Tuesday, June 30, 2009
CZESLAW MILOSZ b. JUNE 30 1911
"The exile of a poet, is today a simple function of a relatively recent discovery; that whoever wields power is also able to control language, and not only with the prohibition of censorship, but also by changing the meaning of words."
- Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Lecture, 8 December 1980
"What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation."
auden said that "poetry changes nothing" & that's true for the most part though i've always felt compelled to add williams' "but men die every day for lack of what is found there." milosz saw first hand the horrors of world war two & spent his life witnessing to them. in the west, poets are marginalized & whatever truths they speak are spoken only to a few. in other countries, where control over everything is exercised by the government w/crushing finality, poets are threats & treated as such by the powers that be. tortured or ignored, the songs remain the same in the hopes of being heard.
driven from his homeland & exiled, milosz ended up at ucal/berkeley. initially, untranslated & unread in the west, he persevered & slowly forced his way to the attention of the intelligentsia. he was awarded the nobel prize in 1980 for literature. he died in 2004.