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1 Beaverton Poetry- A to Z

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Eternal Enemies

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Eternal Enemies Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The highway became the Red Sea.

We moved through the storm like a sheer valley.

You drove; I looked at you with love.

—from “Storm”

One of the most gifted and readable poets of his time, Adam Zagajewski is proving to be a contemporary classic. Few writers in either poetry or prose can be said to have attained the lucid intelligence and limpid economy of style that have become a matter of course with Zagajewski. It is these qualities, combined with his wry humor, gentle skepticism, and perpetual sense of historys dark possibilities, that have earned him a devoted international following. This collection, gracefully translated by Clare Cavanagh, finds the poet reflecting on place, language, and history. Especially moving here are his tributes to writers, friends known in person or in books—people such as Milosz and Sebald, Brodsky and Blake—which intermingle naturally with portraits of family members and loved ones. Eternal Enemies is a luminous meeting of art and everyday life.

Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1945. his previous books include Tremor, Canvas, Mysticism for Beginners, Without End, Two Cities, Another Beauty, and A Defense of Ardor—all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He lives in Kraców, Paris, and Chicago.
 
Clare Cavanagh is a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University. She has translated numerous volumes of Polish poetry and prose, including the work of Wislawa Szymborska.
One of the most gifted poets of our time, Adam Zagajewski is a contemporary classic. Few writers in either poetry or prose can be said to have attained the lucid intelligence and limped economy of style that are the trademarks of his work. It is these qualities, combined with his wry humor, gentle skepticism, and perpetual sense of history's dark possibilities, that have earned him a devoted international following. This collection, gracefully translated by Clare Cavanagh, finds the poet reflecting on place, language, and history. Especially moving are his tributes to writers, friends known in person or from books—people such as Milosz and Sebald, Brodsky and Blake. These poems intermingle naturally with portraits of family members and loved ones. Eternal Enemies is a luminous meeting of art and everyday life.
"Not so long ago we had two incredible voices—Neruda and Milosz. Now we have Adam Zagajewski, who also speaks passionately from both the historical and the personal perspective, in poems reduced to a clean, lyrical clarity. In one poet's opinion (mine), he is now our greatest and truest representative, the most pertinent, impressive, meaningful poet of our time."—Mary Oliver
"Not so long ago we had two incredible voices—Neruda and Milosz. Now we have Adam Zagajewski, who also speaks passionately from both the historical and the personal perspective, in poems reduced to a clean, lyrical clarity. In one poet's opinion (mine), he is now our greatest and truest representative, the most pertinent, impressive, meaningful poet of our time."—Mary Oliver

"Mr. Zagajewski, who was born in Poland in 1945, is one of the few foreign-language poets to be regularly translated into English. He is often mentioned in the same breath as Czeslaw Milosz, in part simply because he is the most famous Polish poet of the generation after Milosz's. Mr. Zagajewski is writing Milosz's biography, and it would be surprising if he didn't eventually follow his subject to Stockholm. But there is also a deeper similarity, since the two poets, products of the same Polish experience, share a basic theme: the dilemma of the spirit trapped in history, of freedom constrained by necessity. These are two ways of naming the opponents invoked in the title of Eternal Enemies, Mr. Zagajewski's fifth collection of poems to appear in English(translated by Clare Cavanagh). For Milosz, who survived the Nazi occupation of Warsaw and defected from Poland's Communist regime, spirit and history were mortal foes, locked in a permanent death grip. For Mr. Zagajewski, who belongs to the generation of Solidarity and of the Velvet Revolutions, their enmity is less acute, more a chronic condition to be lived with. In his poems, the ordinary world is always quivering at the brink of, but never quite yielding to, ecstasy . . . Forced to emigrate from Poland in the 1970s, Mr. Zagajewski lived for many years in France and America. He has now returned to Krakow, the city of his youth; but the habit of wandering remains, and Eternal Enemies alternates views of his childhood streets with a traveler's snapshots . . . Yet most of the traveling in Eternal Enemies is done under rather plusher circumstances than this suggests, and there is a certain danger—as we follow the poet from 'Sicily' to 'Rome, Open City' to 'Camogli' and 'Staglieno'—that Mr. Zagajewski's voyaging will turn into a higher tourism, yielding a succession of interchangeable epiphanies. 'What happened to summer's plans / and our dreams, / what has our youth become,' he asks in 'Camogli.' This kind of undefended, melancholy lyricism has always been one of the distinctive notes of Mr. Zagajewski's verse. It makes one think of songs by Schumann, more than anything in English poetry, and in fact Mr. Zagajewski often invokes music to achieve his effects . . . In 'Long Street,' he employs his gift for surprising, witty metaphors to describe a remembered Krakow street: 'a street of dwarves and giants, creaking bikes, / a street of small towns clustered / in one room, napping after lunch, / heads dropped on a soiled tablecloth . . .' The drama of homecoming, after a lifetime filled with so much experience and reflection, is very moving, and gives Eternal Enemies its beautifully autumnal quality."—Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun

