A great poet died on Saturday. You could say that "the real, not the calendar 20th century" ended yesterday too.
There was a good obituary for Czeslaw Milosz in the NY Times front section this morning, which included several of his poems.
(Seem to hear a little of Whitman & Eliot technique in his lines. Especially Whitman. That sort of patient, stately-humble reticulation of ordinary things, landscapes & people, rivers & trees. Simple, sonorous, direct.)
American poetry could learn quite a lot from the literary values he projects. It's not easy to write this way - simple, direct, yet not-so-simple, not-so-direct. His style stands as a kind of rebuke to shallow formalists & experimentalists alike.
I know what was left for smaller men like me:
A feast of brief hopes, a rally of the proud,
A tournament of hunchbacks, literature.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it's still a strange pageant,
Women's dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from the people, but also from radiance, heights.
This early poem, too:
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
A memorial in Gdansk to shipyard workers shot by police in the early 70s carries these lines of his:
You who harmed a simple man, do not feel secure: for a poet remembers.