Adam Zagajewski’s most recent book is Unseen Hand:
Poems. (August 2014)

Ruth

In memory of Ruth Buczyńska She survived the war in Tarnopol. In darkness and semi-darkness. In fear. She was afraid of rats and heavy boots, loud conversations, screams. She died just now, in darkness, in a hospital ward’s white quiet. She was a Jew. Sometimes she didn’t …

Two Poems by Adam Zagajewski

SELF-PORTRAIT IN A LITTLE MUSEUM A swarthy Christ watched me from small trecento paintings; I didn’t understand his gaze, but I wanted to open up before it. A rapt, darked-haired Christ, unswervingly attentive, bounded by Byzantium’s gold frame, watched me while my …

Was it

Was it worth waiting in consulates for some clerk’s fleeting good humor and waiting at the station for a late train, seeing Etna in its Japanese cloak and Paris at dawn, as Haussmann’s conventional caryatids came looming from the dark, entering cheap restaurants …

Subject: Brodsky

Please note: born in May, in a damp city (hence the motif: water), soon to be surrounded by an army whose officers kept Hölderlin in their knapsacks, but alas, they had no time for reading. Too much to do.   Tone—sardonic, despair—authentic.

Reading Milosz

I read your poetry once more, poems written by a rich man, understanding all, and by a pauper, homeless, an emigrant, alone. You always want to say more than we can, to transcend poetry, take flight, but also to descend, to penetrate …

On Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004)

REASON AND ROSES The following essay was written as a review of the Polish edition of Czeslaw Milosz’s collection This, published in 2000. The poems in This appear in English translation in New and Collected Poems: 1931–2001, published in 2001. Adam Zagajewski’s essay will appear in his A Defense of …

Our World

I never met him, I only knew his books and the odd photos, as if picked up in a secondhand shop, and human fates found in a secondhand shop, and a voice quietly narrating, a gaze that took in so much, a gaze turned …

Farewell for Zbigniew Herbert

At first only cherries and the comic flight of bats, the apple moon, a drowsy owl, the tang of icy water on school outings. The city’s towers rise like words of love. Afterwards, long after, Provence’s golden dust, fig trees in the vineyards, the lesson …

My Krakow

Walking through the center of Krakow. The narrow medieval streets leading to the Old Market, the shifting perspectives, the nervous rhythm of the rooftops—all joined to form the blood vessels of a living, organic system. You could circle the old city center by way of the Planty gardens in an …

Two Poems

Franz Schubert, Opus Posth. The train stopped in a field; the sudden silence startled even sleep’s most ardent partisans. The distant lights of shops or factories glittered in the haze like the yellow eyes of wolves. Businessmen on trips stooped over their computers, totting up …

From Memory

The narrow street rears up from memory— let it be this poem’s larynx— and the thick, gray smoke above the coking plant, casting sparks into the sky like a volcano, repaying its debt to the stars. My street: two proud old maids with …

The Three Kings

We’ll arrive too late… —André Frenaud, “The Three Kings” If it hadn’t been for the desert and laughter and music— we’d have made it, if our yearning hadn’t mingled with the highways’ dust. We saw poor countries, made still poorer by their ancient hatred; …

Three Poems by Adam Zagajewski

What a joy to see a major poet emerging from a hardly differentiated mass of contemporaries and taking the lead in the poetry of my language, a living proof that Polish literature is energy incessantly renewed against all probabilities! Born in 1945, Zagajewski belonged to the angry “generation of 1968” …