Without End: New and Selected Poems

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by Adam Zagajewski, Clare Cavanagh (Translator), C. K. Williams (Translator)



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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
Sales rank: 296,310
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.68(d)

About 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.


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.


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.


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 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.

Table of Contents

NEW POEMS (translated by Clare Cavanagh)
To See3
The Soul5
Farewell for Zbigniew Herbert6
The Early Hours8
Senza Flash9
Europe Goes to Sleep11
A Flame12
Apartment for Scholars13
Stary Sacz14
Summer's Fullness16
Dead Sparrow18
My Aunts19
The Churches of France20
Where the Breath Is22
Speak Softly 23
Line Four25
Georges Seurat: Factory26
The Polish Biographical Dictionary in a Library in Houston27
Just Children29
A Morning in Vicenza30
Europe in Winter31
Death of a Pianist32
Opus Posthumous36
Twenty-five Years38
How Clowns Go39
How High the Moon40
Little Waltz43
Sunrise over Cassis44
The World's Prose46
A King47
Treatise on Emptiness52
For You55
Ancient History56
For Gabriela Münter57
Square d'Orléans58
Try to Praise the Mutilated World60
EARLY POEMS (1970-1975) (translated by Clare Cavanagh)
The Name Edmund63
The Epicure from My Staircase64
New World67
How Does the Man Look Who's Right72
Twenty-Year-Old Soldiers73
FROM TREMOR (1985) (translated by Renata Gorczynski)
To Go to Lvov79
A Wanderer82
Ode to Softness83
Late Beethoven84
Schopenhauer's Crying86
Kierkegaard on Hegel88
We Know Everything89
In the Trees90
A River92
He Acts93
Life Sentence94
Ode to Plurality95
Good Friday in the Tunnels of the Métro98
Van Gogh's Face99
In May100
Fire, Fire102
The Self103
A View of Delft105
To 106
It Comes to a Standstill107
In the Past108
The Dark God, the Light God109
Don't Allow the Lucid Moment to Dissolve110
That Force111
Song of an Emigré112
Franz Schubert: A Press Conference113
Escalator (translated by Clare Cavanagh)116
There Will Be a Future118
Without End119
In the Encyclopedias, No Room for Osip Mandelstam120
The Generation121
Three Voices123
Esprit d'escalier124
In the Beauty Created by Others127
Over America128
Palm Sunday131
Reading Books132
Poems on Poland133
City Unknown134
The Trial135
My Masters136
Sad, Tired137
Your Telephone Call138
A View of Krakow (translated by Clare Cavanagh)140
FROM CANVAS (1991) (translated by Renata Gorczynski,
Benjamin Ivry, and C. K Williams)
Anecdote of Rain149
R. Says152
Incorporeal Ruler153
A Talk with Friedrich Nietzsche154
At Daybreak157
The Creation of the World158
Russia Comes into Poland164
Late Feast167
Anton Bruckner168
Elegy for the Living171
Burgundy's Grasslands172
Electric Elegy173
September Afternoon in the Abandoned Barracks175
The Gothic177
The Blackened River181
Watching Shoah in a Hotel Room in America184
A Fence. Chestnut Trees186
At Midnight187
To Myself, in an Album188
The Bells191
The Close of Summer192
In Strange Cities194
Without Form196
The Light of Lamps199
Wind at Night200
Wild Cherries201
Islands and Towers202
A History of Solitude203
From the Lives of Things204
Simone Weil Watches the Rhône Valley207
FROM MYSTICISM FOR BEGINNERS (1997) (translated by Clare Cavanagh)
A Quick Poem213
Mysticism for Beginners217
The Three Kings218
The Greenhouse220
Dutch Painters222
The Thirties226
Letter from a Reader230
I Wasn't in This Poem232
For M233
That's Sicily235
You Are My Silent Brethren236
Out Walking237
Vermeer's Little Girl238
Tierra del Fuego239
December Wind245
The House247
Degas: The Milliner's Shop253
She Wrote in Darkness255
Airport in Amsterdam256
Long Afternoons259
To My Older Brother260
The City Where I Want to Live261
The Room I Work In263
Three Angels265
From Memory268
Chinese Poem271
Holy Saturday in Paris272
On Swimming273
Sisters of Mercy274
Houston, 6 p.m276
I Walked Through the Medieval Town278
Index of Titles279

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Without End: New and Selected Poems 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I quite enjoyed reading Without End from start to finish. The diversity of poetry within the 270+ pages is refreshing. I especially liked the poet to poet dedications. It's as if Zagajewski is saying, "from one writer to another, I feel your craft and it influences mine."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This collection is a must have. The author himself has been long overlooked. With his courage to remain lyrical and mysitical, he goes where others should. To the heart of the heart of life. Kudos to those who buy this book. Can't wait for the next one by Mr. Zagajewski.