cover image Selected Poems: 1931–2004

Selected Poems: 1931–2004

Czeslaw Milosz, . . Ecco, $24.95 (267pp) ISBN 978-0-06-018867-2

The Lithuanian-born Milosz (1911– 2004) became a leader among Polish-language modernists in the 1930s, then witnessed the Nazi destruction of Warsaw. His epochal early poetry described the horrors of war and the enduring power of joy: "I have seen the fall of States and the perdition of tribes," one 1943 poem says. "Love means to look at yourself/ The way one looks at distant things," advises his much-loved sequence from the same year, "The World." The postwar Milosz became a Polish diplomat, then rejected Soviet communism and sought political asylum; he taught at Berkeley till the end of the Cold War and returned to Poland in his last years. In decades of pellucid verse (and lyrical prose, also included), Milosz viewed at once the beauty of single moments and the sweep of civilization and barbarism over centuries: a stubborn defender of human decency and of liberal hopes, he saw, as few have, how "what could not be taken away,/ is taken. People, countrysides./ And the heart does not die when one thinks it should." Translated by many hands, but principally by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass, the verse carries over into English not only its sentiments, but much of its music, too: this first posthumous selection (New & Collected Poems appeared in 2001) should renew national attention to a poet of international significance. (Apr.)