and Charles Simic, but this week, I am head over heals in love with
Czeslaw Milosz. I just brought home all 776 pages of his New and
Collected Poems from the library, and I am in paradise. His poems
are a marvelous combination of intelligence and soul.
Milosz, (June 30, 1911 – August 14, 2004) was a Lithuanian born
Polish poet and author. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of
Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of California,
Berkeley. (Bill Moore, by the way, was fortunate enough to be one
of his students in a class of Polish Romanticism. Lucky guy.) In
1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is widely
considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.
I like to think of myself in a magpie-ish kind of way, since I love
collecting all sorts of odd shinies for my nest, both tangible and
intangible. This delightful piece immediately caught my little
magpie eye. I never realized, until now, that what I have is a simple
case of magpiety.
The same and not quite the same, I walked through oak forests
Amazed that my Muse, Mnemosyne,
Has in no way diminished my amazement.
A magpie was screeching and I said: Magpiety?
What is magpiety? I shall never achieve
A magpie heart, a hairy nostril over the beak, a flight
That always renews just when coming down,
and so I shall never comprehend magpiety.
If however magpiety does not exist
My nature does not exist either.
Who would have guessed that, centuries later,
I would invent the question of universals?
Czeslaw Milosz, 1958
photo: me, 14 Jan 2010