Milosz celebrations all over

The centenary of the birth of Czeslaw Milosz has festivities busting out all over, with a bumper crop of marvelous participants.  In New York, a tribute at the 92nd Street Y on March 21 will include Little Star‘s dynamic duo, Adam Zagajewski and his wonderful translator Clare Cavanagh (whose Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West, has just received the National Book Critic Circle Award for criticism), with perennial Milosz collaborator Robert Hass. Then all three will repair to Queens for another tribute at the venerable Queens College Evening Reading Series (always worth the trip), this time with Edward Hirsch, one of our most valued interpreters of modern mitteleuropa. And on March 27, at the Brooklyn Public Library, Zagajewski will resurface with Anna Frajlich and editor Cynthia Haven to present Haven’s book of portraits of Milosz, An Invisible Rope. Another crop of portraitist will convene with Haven at Columbia the next day.

Meanwhile Zagajewski and Hirsch treat us to a program at the new jewel-like Poets House in Battery Park on Zbigniew Herbert’s prose, this time joining up with Charles Simic and translator Alyssa Valles (March 24). We featured Herbert’s essay on Hamlet, “The Blood of Thought,” here last summer.

And back at the Y, Clare Cavanagh, whose translations of Szymborska, and Krynicki also pop up in Little Star #2, will appear in conversation with Edith Grossman on Sunday, March 20.

Finally the inexhaustible Zagajewski will round out the month with another appearance at the Y on March 28, introducing poets Marie Lundquist (Sweden) and Tomasz Rozycki (Poland), hand-picked for the series by the host.

For the true pilgrim, the Polish Book Institute and Jagiellonian University will hold a Milosz Festival in Cracow from May 9 to 15, including readings, concerts, translation symposia, and an academic conference, and welcoming Derek Walcott, Adonis, John Banville, Zadie Smith, Norman Manea, Robert Hass, Jane Hirschfield, Claire Cavanagh, and Irena Grudzińska-Gross, among many others. Further off, there will be a festival at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, from October 19th to 21st with W. S. Merwin, Adam Michnik, and Azar Nafisi.

More on all these wondrous events here.  See also a comprehensive list at the Polish Cultural Institute, with more events in New Haven, Berkeley, and Chicago.

I feel such gratitude, as an American, that this great being dwelled among us—wry, skeptical, mournful, compassionate, rigorous, somehow always paternal and protective toward us even as we exasperated him. The disasters that brought such people to our shores enriched us undeservingly. We should always seek new ways to rise to the gift.

If you do not have Milosz’s Collected Poems, buy them immediately. And while you’re at it read his History of Polish Literature and Postwar Polish Poetry, and everything else he ever did.  I fear it no longer goes without saying that reading The Captive Mind is a necessary condition of modern informedness.

Read Adam Zagajewski, Clare Cavanagh, Anna Swir (once championed and translated by Milosz, to be honored on April 21 at a reading in the Chin Music series at the Pacific Standard in Brooklyn), Ryszard Krynicki, and Wislawa Szymborska in Little Star #2.

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2 Responses to Milosz celebrations all over

  1. [...] See them all at the Tenth Muse on Monday night at the 92nd Street Y. Read a portfolio of newly translated work by Adam Zagajewski in Little Star #2. This March sees a flowering of readings of Polish poetry in New York, found out more here. [...]

  2. [...] works of Czesław Miłosz for the centenary celebration of the Polish poet’s life. The blog at Little Star, a journal of poetry and prose founded by Ann Kjellberg and Melissa Green, has more information on [...]