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«Miłosz Like the World»

Poet in the Eyes of Polish Literary Critics


Edited By Zdzislaw Lapinski

Czesław Miłosz, poet, literary critic, essayist and Nobel Laureate, is a familiar person to the Anglophone literary community. But American and British critics in the main are not very competent in the intimate features of Polish literary culture and have no access to the Polish language. This volume presents some of the most penetrating commentaries on Miłosz’s œuvre by Polish critics. They illuminate both intrinsic poetic matters, such as the verse structure or the genre tradition, and the specific historic background of his poems, such as life under Nazi occupation. This comprehensive outline will be indispensable to anyone wanting to understand the real meaning of the often enigmatic writer and his, as Helen Vendler called it, Shakespearean breadth.
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Poet on Poets: Jacek Łukasiewicz


Poet on Poets

Jacek Łukasiewicz

Miłosz refers to other poets in dedications or the titles of his poems, as well as addressing them in the form of a poetic letter, ode or humorous verse. He also writes about them in the third person, sometimes just mentioning them in passing in a longer poem, while in other cases adopting a broader form of ballad or quasi-essay. Writers often appear in his poems not just as authors, but serve functions that go beyond literature, although it happens that they may figure strictly as poets. They are frequently present in an indirect manner, i.e. through quotations, allusions or by way of stylisation. In many cases, however, they are clearly referred to by their names, surnames, pseudonyms, or with the help of an unambiguous periphrasis.

In the period before the Second World War, we encounter the addressees of dedications in works written in the third person. The poem “About a Younger Brother” [“O młodszym bracie”] is dedicated to Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, while “Lullaby” [“Kołysanka”] – to Józef Czechowicz. Although the poem titled “Letter from 1 January 1935” [“List 1/1 1935”] is not explicitly dedicated to Jerzy Zagórski, it evidently appears to be addressed to him. A different case is the poem “About a Book” [“O książce”]. It speaks of those authors whose tradition cannot be preserved by new, catastrophic visionaries – a circle of poets which Miłosz himself was part of:

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