I just finished a slim, posthumous book of Adam Zagajewski’s poems. This little poem seems to me to capture exactly how it feels to long to write when you can’t:
We always forget what poetry is
(or maybe it happens only to me).
Poetry is a wind blowing from the gods, says
Cioran, citing the Aztecs.
But there are so many quiet, windless days.
The gods are napping then
or they’re preparing tax forms
for even loftier gods.
Oh may that wind return.
The wind blowing from the gods
let it come back, let that wind
from The Life
translated by Clare Cavanagh
They are already growing shorter now, but this passage from Adam Zagajewski’s new book of essays, Slight Exaggeration, perfectly captures the experience of the long evenings–even longer in northern Europe:
“And once again it was June–mild, long, slowly fading evenings, evenings promising so much that no matter what you do with them, you always receive the impression of defeat, of wasted time. Nobody knows the best way to get through them. Continue reading “Those long summer evenings”
Although I primarily know him as a poet, I love Adam Zagewski’s prose. Here is a snippet from his memoir of his student days in Krakow, Another Beauty, beautifully translated by Clare Cavanagh. It’s about the cleaning lady for his student apartment:
She was a magpie, a snoop. I suspected her of regularly rummaging though our things and once left a card that said “Please don’t look here” in my desk drawer. Helena took offense and didn’t speak to me for several days, and then, when her anger had subsided, she reproached me bitterly: “How could you even think such a thing? So you don’t trust me at all.” Continue reading “An exemplary sentence”
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… Continue reading “The exemplary sentence”