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In Praise of the Unfinished: Selected Poems
     

In Praise of the Unfinished: Selected Poems

by Julia Hartwig, John Carpenter (Translator), Bogdana Carpenter (Translator)
 

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Hailed by Czeslaw Milosz as “the grande dame of Polish poetry” and named “one of the foremost Polish poets of the twentieth century” by Ryszard Kapuscinski, Julia Hartwig has long been considered the gold standard of poetry in her native Poland. With this career-spanning collection, we finally have a book of her work in English.
The

Overview

Hailed by Czeslaw Milosz as “the grande dame of Polish poetry” and named “one of the foremost Polish poets of the twentieth century” by Ryszard Kapuscinski, Julia Hartwig has long been considered the gold standard of poetry in her native Poland. With this career-spanning collection, we finally have a book of her work in English.
The tragic story of the last century flows naturally through Hartwig’s poems. She evokes the husbands who returned silent from battle (“What woman was told about the hell at Monte Cassino?”) and asks, “Why didn’t I dance on the Champs-Élysées / when the crowd cheered the end of the war? . . . Why was I fated to be on the main street of Lublin / watching regiments with red stars enter the city.” But there is also a welcoming of new experience in her verse, a sense that life, finally, is too beautiful to condemn. She seeks a higher peace, urging us to hear other voices: “an ermine’s cry, moan of a dove, / complaint of an owl—that remind us / the hardship of solitude is measured out equally.”
Hartwig’s compassionate spirit in the face of destruction and suffering, her apparent need to live in the moment, make her poems monumental and deeply touching and the introduction of her work here long overdue.
Return to My Childhood Home
Amid a dark silence of pines—the shouts of young birches calling each other.
Everything is as it was. Nothing is as it was.
Speak to me, Lord of the child. Speak,
innocent terror!
To understand nothing. Each time in a different way, from the first cry to the last breath.
Yet happy moments come to me from the past,
like bridesmaids carrying oil lamps.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307267207
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/04/2008
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 9.01(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tell Me Why This Hurry

The lindens are blossoming the lindens have lost their blossoms and this flowery procession moves without any restraint
Where are you hurrying lilies of the valley jasmines petunias lilacs irises roses and peonies
Mondays and Tuesdays Wednesdays and Fridays nasturtiums and gladioli zinnias and lobelias yarrow dill goldenrod and grasses flowery Mays and Junes and Julys and Augusts lakes of flowers seas of flowers meadows holy fires of fern one-day grails
Tell me why this hurry where are you rushing in a cherry blizzard a deluge of greenness all with the wind racing in one direction only crowns proud yesterday today fallen into sand eternal desires passions mistresses of destruction

Victoria

Why didn’t I dance on the Champs-Élysées when the crowd cheered the end of the war?
Why didn’t I throw myself into the arms of a sailor who walked down the gangway with a duffel on his arm and ran toward me through the excited crowd raging sounds of bebop
La Marseillaise” and “God Save the Queen”
blaring from the loudspeakers?

Why didn’t I break out a bottle of champagne next to the two of them still dressed in English uniforms not guessing one day I would stand at the end of their road?

Why was I fated to be on the main street of Lublin watching regiments with red stars enter the city crying with joy I would no longer hear the hated Raus! and Halt!
but torn by sadness this was the price for a lost dream of a hero’s triumphant entry on a white horse for the return of those who twice cheated didn’t want to come back

So we stood–the ones who survived–
on the streets of Warsaw transformed into a desert and today years later find ourselves in the fading films of old newsreels hard to recognize

A Message

Go to the park in the morning before the sun’s chariot rolls to the top
You will be alone you will be a lord among the crowned heads of poplars oaks pines

Go to the park in the morning in autumn you will be ruler of the season gentle as a caress benevolent between the terror of summer and winter

Go to the park on an autumn morning
It waits for you its face hidden in shade

Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter.

Meet the Author

Julia Hartwig has published more than a dozen collections of poetry in her native country, and her work has been translated into French, Lithuanian, German, Russian, Serbian, Hungarian, and Italian. The recipient of numerous awards for her work, she is also a well-known translator of English and French poetry into Polish.

Bogdana Carpenter is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Poetic Avant-Garde in Poland, 1918–1939, and Monumenta Polonica: The First Four Centuries of Polish Poetry, as well as other works.

John Carpenter
is a poet and literary critic. He is author of Creating the World and a study of the literature of the Second World War. Among translations the Carpenters have done as a team are seven volumes of poetry and prose by Zbigniew Herbert.

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