I picked up a book of essays by Adam Zagajewski, called In Defense of Ardor, an elegant title. The title essay discusses the role of irony in modern writing, and makes a case for less of it, more engagement. It’s worth reading in it’s entirety if that subject interests you. But the quote today is from the essay “The Shabby and the Sublime,” about the act of writing.
“Maybe we’re not altogether alone in our empty room in our workshop: if so many writers love solitude it may be because they’re not really all that lonely. There really is a higher voice that sometimes–too rarely–speaks. We catch it only in the moments of our greatest concentration. This voice may only speak once, it may make itself heard only after long years of waiting: still, it changes everything…
Inspiration is short-lived, of course–but its fleeting presence is important, it cleanses something in us, it opens us to that voice which we understand so poorly, but whose absence would leave us little wiser than any of the other mammals.”
I think this is a perfect expression of that inspiration that writers court endlessly and rarely find. But when it comes!
Zagajewski writes in Polish, and Clare Cavanagh translated these essays as well as many of his poems. He is a truly literate man, so widely-read that a whole course could be created just from the sources he cites in his essays.