Not our witness of poetry but its witness of us, alive in ''...a newly acquired historical consciousness'' which portrays man's ''exceptionality, strangeness, and loneliness [as a] creature mysterious to itself, a being incessantly transcending its own limits.'' Originally presented as a series of lectures, this collection of short essays (ranging through personal history, the biology of the poem, and a quarrel with Classicism), define poetry as ''a passionate pursuit of the Real,'' pointing out that for all the honeyed beauty of the Golden Age, we learn more of everyday life (and highest Truth) through the ''uncivilized''style of the Gospels. Milosz does not elevate contemporary poetry to any level of greatness (including himself in her ''mediocre'' lot) but contends that her enduring hope is humanity's own ''elemental force'' -- to make memory a thing lived in the eternal now. 120 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Czeslaw Miosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, reflects upon poetry's testimony to the events of our tumultuous time. From the special perspectives of "my corner of Europe," a classical and Catholic education, a serious encounter with Marxism, and a life marked by journeys and exiles, Milosz has developed a sensibility at once warm and detached, flooded with specific memory yet never hermetic or provincial. Milosz addresses many of the major problems of contemporary poetry, beginning with the pessimism and negativism prompted by reductionist interpretations of man's animal origins. He examines the tendency of poets since Mallarme to isolate themselves from society, and stresses the need for the poet to make himself part of the great human family. One chapter is devoted to the tension between classicism and realism; Milosz believes poetry should be "a passionate pursuit of the real." In "Ruins and Poetry" he looks at poems constructed from the wreckage of a civilization, specifically that of Poland after the horrors of World War II. Finally, he expresses optimism for the world, based on a hoped-for better understanding of the lessons of modern science, on the emerging recognition of humanity's oneness, and on mankind's growing awareness of its own history.