The Witness of Poetry

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Harvard University Press, 1983 - Literary Criticism - 121 pages
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Czeslaw Milosz, 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 Mallarm 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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After winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, Czeslaw Milosz was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, a series of six lectures on poetry. Milosz's talks centered on the ... Read full review

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It would be interesting to read about criticism and tension of poets by what they write about.

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About the author (1983)

Czeslaw Milosz is the recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. His most recent publications are Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz (FSG, 1997) and Road-side Dog (FSG, 1998). He lives in Berkeley, California.

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