"To open Adam Zagajewski's new book Eternal Enemies is to find oneself in motion. 'To travel without baggage, sleep in the train / on a hard wooden bench, / forget your native land,' begins 'En Route.' A few pages later the narrator wonders whether it was 'worth waiting in consulates / for some clerk's fleeting good humor' and 'worth taking the underground / beneath I can't recall what city' ('Was It'). Other poems find him in cars, imagining the 'great ships that wandered the ocean,' on a plane flying over the arctic, on more trains, and occasionally on foot. Often the motion is not just from one city or country to another, but from one historical era to another. In 'Notes from a Trip to Famous Excavations,' for instance, the narrator sees 'campaign slogans on the walls / and know[s] that the elections ended long ago,' yet when a gate swings open, the past becomes present as 'wine returns to the pitchers, / and love comes back to the homesteads / where it once dwelled.' The poems move, as well, from concrete particular to the abstract and transcendent—from an epiphany, as Zagajewski once wrote in an essay, to the kitchen and 'the envelope holding the telephone bill.' Some of poems' loveliest effects are achieved by juxtaposing one time or dimension with another, as in 'Star,' the opening poem . . . Zagajewki's places are always more than simply places. They are both mythical and real, a quality that will come through even for readers who are less traveled and don't put down the book long enough to Google the names. The restlessness of the poems is at least partly a function of Zagajewski's long exile . . . Eternal Enemies is Zagajewski's fifth book of poems to appear in English. Born in 1945, he emerged in the New Wave of Polish poets in the 1960s, writing raw, stripped-down verse that implicitly and sometimes overtly challenged the totalitarian political establishment of his seedtime. Zagajewski later reinvented himself, employing the first-person perspective of traditional lyric poetry, a shift that has been criticized by some as abandoning the earlier commitments. To hint at least at what I assume is the music of the Polish originals, Clare Cavanagh, Zagajewski's longtime translator and a perceptive scholar of Slavic literature in her own right, uses intricate but usually understated patterns of sound, as in the l's and o's and b's of 'that dusty little apartment in Gliwice, / in a low block in the Soviet style / that says all towns should look like barracks.' ('In a Little Apartment'). The poems are so beautifully rendered it is easy to forget that English is their second language. The book is very cleverly crafted, its three sections proceeding in loosely reverse chronological order. The streets of Krakow, and the narrator's return years after his university days, turn up frequently in the first section (as in 'Star,' quoted above). In the second are elegies to some of the writers who helped shape Zagajewski's own voice: Czeslaw Milosz, W. G. Sebald, Joseph Brodsky. Ancient history and myth link many of the poems in the final section—Sophocles, Syracuse, a poet from Telos who died at nineteen. But the deep structure of the book is symphonic, with images from one poem reappearing elsewhere. 'Antennas in the Rain,' the book's final poem, serves as a kind of key to motifs that are developed in other poems. 'Reading Milosz by an open window. The swallow's sudden trill,' for instance, is the bittersweet bud from which both an elegy to Milosz and a short, haunting poem about Auschwitz blossom. One recurring motif, which appears in poems in each of the book's three sections, is the narrator's assurance to his beloved that 'music heard with you was more than music.' The Caravaggio masterpiece The Calling of Saint Matthew, in which Jesus beckons with outstretched finger to Matthew, appears in three different poems, the first focusing on Matthew himself ('was I truly / summoned to become human?'), the others on the 'nobleness . . . of Christ's face'). The soloist in an Orthodox church 'recalls the voice / of Joseph Brodsky reciting his poems / before Americans, unconvinced / by any sort of resurrection, / but glad that somebody believed' ('The Orthodox Liturgy'), a theme further developed in '

Review:

