“Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly”

“This World” by Czeslaw Milosz. Film by Zbigniew Czapla.

CZESLAW MILOSZ’S BATTLE FOR TRUTH: Having experienced both Nazi and Communist rule, Poland’s great exile poet arrived at a unique blend of skepticism and sincerity. – Adam Kirsch – New Yorker – May 29, 2017

“…it was his lifelong, intimate knowledge of suffering, both private and public, that did the most to shape Milosz’s work. Unlike many great twentieth-century writers, who saw truth in despair, Milosz’s experiences convinced him that poetry must not darken the world but illuminate it: ‘Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, / under unbearable duress and only with the hope / that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.’ That decision for goodness is what makes Milosz a figure of such rare literary and moral authority. As we enter what looks like our own time of troubles, his poetry and his life offer a reminder of what it meant, and what it took, to survive the twentieth century.”

Child of Europe

Czeslaw Milosz

1
We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.

We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.

Read rest of poem 

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