Shortly after the events of 9/11, The New Yorkerpublished Polish poet Adam Zagajewski’s poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World.” It struck a chord with readers as they struggled to respond to the horrors of that time. In the poem, they found a recognition of their temptation to despair alongside a call to resist it, not by ignoring the very real “mutilations” of the world they had witnessed, but by also paying attention to the small things worthy of praise within it.
The poems gathered here again speak of tragedies (the “little nephew, who no longer is” and a city that was “loved and lost”), as well as lesser reasons to lose heart (“there’s always a little too much or a little too little”; “Every metaphor is a failure”), but they also speak of “this great strange world,” of “splendid life,” and of the rapture of dead poets that lives on and speaks even to those of us who don’t think about “aesthetics, metaphors, stresses, deeper meanings.” Zagajewski’s poems call us to live more deeply, with both the ugliness and beauty of life, saying “but, just wait…there is more.”
Polish poet, novelist, and essayist Adam Zagajewski was born in Lwów, Ukraine in 1945 and now lives in Kraków and Chicago, where he is Visiting Professor of Social Thought in the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. His collections in English translation include Tremor(1985), Canvas(1991), Mysticism for Beginners(1997), Another Beauty(2000), and the anthologyWithout End(2002). Among his books of essays are Solidarity, Solitude(1986, tr. 1989) and Two Cities(1991, tr. 1995).