Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tome - A Book of Luminous Things

I've started my way through a new anthology of poetry compiled and edited by Czeslaw Milosz. The collection is titled, A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry. Today I share two paragraphs from the Milosz' introduction that especially resonated with me. I'll likely be sharing a number of poems from this book in upcoming posts for Wednesday Words.

My intention is not so much to defend poetry in general, but, rather, to remind readers that for some very good reasons it may be of importance today. These reasons have to do with our troubles in the present phase of our civilization.

It has happened that we have been afflicted with a basic deprivation, to such an extent that we seem to be missing some vital organs, even as we try to survive somehow. Theology, science, philosophy, though they attempt to provide cures, are not very effective "in that dark world where gods have lost their way" (Roethke). They are able at best to confirm that our affliction is not invented. I have written elsewhere of the deprivation as one of the consequences brought about by science and technology that pollutes not only the natural environment but also the human imagination. The world deprived of clear-cut outlines, of the up and down, of good and evil, succumbs to a peculiar nihilization, that is, it loses its colors, so that grayness covers not only things of this earth and of space, but also the very flow of time, its minutes, days, and years. Abstract considerations will be of little help, even if they are intended to bring relief. Poetry is quite different. By its very nature it says: All those theories are untrue. Since poetry deals with the singular, not the general, it cannot––if it is good poetry––look at things of this earth other than as colorful, variegated, and exciting, and so, it cannot reduce life, with all its pain, horror, suffering, and ecstasy, to a unified tonality of boredom or complaint. By necessity poetry is therefore on the side of being and against nothingness.

Publisher's Description:
"A collection of 300 poems from writers around the world, selected and edited by Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz
Czesław Miłosz's A Book of Luminous Things—his personal selection of poems from the past and present—is a testament to the stunning varieties of human experience, offered up so that we may see the myriad ways that experience can be shared in words and images. Miłosz provides a preface to each of these poems, divided into thematic (and often beguiling) sections, such as “Travel,” “History,” and “The Secret of a Thing,” that make the reading as instructional as it is inspirational and remind us how powerfully poetry can touch our minds and hearts. "

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