cover image Eternal Enemies

Eternal Enemies

Adam Zagajewski, , trans. from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh. . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23 (116pp) ISBN 978-0-374-21634-4

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.” (Apr.)