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Description - The Witness of Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Miosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, reflects upon poetry's testimony to the events of our tumultuous time. From the special perspectives of "my corner of Europe," a classical and Catholic education, a serious encounter with Marxism, and a life marked by journeys and exiles, Milosz has developed a sensibility at once warm and detached, flooded with specific memory yet never hermetic or provincial. Milosz addresses many of the major problems of contemporary poetry, beginning with the pessimism and negativism prompted by reductionist interpretations of man's animal origins. He examines the tendency of poets since Mallarme to isolate themselves from society, and stresses the need for the poet to make himself part of the great human family. One chapter is devoted to the tension between classicism and realism; Milosz believes poetry should be "a passionate pursuit of the real." In "Ruins and Poetry" he looks at poems constructed from the wreckage of a civilization, specifically that of Poland after the horrors of World War II. Finally, he expresses optimism for the world, based on a hoped-for better understanding of the lessons of modern science, on the emerging recognition of humanity's oneness, and on mankind's growing awareness of its own history.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674953833
ISBN-10: 0674953835
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 10mm)
Pages: 128
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Jul-1984
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - The Witness of Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Book Reviews - The Witness of Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

US Kirkus Review » Milosz is a difficult prose writer - not because he uses a jargon or intricate structures or ephemeral imagery, but because his ideas seem not to develop at all. . . until suddenly there's his conclusion: dynamic, whole, learned, modulated, staring you in the face. Here, in Harvard's Norton lectures, Milosz seems at first to meander. He discusses his cousin O. V. de L. Milosz's definition of poetry as "a passionate pursuit of the Real"; he asks, "Is non-eschatological poetry possible?"; he proposes that this century's poetry may be based on biology (Darwin, DNA, etc.); he scores classicism for fettering the poet's amorous desire for the world. All interesting - but going where? Polish poetry is then offered as an example of a poetry which, through historical tragedy, has had to overcome alienation, the bohemian/philistine split. And now the argument finally begins to appear: "The poetic art changes with the amount of background reality embraced by the poet's consciousness." That Western poetry's background reality consists essentially of ruins, Milosz accepts without sadness; realizing it, he offers, can turn us away from biological illusions of self-sufficiency and back toward history - civilization (failed or not), interdependence, humanity. Milosz, neither Marxist nor reactionary, doesn't easily despair. (It's too bad, he says, that a Nicaragua can't yet learn lessons from a Poland - but historical time is non-parallel, and always will be.) It's dazzling to see what seems like diffidence turning into virile coherence (like Milosz's poetry), to hear a poet speaking of reality without fear or maneuvers or myths. Notable - but demanding and slow to take hold. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Czeslaw Milosz

Milosz is the first Slavic poet to hold the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard University. He is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.

Books By Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected Poems 1931-2001 by Czeslaw Milosz
Paperback / softback, April 2017
Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz
Hardback, March 2017
Josef Koudelka: Exiles by Czeslaw Milosz
Hardback, September 2014
Native Realm by Czeslaw Milosz
Paperback, March 2014