Prose miscellany by the famed poet and Nobel laureate (Milosz’s ABC’s, 2000, etc.) proves he does not need funny spacing to dazzle his readers.
Spanning more than a half-century of the author’s life and thought, the collection mingles free-floating whimsy and earthbound gravitas as it probes the eternal questions of life from some remarkably fresh vantage points. The brief essay “Miss Anna and Miss Dora” manages to hit on the frailty of human existence, the vagaries of memory, and the birth of sympathy in a swirling loop of emotion that never skitters toward the mawkish—and in only two pages. Continuing on, and with a generosity bordering on the motherly, he pours out essays for your delectation, from biographies of friends and acquaintances to musings on human nature and excurses on the state of poetry. “Anus Mundi” ponders the creation of lyric poetry after Auschwitz; “Carmel” meanders along the California coast with Robinson Jeffers’s ashes in the air; “Letter to Jerzy Andrzejewski” praises the nobility of doubt. The maxims, anecdotes, and aphorisms culled from his notebook teem with humor, insight, and luminous warmth. “I am here,” Milosz states in “My Intention”: “and the only thing we can do is try to communicate with one another.” The breathtaking evocativeness of Milosz’s prose coupled with its radiant reflections creates a meaningful sense of synergy with his mind. The introduction by editors Carpenter and Levine provides modest access to his world, although it could offer more detail and biography for readers new to this writer.
A good introduction to Milosz’s prose work, capturing the range of a memorable mind.