Without End: New and Selected Poems

Without End: New and Selected Poems

by Zagajewski
     
 

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I love to swim in the sea, which keeps
talking to itself
in the monotone of a vagabond
who no longer recalls
exactly how long he's been on the road.
Swimming is like prayer:
palms join and part,
join and part,
almost without end.
--from "On Swimming"

Without End

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Overview

I love to swim in the sea, which keeps
talking to itself
in the monotone of a vagabond
who no longer recalls
exactly how long he's been on the road.
Swimming is like prayer:
palms join and part,
join and part,
almost without end.
--from "On Swimming"

Without End draws from each of Adam Zagajewski's English-language collections, both in and out of print--Tremor, Canvas, and Mysticism for Beginners--and features new work that is among his most refreshing and rewarding. These poems, lucidly translated, share the vocation that allows us, in Zagajewski's words, "to experience astonishment and to stop still in that astonishment for a long moment or two."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Zagajewski's poems] transport us into a realm that is majestic, boundless and unknown." —Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post Book World

"Poems [that] celebrate those rare moments when we catch a glimpse of a world from which all labels have been unpeeled." —Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books

Joseph Brodsky
Seldom has the muse . . . spoken to anyone with such clarity and urgency as in Zagajewski’s case.
Publishers Weekly
As he left his native Poland and turned from the committed poetry of his "Generation 69" youth, Zagajewski began to infuse his work with a deep distrust of the darker potentials of language as a tool of recruitment, ready-made allegiance and/or retaliation. What remains, powerfully, is restitution and revelation; Zagajewski has picked up the mantle of mystical, Catholic Romanticism offered by Herbert and Milosz. Showcased here are the loose, abstract, dreamy lyrics that have become his trademark, the bulk of which are drawn from three previous U.S. releases: Tremor: Selected Poems (1985), Canvas (1991) and Mysticism for Beginners (1997). For Zagajewski, all cities are Lvov, the city his family fled, whose streets are now available to him only through remembrance and imagination. A symbol of superfluity ("There was always too much of Lvov"), of Romantic desire and the lost paradise which spurns, Lvov provides an ideal space into which the real world bleeds, and from whose confines one can reach the liberating vistas perceived by the unfettered mind. Such imaginative excesses, with their whimsical non-linearity and continual sway away from direct representational language, work best in the 48 new poems here when the poet's sense of humor prevents, particularly in translation, Romantic imagery from veering into sentiment when the speaker is able to ask facetiously, "But who could it have been,/ since the castle had been empty for so long,/ given up to bats and irony?/ Still everything seemed to indicate/ that someone was dying in the palace./ One couldn't overlook/ the signs of life." Readers won't be able to either. (Feb.) Forecast: The Paris-based Zagajewski, who teaches at the University of Houston every spring, is now eminent, well-reviewed, well-assigned and still makes excellent reading. This will be the Zagajewski most readers buy for the next few years, and the substantial amount of new work should ensure major prize contention. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Essayist, novelist, and poet Zagajewski (Mysticism for Beginners) was one of the most prolific voices of the Polish New Wave movement of the late 1960s. Consider these haunting lines from an early poem appearing here, which exemplify the quality of his work at the time: "I couldn't paint, my voice cracked/ I didn't pass the high school finals,/ I couldn't be an artist. They assigned me/ to the infantry." Zagajewksi has been living in exile in Paris since 1982, however, and the poems from the following decade are filled with absence and longing, the familiar re-created amidst the foreign. The new poems, which make up the first 60 pages of this book, seem to have lost their crispness and sense of urgency, and the imagery has become contrived: "it seems/ you're starting to make peace/ why not me?" It is unfortunate that this book lacks an introduction, which might have been useful in chronicling the surprising shifts in Zagajewski's work. Recommended only for larger collections, but keep in mind that this Polish exile teaches part of the year at the University of Houston. Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374528614
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
03/18/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1945. He lives in Kraków and spends part of the year in Houston, where he teaches at the University of Houston.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Without End by Adam Zagajewski. Copyright © 2002 by Adam Zagajewski. To be published in March, 2003 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

