9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Thomas E. Defreitas
- Published on Amazon.com
The masterpiece of the volume is perhaps "To Go to Lvov," a poem that contains some bold strokes of language :
if lances of trees
-- of poplar and ash -- still breathe aloud
like Indians, and if streams mumble
their dark Esperanto, and grass snakes like soft signs
in the Russian language disappear
The poem called "Autumn" gives us a view not mellow or pastoral, but one which compares the season to death; more to the point, to an invading "Red Army" with "cold bayonets" and a "keen sickle."
In "You Are My Silent Brethren," addressed to the dead, we have these lines :
You'd think it would be easy, living.
All you need is a fistful of earth, a boat, a nest, a jail,
a little breath, some drops of blood, and longing.
Another poem asks, "What is salvation if there is no threat?"
Poets are depicted as "literary rats," "an atheist epoch's Benedictines, missionaries of easy despair" who are :
compensated in small, worthless gold coin,
and with the moment of bliss when metaphor's flame
welds two free-floating objects, when a hawk lands,
or a tax inspector makes the sign of the cross.
On a small scale, there is the poignant poem "Fruit," dedicated to Czeslaw Milosz, and of a quiet, sad magnificence. We will not quote from it, but will recommend it to the reader for its muted excellence.
There is much that is elegiac here (tributes to Joseph Brodsky, Zbigniew Herbert, Franz Schubert, and in many poems, the month of September), but there is also -- frequently -- the abrupt verbal startlement we associate with the comic. There are phrases here and there that remind us of the light, deft surrealism of say, Charles Simic, who blurbs this book; but Zagajewski's achivement, to this reader's mind, surpasses Simic's. Zagajewski is agile, audacious, and we feel, profoundly serious ("Try to Praise the Mutilated World").
It is perhaps unjust to Zagajewski to attempt a review after only a second reading of this collection; so, this review may be edited further as more excellences are uncovered and imprinted upon the mind.