Thursday, March 10, 2011

Celebrating the Poetry and Life of Czeslaw Milosz

This is the year of Czeslaw Milosz, and a number of celebrations in his honor are scheduled across the country.

Cecilia Woloch and I will be doing one in Los Angeles for the Modjeska Club on April 16, 2011, 6:30 p.m. The presentation is entitled "Milosz in My Life, conversation with poets John Guzlowski and Cecilia Woloch." It will be given at The Ruskin Art Club, Los Angeles. For further information, please go to Maja Trochimczyk's Modjeska Club blog

Here's one of my favorite poems by the Nobel Laureate:


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.


I also received a notice about a celebration from the Polish Cultural Institute of New York. Here is their announcement:

The Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y together with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York present


Monday, March 21, 2011, 8:00 PM

The Unterberg Poetry Center
1395 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
Admission: $19//$10 age 35 and under Tel: 212.415.5550

Czeslaw Milosz's "trust in the delicious joy-bringing potential of art and intellect was protected by strong bulwarks built from the knowledge and experience that he had gained at first hand and at great cost."
- Seamus Heaney, 2004

The Polish Cultural Institute in New York is honored to announce the first event in the United States in a year-long international celebration of the centennial of the birth of Nobel Prize winning poet, essayist, translator, and scholar, Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004). The Polish parliament has declared 2011 the Milosz Year in honor of one of Poland's greatest cultural figures.

The Unterberg Poetry Center, which hosted six readings by Czeslaw Milosz during his lifetime, in collaboration with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York have invited Milosz's friend and Berkeley colleague, poet Robert Hass, translator and Milosz biographer Clare Cavanagh, and one of the most important contemporary Polish poets who has also been dividing his time between Poland and the US, Adam Zagajewski, to read and reflect upon the life and work of Czeslaw Milosz at the 92nd Street Y.

One hundred years after his birth, fifty-seven years after the publication of his seminal essay [The Captive Mind], Milosz's indictment of the servile intellectual rings truer than ever: "his chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself." - Tony Judt, New York Review of Books, 2010

Branded a "catastrophist" by critics of his early poetry in the 1930s, publishing underground at great risk during the Second World War, challenged by leftist intellectuals in Paris in the 1950s for seeking asylum from the Polish Communist government, criticized by Polish emigres for having served as a diplomat in the same government, joining the anti-war movement at Berkeley in the 1960s, and questioned by conservative Catholics as a heretic at his burial, Czeslaw Milosz lived a full life as an independent thinker and as an inspiration to others struggling against the prevailing forces in their own contexts. Milosz spent over 40 years in the United States, becoming an important figure in the West Coast poetry scene, across the country, and throughout the world, and many of the Milosz Year events in the United States in 2011 will focus on his time in America and his American legacy.


One of the best sources for Milosz's poems online is the Poetry Foundation site.

For more information about events in the US celebrating Milosz's writing, please click here.

Jolanta W. Best has written a very good summary of the events scheduled in Poland to celebrate Milosz. Please click here.

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