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About this poet

Poet, novelist, essayist Adam Zagajewski was born in Lwów in 1945. He spent his childhood in Silesia and then in Cracow, where he graduated from Jagiellonian University.

Zagajewski first became well known as one of the leading poets of the Generation of '68' or the Polish New Wave (Nowa fala); he is one of Poland's most famous contemporary poets. Among his collections are Anteny(Cracow: a5, 2005); Powrót (2003); Pragnienie (Cracow: a5, 1999); Ziemia ognista (1994); Jechac do Lwowa (1985); Sklepy miesne (1975); and Komunikat (1972). His books of poetry in English include Eternal Enemies: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008. Translated by Clare Cavanaugh); Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002, translated by Clare Cavanaugh); Mysticism for Beginners (1997, translated by Clare Cavanaugh); Tremor (1985, translated by Renata Gorczyñski); and Canvas (1991, translated by Renata Gorczyñski, B. Ivry, and C. K. Williams).

He is also the author of a memoir, Another Beauty (2000, translated by Clare Cavanagh) and the prose collections, Two Cities (1995, translated by Lillian Vallee) and Solitude and Solidarity (1990, translated by Lillian Vallee). His poems and essays have been translated into many languages. Among his honors and awards are a fellowship from the Berliner Kunstlerprogramm, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize, a Prix de la Liberté, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Since 1988, he has served as Visiting Associate Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. In 2010, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is currently co-editor of Zeszyty literackie (Literary Review), which is published in Paris. Adam Zagajewski lives in Paris and Houston.

Balance

Adam Zagajewski, 1945
I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport's labryinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day's sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

From Eternal Enemies by Adam Zagajewski. Copyright © 2008 by Adam Zagajewski. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. All rights reserved.

From Eternal Enemies by Adam Zagajewski. Copyright © 2008 by Adam Zagajewski. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. All rights reserved.

Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski

Poet, novelist, essayist Adam Zagajewski was born in Lwów in 1945 and is a prominent member of Poland's contemporary poetry scene

by this poet

poem
Always caught up in what they called 
the practical side of life 
(theory was for Plato), 
up to their elbows in furniture, in bedding, 
in cupboards and kitchen gardens,
they never neglected the lavender sachets 
that turned a linen closet to a meadow.

The practical side of life, 
like the Moon's unlighted
poem
Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.