"Celebrated on two continents, Polish poet Zagajewski (A Defense of Ardor) looks back with some self-consciousness, in these new poems, at the lyricism of his compatriot Czeslaw Milosz, at the prewar Poland he portrayed, and at a Miloszian mixture of pathos, faith and doubt. Set in Krakow, Italy, Houston and New York, these frequently brief and always inviting works present, at their most general, 'the world's materiality at dawn — / and the soul's frailty.' More specific elegies remember Milosz, Joseph Brodsky, Alexander Wat, W.G. Sebald, or look back on the poet's own 'childhood, which evaporated/ like a puddle gleaming with a rainbow of gasoline.' Cavanagh's supple translations let the verse sing in American English without making this Polish poet sound too American: as much as he embraces his new home (he is now teaching at the University of Chicago), he remembers, too, that 'the Holocaust Museum in Washington' holds 'my childhood, my wagons, my rust.' Perhaps narrow in their sweet, sad moods, Zagajewski's poems remain wide in their sympathies. One especially ambitious work imagines the people of the ancient Near East coming alive again, startling archeologists: 'Look, a flame stirs from the ashes./ Yes, I recognize the face.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

The highway became the Red Sea.

We moved through the storm like a sheer valley.

You drove; I looked at you with love.

--from "Storm"

One of the most gifted and readable poets of his time, Adam Zagajewski is proving to be a contemporary classic. Few writers in either poetry or prose can be said to have attained the lucid intelligence and limpid economy of style that have become a matter of course with Zagajewski. It is these qualities, combined with his wry humor, gentle skepticism, and perpetual sense of history's dark possibilities, that have earned him a devoted international following. This collection, gracefully translated by Clare Cavanagh, finds the poet reflecting on place, language, and history. Especially moving here are his tributes to writers, friends known in person or in books--people such as Milosz and Sebald, Brodsky and Blake--which intermingle naturally with portraits of family members and loved ones. Eternal Enemies is a luminous meeting of art and everyday life.

About the Author

Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov in 1945. His previous books include Tremor; Canvas; Mysticism for Beginners; Without End; Solidarity, Solitude; Two Cities; Another Beauty; and A Defense of Ardor--all published by FSG. He lives in Paris and Houston.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374216344
Author:
Zagajewski, Adam
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Translator:
Cavanagh, Clare
Author:
Cavanagh, Clare
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Poetry
Subject:
Continental european
Subject:
Zagajewski, Adam
Subject:
Anthologies-Miscellaneous International Poetry
Subject:
Single Author - Continental European
Subject:
Subjects & Themes / Family
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20080331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
128
Dimensions:
8.21 x 6.18 x 0.7 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Miscellaneous International Poetry
Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z

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Product details 128 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374216344 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Celebrated on two continents, Polish poet Zagajewski (A Defense of Ardor) looks back with some self-consciousness, in these new poems, at the lyricism of his compatriot Czeslaw Milosz, at the prewar Poland he portrayed, and at a Miloszian mixture of pathos, faith and doubt. Set in Krakow, Italy, Houston and New York, these frequently brief and always inviting works present, at their most general, 'the world's materiality at dawn — / and the soul's frailty.' More specific elegies remember Milosz, Joseph Brodsky, Alexander Wat, W.G. Sebald, or look back on the poet's own 'childhood, which evaporated/ like a puddle gleaming with a rainbow of gasoline.' Cavanagh's supple translations let the verse sing in American English without making this Polish poet sound too American: as much as he embraces his new home (he is now teaching at the University of Chicago), he remembers, too, that 'the Holocaust Museum in Washington' holds 'my childhood, my wagons, my rust.' Perhaps narrow in their sweet, sad moods, Zagajewski's poems remain wide in their sympathies. One especially ambitious work imagines the people of the ancient Near East coming alive again, startling archeologists: 'Look, a flame stirs from the ashes./ Yes, I recognize the face.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,
The highway became the Red Sea.

We moved through the storm like a sheer valley.

You drove; I looked at you with love.

--from "Storm"

One of the most gifted and readable poets of his time, Adam Zagajewski is proving to be a contemporary classic. Few writers in either poetry or prose can be said to have attained the lucid intelligence and limpid economy of style that have become a matter of course with Zagajewski. It is these qualities, combined with his wry humor, gentle skepticism, and perpetual sense of history's dark possibilities, that have earned him a devoted international following. This collection, gracefully translated by Clare Cavanagh, finds the poet reflecting on place, language, and history. Especially moving here are his tributes to writers, friends known in person or in books--people such as Milosz and Sebald, Brodsky and Blake--which intermingle naturally with portraits of family members and loved ones. Eternal Enemies is a luminous meeting of art and everyday life.

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