TO SEE

Oh my mute city, honey-gold, buried in ravines, where wolves loped softly down the cold meridian; if I had to tell you, city, asleep beneath a heap of lifeless leaves, if I needed to describe the ocean's skin, on which ships etch the lines of shining poems, and yachts like peacocks flaunt their lofty sails and the Mediterranean, rapt in salty concentration, and cities with sharp turrets gleaming in the keen morning sun, and the savage strength of jets piercing the clouds, the bureaucrats' undying scorn for us, people, Umbria's narrow streets like cisterns that stop up ancient time tasting of sweet wine, and a certain hill, where the stillest tree is growing, gray Paris, threaded by the river of salvation, Krakow, on Sunday, when even chestnut leaves seem pressed by an unseen iron, vineyards raided by the greedy fall and by highways full of fear; if I had to describe the sobriety of the night when it happened, and the clatter of the train running into nothingness and the blade flaring on a makeshift skating rink; I'm writing from the road, I had to see, and not just know, to see clearly the sights and fires of a single world, but you unmoving city turned to stone, my brethren in the shallow sand; the earth still turns above you and the Roman legions march and a polar fox attends the wind in a white wasteland where sounds perish.

THE SOUL

We know we're not allowed to use your name. We know you're inexpressible, anemic, frail, and suspect for mysterious offenses as a child. We know that you are not allowed to live now in music or in trees at sunset. We know—or at least we've been told— that you do not exist at all, anywhere. And yet we still keep hearing your weary voice —in an echo, a complaint, in the letters we receive from Antigone in the Greek desert.

FAREWELL FOR ZBIGNIEW HERBERT

At first only cherries and the comic flight of bats, the apple moon, a drowsy owl, the tang of 0icy water on school outings. The city's towers rise like words of love. Afterwards, long after, Provence's golden dust, fig trees in the vineyards, the lesson of white Greece, obscure museums, Piero's Madonna great with child —in the interim, two occupations, two inhuman armies, death's clumsy vehicles patrol your streets.

Long days spent translating Georg Trakl, "The Captive Blackbird's Song," that blissful first Paris after years of Soviet scarcity and squalor; your sly smile, your schoolboy jokes, the gravitas and cheer you brought to Meaux's little cathedral (Bossuet watched us rather dourly), Berlin evenings: Herr Doktor, Herr Privatdozent, the rice you scattered at friends' weddings like confetti— but the quiet bitterness of bad months, too.

I liked to imagine your strolls in Umbria, Liguria: your dapper chase, your quest for places where the glaciers of the past melt, baring forms. I liked to imagine you roving through poetry's mountains, seeking the spot where silence suddenly erupts in speech. But I always met you in the cramped apartments of those gray Molochs called great cities.

You sometimes reminded me of life's tragedies. Life seldom let you out of sight. I think of your generation, crushed by fate, your illness in Madrid, in Amsterdam (Hotel Ambassade), even in holy Jerusalem, the hospital Saint-Louis, where you lay one summer with heat melting houses' walls and nations' borders, and your final weeks in Warsaw. I marvel at your poems' kingly pride.

THE EARLY HOURS

The early hours of morning; you still aren't writing (rather, you aren't even trying), you just read lazily. Everything is idle, quiet, full, as if it were a gift from the muse of sluggishness,

just as earlier, in childhood, on vacation, when a colored map was slowly scrutinized before a trip, a map promising so much, deep ponds in the forest like glittering butterfly eyes, mountain meadows drowning in sharp grass;

or the moment before sleep, when no dreams have appeared, but they whisper their approach from all parts of the world, their march, their pilgrimage, their vigil at the sickbed (grown sick of wakefulness), and the quickening among medieval figures

compressed in endless stasis over the cathedral; the early hours of morning, silence —you still aren't writing,

you still understand so much. Joy is close.

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