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This Outstanding New Translation Brings A Uniformity Of Voice To Zbigniew Herbert S Entire Poetic Output, From His First Book Of Poems, String Of Light, In , To His Final Volume, Previously Unpublished In English, Epilogue Of The Storm Collected Poems , As Joseph Brodsky Said Of Herbert S SSelected Poems, Is Bound For A Much Longer Haul Than Any Of Us Can Anticipate He Continues, For Zbigniew Herbert S Poetry Adds To The Biography Of Civilization The Sensibility Of A Man Not Defeated By The Century That Has Been Most Thorough, Most Effective In Dehumanization Of The Species Herbert S Irony, His Austere Reserve And His Compassion, The Lucidity Of His Lyricism, The Intensity Of His Sentiment Toward Classical Antiquity, Are Not Just Trappings Of A Modern Poet, But The Necessary Armor In His Case Well Tempered And Shining Indeed For Man Not To Be Crushed By The Onslaught Of Reality By Offering To His Readers Neither Aesthetic Nor Ethical Discount, This Poet, In Fact, Saves Them Frorn That Poverty Which Every Form Of Human Evil Finds So Congenial As Long As The Species Exists, This Book Will Be Timely


10 thoughts on “The Collected Poems, 1956-1998

  1. says:

    Translator s NoteIntroduction, by Adam Zagajewski Chord of Light 1956 Hermes, Dog and Star 1957 Study of the Object 1961 Inscription 1969 Mr Cogito 1974 Report from a Besieged City 1983 Elegy for the Departure 1990 Rovigo 1992 Epilogue to a Storm 1998 NotesZbigniew Herbert A ChronologyIndex of Titles and First Lines


  2. says:

    At night the poet buildsa paradise for his dead Born from the suffering and slaughter of his countrymen under the totalitarian rule of both the Nazi s and the Communists alike, Zbigniew Herbert, the Polish born warrior of words, inks out powerful testimonies to the human race To read Herbert is to join him, hand in hand, on his long walks down avenues of burned houses and broken glass as he pays homage to the fallen and tries to squeeze bright drops of hope from the darkness Herbert writes in a prose poem of the world moving on past the trauma It happens very rarely The earth s axis screeches and comes to a stop Everything stands still then, storms, ships and clouds grazing in the valleys Everything Even horses in a meadow become immobile as if in an unfinished game of chess.And after a while the world moves on The ocean swallows and regurgitates, valleys send off steam and the horses pass from the black field into the white field There is also heard the resounding clash of air against air. In 1952, Herbert supplemented his income by selling his blood to survive I can think of no poignant an image of a poet as this At a young age, Herbert joined the underground resistance movements and watched many a fellow friend and poet succumb to the bullet and bomb Much of his work reflects on these Fallen Poets as this poem is named Silent one receive A shrieking bulletlodged in his arm so he fled surpriseGrass will cover this mound of poemsUnder the malevolent cast of horizonsYour silence will drink to the dregs A memorial of words to those who have gone before us is erected through this collection They who sailed at dawn but now will never return left their trace on a wave Through the eyes of his prose we witness cities blown apart, comrades execute by firing squads Five Men delivers one of the most impactful moments in his whole collection and the sadness of loss However, all is not lost, and Herbert manages to rise above the squalor and in dead earnest offer to the betrayed world a rose My soul would shudder and crawl, yet, pages later he offers a warmness that would perk it right back up and fill me with a glow while reading Herbert was a close friend of Czes aw Mi osz, Polish Nobel laureate and my personal favorite poet, whom he learned much of his trade from Together the two took to political activism beyond the written world and were very outspoken against communism Herbert was certainly a poet who walked what he talked, raining down bullets, potent prose and good old fashion activism against all who stood in his way Our steps pounding the pavings skin a proud step that will turn the world into one procession and one slogan How can you not respect this man And then take a look at the cover of this life long collection, how can you not respect a man with that awesome of a cover photo While there is a large focus on his political and wartime poetry, as well as other dark themes such as abandonment and fear, there are still a vast variety of other lighter themes flowering in this collection I personally greatly enjoyed his poetry about poetry, and the art of creating it Writing, offers a whimsical description of the writing process When I mount a chairto capture the tableand raise a fingerto arrest the sunwhen I take the skin off my faceand the house off my shouldersand clutchingmy metaphora goose quillmy teeth sunk into the airI try to createa newvowel Herbert also writes heavily about a certain Mr Cogito an alter ego, if you will, with a name that reminded me of Jim Morrison s Mr Mojo Rising , where he is able to detach and examine the human soul and conscious These are some of the finest, and funniest poems in the bunch, as harnesses existential dilemmas and irony to create a portrait of his hero Much deals with the search for identity, redemption, and the will to push on after so much suffering has befallen the countryside There is a comical poem where Mr Cogito reflects on Hell, and decides the inner circle is filled with poets, artists and musicians, but they happy there are because Beelzebub supports the arts He guarantees his artists tranquility, a healthy diet, and complete isolation from infernal life He boasts his artists outdo those in heaven This is a great collection of poetry, especially for those interested in wartime Europe and the Polish poets they do well with the Nobel awards, that s for sure Herbert never received one, but he is right up there with Mi osz and Wis awa Szymborska The translation seemed fine by me, although I have nothing to compare it to, only the fact that this edition is a revision of the translations by Mi osz himself Speaking of whom, Herbert writes in the poem Czeslaw Mi osz Angels descend from heaven Halleluiah when he sets down his slanted azure spaced letters If that s not a sell for him, I don t know what is Herbert weaves a tapestry of words that will take your breath away He will be missed Rest in peace 1924 19984 5 we mustarm in armgo blindly ontoward new horizonstoward contracted throatsfrom which risesan unintelligible gurgle


