Monday, January 9, 2017

Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski is a Polish poet, essayist and translator. He divides his time between Krakow and Chicago, where he teaches at the University of Chicago. His awards include the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award.

His poem "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" appeared on the back cover of The New Yorker shortly after the September 11th attacks, and received a lot of attention. His books include Without End: New and Selected Poems (FSG, 2003) and most-recently, Unseen Hand (FSG, 2011).

In acknowledgement of Czeslaw Milosz's question of the Pope, "[H]ow in the 20th century can one write religious poetry differently?” Zagajewski has said, “I think poets have to be able to find fresh metaphors for old metaphysical objects and longings. I’m a Christian, a sometimes doubting one (but this is almost a definition of a Christian: to doubt also). In my writing I have to be radically different from a priest. My language must have the sheen of a certain discovery.”

The following poem is from Without End.


I was born in a city of wild cherries
and hard-seeded sunflowers (common wisdom
had it halfway from the West
to the East). Globes stained by verdigris
kept careless vigil.

Might only the absence of presence be perfect?
Presence, after all, infected with the original
sin of existence, is excessive, savage,
Oriental, superb, while beauty, like a fruit knife,
snips its bit of plenitude off.
Life accumulates through generations
as in a pond; it does not vanish
with its moment but turns
airy and dry. I think
of a half-conscious prayer, the chapped lips
of a boy at his first confession,
the wooden step creaking
under his knees.
At night, autumn arrives
for the harvest, yellow, ripe for flame.
There are, I know, not one
but at least four realities,
like the Gospels.
I know I'm alone, but linked
firmly to you, painfully, gladly.
I know only the mysteries are immortal.

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting this, and many other poets.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Adam Zagajewski: second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.