Second Space: New Poems


Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz's most recent collection Second Space marks a new stage in one of the great poetic pilgrimages of our time. Few poets have inhabited the land of old age as long or energetically as Milosz, for whom this territory holds both openings and closings, affirmations as well as losses. "Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year, / I felt a door opening in me and I entered / the clarity of early morning," he writes in "Late Ripeness." Elsewhere he laments the loss of his ...

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Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz's most recent collection Second Space marks a new stage in one of the great poetic pilgrimages of our time. Few poets have inhabited the land of old age as long or energetically as Milosz, for whom this territory holds both openings and closings, affirmations as well as losses. "Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year, / I felt a door opening in me and I entered / the clarity of early morning," he writes in "Late Ripeness." Elsewhere he laments the loss of his voracious vision — "My wondrously quick eyes, you saw many things, / Lands and cities, islands and oceans" — only to discover a new light that defies the limits of physical sight: "Without eyes, my gaze is fixed on one bright point, / That grows large and takes me in."

Second Space is typically capacious in the range of voices, forms, and subjects it embraces. It moves seamlessly from dramatic monologues to theological treatises, from philosophy and history to epigrams, elegies, and metaphysical meditations. It is unified by Milosz's ongoing quest to find the bond linking the things of this world with the order of a "second space," shaped not by necessity, but grace. Second Space invites us to accompany a self-proclaimed "apprentice" on this extraordinary quest. In "Treatise on Theology," Milosz calls himself "a one day's master." He is, of course, far more than this. Second Space reveals an artist peerless both in his capacity to confront the world's suffering and in his eagerness to embrace its joys: "Sun. And sky. And in the sky white clouds. / Only now everything cried to him: Eurydice! / How will I live without you, my consoling one! / But there was a fragrant scent of herbs, the low humming of bees, / And he fell asleep with his cheek on the sun-warmed earth."

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Editorial Reviews

Meghan O'Rourke
… the story Milosz is telling is our story, an American one as well as a European one, about broken faith and lost meanings in need of repair. His curiosity about intellectual questions -- and about the endurance of memory -- had that particular quality of persistence that is itself a branch of genius. There are certain human beings who have the capacity to ask the question ''Why?'' long after everyone else has tired of it (and, perhaps, its attending answer). ''Crooked'' they may be, like the rest of us -- and yet they set themselves apart by virtue of will. ''I should be dead already, but there is work to do,'' Milosz writes here, in the lovely, fragmented ''Notebook.'' Alas, his work is now in our hands. But our job -- reading it -- is among the most rewarding ones imaginable.
— The New York Times
Cynthia Haven
Those who have followed Milosz's trajectory will marvel that he came up with his own poetic brand of a happy ending, that his lifelong ambivalences finally resolve into the grace and gravitas of this book.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The title's second space comprises heaven and hell, which have "vanished forever"; without them the blessed cannot "meet salvation" and the damned "find suitable quarters." In mourning, the poet exhorts: "Let us implore that it be returned to us,/ That second space." The Nobel laureate, who died this past summer in Krak w at 93, is preoccupied in this collection with establishing that space through words, but also finds it in carnality and in "the unattainable Now." The opening section of summative short lyrics on themes familiar from late Milosz (memory, salvation, place) is followed by four long poems. "Father Severinus" is an eponymous 11-poem dramatic monologue of a priest (who shares one of the names of medieval philosopher Boethius) in whom there is "only a hope of hope." Next comes "Treatise on Theology" ("A young man couldn't write a treatise like this,/ Though I don't think it is dictated by fear of death"), followed by "Apprentice," a beautiful autobiography in verse (with extensive prose annotations by Milosz) and finally a stunning, short "Orpheus and Eurydice": "His lyre was silent and in his dream he was defenseless./ He knew he must have faith and he could not have faith./ And so he would persist, for a very long time,/ Counting his steps in a half-wakeful torpor." The terrors, torpors and partial redemptions of this collection feel wholly earned. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Early essays and final poems from the late, great Nobel prize winner. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060755249
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/23/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 965,685
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Czeslaw Milosz was born in Szetejnie, Lithuania, in 1911. He worked with the Polish resistance movement in Warsaw during World War II and was later stationed in Paris and Washington, D.C., as a Polish cultural attaché. He defected to France in 1951, and in 1960 he accepted a position at the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, and was a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He died in 2004.

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Table of Contents

Second space 3
Late ripeness 4
If there is no God 5
In Krakow 6
Framing 7
Werki 8
Advantage 9
A master of my craft 10
A stay 11
On old women 12
Classmate 13
Tenant 15
Guardian angel 17
A beautiful stranger 18
To spite nature 19
I should now 21
High terraces 22
Nonadaptation 23
Hear me 24
Scientists 25
Merchants 26
Coffer 27
I 28
Degradation 29
New age 30
Eyes 31
Notebook 32
Many-tiered man 34
Father Severinus 37
Treatise on theology 47
Apprentice 67
Orpheus and Eurydice 99
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First Chapter

Second Space
New Poems
Second Space

How spacious the heavenly halls are!
Approach them on aerial stairs.
Above white clouds, there are the hanging gardens of paradise.

A soul tears itself from the body and soars.
It remembers that there is an up.
And there is a down.

Have we really lost faith in that other space?
Have they vanished forever, both Heaven and Hell?

Without unearthly meadows how to meet salvation?
And where will the damned find suitable quarters?

Let us weep, lament the enormity of the loss.
Let us smear our faces with coal, loosen our hair.

Let us implore that it be returned to us,
That second space.

Second Space
New Poems
. Copyright © by Czeslaw Milosz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Milosz at his Finest!

    Czeslaw Milosz might be one of the most accessible poet's I've found lately. His writing is very rooted in his native Poland and he wrestles with the notion of being an poet in exile. Can't recommend his work highly enough, deeply moving.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2009

    Wonderful poetry and thoughts

    The poetry in this book was recommended by a friend and I agree that it is truly wonderful. It explores many subjects in dynamic and unusual directions. Truly thought provoking.

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