn't any, it grew relentlessly

and the scissors cut it, chilly gardeners

as always in May, without mercy . . . .

Poland's tragic history informs but no longer overwhelms this poet's work. Zagajewski's new-found perspective coincides with his 1981 move to Paris, but it also bespeaks the emergence of a generation of "post-nationalist" Polish poets.

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