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Poland’s Poet

Alan Sheridan, 17 December 1981

Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition 
by Czeslaw Milosz, translated by Catherine Leach.
Sidgwick, 300 pp., £8.95, July 1981, 0 283 98782 0
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The Issa Valley 
by Czeslaw Milosz, translated by Louis Iribarne.
Sidgwick, 288 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 283 98762 6
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... the Swedish jury awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to Poland’s greatest living poet, Czeslaw Milosz. He, too, was given a hero’s welcome when he visited his native country, after nearly thirty years’ exile – an event that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. When a Beckett or a Sartre is awarded the Nobel Prize for ...

Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... those coincidences which one is minded mindlessly to call ironical, both arms of Donald Davie’s Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric are also embraced in Enright’s book. Enright has a section on ‘Milosz and the Case Against’, a respectful wary circling which becomes incautious only at the moment ...

Solidarity’s Poet

Mariusz Ziomecki, 3 November 1983

... have fallen out of circulation: Tuwim, Staff, Galczynski, Slonimski. Today it is the voice of Czeslaw Milosz that is listened to in Poland and, above all, that of Norwid. By instinct, the community has found its way back to the side of this 19th-century poet – immortal, yet treated dismissively in his own lifetime and laid in his grave as ‘a ...

Their Witness

Donald Davie, 27 February 1992

The Poetry of Survival: Post-War Poets of Central and Eastern Europe 
edited by Daniel Weissbort.
Anvil, 384 pp., £19.95, January 1992, 0 85646 187 3
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... it is one of Weissbort’s senior citizens who has blown the whistle on his enterprise. This is Czeslaw Milosz, who accordingly earns the pained comment: ‘One senses in him a reluctance to accept a position that historical and personal circumstances have thrust upon him.’ Translated, this means: Milosz has ...


C.H. Sisson, 27 September 1990

Collected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 475 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 85635 875 4
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... one case to the next.’ The distinction is not altogether clear, and becomes mystifying when, in Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric (1986), he expresses a strong preference for ‘the language of the schools’ in poetry as against the use of non-technical language, where that alternative is available. There is no reason why such terms should ...

The Devilish God

David Wheatley: T.S. Eliot, 1 November 2001

Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot 
by Denis Donoghue.
Yale, 326 pp., £17.95, January 2001, 0 300 08329 7
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Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature 
by Denis Donoghue.
Notre Dame, 178 pp., £21.50, May 2001, 0 268 02009 4
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... sake, and he offers a spirited defence of Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ against tut-tutting readings by Czeslaw Milosz and Seamus Heaney. On the charge of anti-semitism he is implacable, even reprieving the passage in After Strange Gods about too many ‘free-thinking Jews’ being ‘undesirable in a Christian society’. It would be repressive of Jews, in ...


Donald Davie, 7 March 1985

The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 910 pp., £20, August 1984, 0 241 11220 6
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Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946-1972 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Hutchinson, 323 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 9780091557508
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... One sees the same development not only in Pound but in Pasternak and in a later modernist like Czeslaw Milosz (who incidentally shares MacDiarmid’s veneration for Lao Shestov). The development is inevitable for any poet who thinks that his calling imposes on him some social responsibility. The lyrist does not recognise that, and is glad not to have ...


Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party, 22 May 2014

... There​ was a primed plastic water pistol, yellow or green, on every table at Derek Walcott’s 84th birthday lunch at the Ladera hotel on the west coast of St Lucia. The Walcott entourage had taken over the restaurant and after we’d dined on saltfish with green bananas, the staff gathered and the guests stood up to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. Then came the carving of a three-foot-square cake embossed with a likeness in icing of the poet’s head, his cautious smile carried on layers of sponge in blue and yellow stripes, two of the four colours of the island’s flag, blue for the sea and yellow for sunshine ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... telling account of Ted Hughes’s and Hill’s varyingly suspect appropriations of a passage from Czeslaw Milosz in which Davie defines the ‘distracting sonorities’ of Hill’s prose; in a generously empathetic essay on the critic Kenneth Cox, Davie clearly relishes Cox on Hill’s ‘movement slowed to a processional drag ... all inanimate, embalmed ...

Ariel goes to the police

Karl Miller, 4 December 1986

Life is elsewhere 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Peter Kussi.
Faber, 311 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14560 4
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My First Loves 
by Ivan Klima, translated by Ewald Oser.
Chatto, 164 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3014 8
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... to the police, by swallowing a lying excuse of hers concerning a subversive brother. The poets Czeslaw Milosz and Donald Davie are bothered by the insufficiency and irresponsibility of the lyric genre – and their views are discussed in the next article in this issue. It could be felt that Kundera goes further, in denouncing the lyric, and fares ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 4 June 2015

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... some of the political anguish burned off, perhaps a little as happened with his friends Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodsky.His late poems return to the rustic archaic innocence of Mossbawn and then Bellaghy in County Derry, and it feels like the grateful reassertion of something small and pacific and local that actually never left him: ‘It ...

Puffed Wheat

James Wood: How serious is John Bayley?, 20 October 2005

The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature: Essays 1962-2002 
by John Bayley, selected by Leo Carey.
Duckworth, 677 pp., £25, March 2005, 0 7156 3312 0
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... sense of the difference between living in the world and looking in on it.’ In a fine essay on Czeslaw Milosz, a writer he understands sympathetically because of Milosz’s Tolstoyan healthiness, he writes – accurately, I think – that Milosz ‘is one of the few poets who does ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... and so on) are grounded in the actualities of reading. He starts well, quoting a poem in which Czeslaw Milosz reads the Greek New Testament while running his finger along the lines of text; but he quickly abandons this scene to talk about ethics and the Eucharist. How much of the tactility that Milosz describes ...

In Love

Michael Wood, 25 January 1996

Essays in Dissent: Church, Chapel and the Unitarian Conspiracy 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 264 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85754 123 5
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... Englandism of many of his peers, notably Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis. He wrote a book about Czeslaw Milosz, translated many poems from Polish and Russian. In his memoir, These the Companions, he describes what he improbably calls F.R. Leavis’s charm, but the hero of the book is the Californian critic Yvor Winters, a man whose demands on poetry ...

A Regular Bull

Christopher Hitchens, 31 July 1997

Whittaker Chambers: A Biography 
by Sam Tanenhaus.
Random House, 640 pp., $35, February 1997, 0 394 58559 3
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... in the first place. Witness, his own work, had a marked influence on Arthur Koestler and on Czeslaw Milosz and is, indeed, the nativist American equivalent of Darkness at Noon or The Captive Mind. With its ostentatious religiosity and its relentless emphasis on redemption and conversion – and its subplot concerning the triumph of the plain man ...

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