Why People Don’t ‘Get’ Czeslaw Milosz

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‘It took place at an evening poetry discussion at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. It was a meeting devoted to [Miłosz’s] Second Space, which had recently appeared in English. All, and I mean all, of the Americans there were convinced that Miłosz was most likely a postmodern spiritual seeker, probably much like them, possibly fascinated by archetypes, certainly spiritual, and definitely not religious. Had Miłosz been there he might have recycled the words he hurled at Kisiel in A Year of the Hunter, “[They don’t] take into account a particular, quite fundamental fact: all my intellectual impulses are religious and in that sense my poetry is religious.” No such luck. Yet, unbeknownst to me, I had an ally who was in on the joke Miłosz was playing, in absentia, upon this poor but sincere American audience. This stranger/ally clearly had an Eastern European accent and he kept taking up my cause. He kept waving the flag of Miłosz as a homo religiosus and, anathema sit, a practicing Catholic! We quoted poems from Second Space, made reference to his other work, and cited countless details of his biography. All to no avail. I’m convinced the Americans thought we were trying to play an inverse Polack joke on them.’

 

Artur Sebastian Rosman,

 

Quoted in The Book Haven: Cynthia Haven’s Blog For The Written Word

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