June 13, 1997 |
In 1958, Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk residing in a monastery in Kentucky, wrote a direct, inquisitive letter to Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish poet self-exiled in France. Milosz's poetry was then unknown in the United States, but five years earlier, his book "The Captive Mind" had been published in this country. In it he undertook a subtle dissection of the attractions and psychological effects of communism through a series of allegorical portraits of contemporary Polish writers.
September 29, 1996 |
Anna Swir (Swirszczynska) was born in 1911 in Warsaw. When she died 83 years later in Krakow, she left behind a unique body of work. Hers is a poetry unrivaled in its attention to the ways in which desire shapes our lives. She calls a night of love "a big baroque battle / and two victories," and while she thinks "The poet should be as sensitive as an aching tooth," her own vision is as fierce as life itself.
February 5, 2006 |
Legends of Modernity Essays and Letters From Occupied Poland 1942-1943 Czeslaw Milosz Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 270 pp., $25 * IN his later years, Czeslaw Milosz sometimes made laconic but highly provocative pronouncements about the relationship between literature and history. "I hold Whitman responsible for World War I and Darwin responsible for World War II," he once said, with neither a laugh nor even a grin.
March 11, 2001 |
"My time, my twentieth century"--says Lithuanian-born Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz in this new, eccentric book of prose--"weighs on me as a host of voices and the faces of people whom I once knew, or heard about, and now they no longer exist." In "Milosz's ABC's" those voices are allowed to spill out (in alphabetical order!) in a series of mini-essays, vignettes, portraits of people famous and humble and little philosophical parables.
August 14, 1994 |
The first thing one should know about the poet Czeslaw Milosz is that he was born in a country that no longer exists. Milosz's Wilno (Vilnius) is, as he puts it, "Atlantis." He saw the end of two countries, first czarist Russia, then independent Lithuania. And although the latter nation has been reborn, it is not the country Milosz knew: The Jews are gone, and so, by and large, are the Poles. All that is left are scattered memories, in the minds of old women and men, and books. Like Isaac Bashevis Singer's stories of prewar Poland, Milosz's literature is an attempt to recreate Atlantis, as it were, in poetry and memoirs.
December 5, 2010 |
Stepping Stones Interviews with Seamus Heaney Edited by Dennis O'Driscoll Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $18 paper Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is our greatest living poet, and here's a combination for connoisseurs. "Stepping Stones" is a book-length series of linked interviews with the poet conducted by poet Dennis O'Driscoll. It all adds up to an autobiography. When Heaney recently turned 70, Ireland's national radio had the poet record his readings of his poems for broadcast.
June 21, 1998 |
Susan Sontag, in "On Photography," has called photographs "inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy." So it is with Mikhail Lemkhin's photo-poem, "Joseph Brodsky / Leningrad: Fragments," a book that invites as much speculation and fantasy toward Brodsky as toward Leningrad itself. Forced into exile, Brodsky wrote about the city of his birth in his essay "Less Than One." "In the national experience, the city is definitely Leningrad; in the growing vulgarity of its content, it becomes Leningrad more and more.
June 24, 1990 |
Poets in America often suffer an exile of indifference, and it is hard to imagine why a poet would find widespread recognition unwelcome. Since winning the Nobel Prize in 1980, Czeslaw Milosz has become one of the best-known and most admired poets in the world but sometimes, he has found, for the wrong reasons. His celebrity grew at a time when Lech Walesa and Solidarity were changing Poland.
June 29, 1986
While "Unattainable Earth" may not be among the best of Czeslaw Milosz's work, it is taken seriously nevertheless by critics other than your reviewer, Tom Phillips (Book Review, May 25), because of what Milosz has accomplished over a lifetime and not because of any "atmosphere of overindulgence" created by the New York Review of Books. The work of someone of the stature of Milosz, despite its occasional slenderness, could have been made and published in any atmosphere. R. E. NOWICKI Publisher, San Francisco Review of Books