  3. says:

    The poet Robert Hass calls him one of the most influential European poets of the last half century, an ironist and a minimalist who writes as if it were the task of the poet, in a world full of loud lies, to say what is irreducibly true in a level voice Stephen Stepanchev describes Herbert as a witness to his time, and Stephen Miller calls him a political poet whose subdued and casual poems shun both hysteria and apocalyptic intensity Zbigniew Herbert is an avant garde poet whose experiments and precise, restrained rhythms have sent Polish prosody off in a new direction Trained in law, he is a man with a passion for classical literature and for history, and with all the intellectual tautness associated with a poet like T S Eliot.For Herbert, objects never represented an escape from the human he continues to be intrigued by them and to study them, finding unexpected new qualities and aspects of reality He humanizes them and at the same time respects their fundamental opacity.Herbert argues for the acceptance of suffering without big words and dramatic gestures, for a deflation of attitudes Herbert s poetry is based on permanent confrontation the confrontation of Western tradition with the experience of a barbarian from Eastern Europe, of the classical past with the modern era, of cultural myth with a practical, empirical point of view Zbigniew Herbert, a poet who, at least for me, transcends the Polish culture and even European intellectualism and speaks to all of humanity.


  4. says:

    4.5 5Favorite poems To ApolloTo Marcus AureliusOn a RoseArchitectureWarsaw CemetaryTestamentNike Who HesitatesI Would Like To DescribeA KnockerRosy EarSubstanceThe Return of the ProconsulPreliminary Investigation of an AngelReport From ParadiseCernunnosCuratia DionisiaLivy s MetamorphosesJourneyWagonMademoiselle CordayA Mirror Wanders the Road living despiteliving againstI reproach myself with the sin of forgetting you left an embrace like a needless sweatera gaze like a question our hands won t pass on the shape of your handswe let them go to waste touching common things our eyes reflect a questiontranquil as mirrored glassunclouded by warm breath every day I refresh my eyeevery day my touch growstickled by the nearness of so many things a rose bows its headas if it had shoulders leans against the windthe wind goes off alone it cannot speak the wordit cannot speak the word the the rose diesthe harder to say rose a good memory curesthe scar a loss leaves radiance may descenddown our bent backsverily verily I say unto yougreat is the abyssbetween us and the light I would like to describe the simplest emotionjoy or sadnessbut not as others doreaching for shafts of rain or sun I would like to describe a lightwhich is being born in mebut I know it does not resembleany starfor it is not so brightnot so pureand is uncertain There are those who growgardens in their headspaths lead from their hairto sunny and white cities it s easy for them to writethey close their eyesimmediately schools of imagesstream down from their foreheads my imaginationis a piece of boardmy sole instrumentis a wooden stick I strike the boardit answers meyes yesno no So many feelings fit between two heartbeatsso many objects can be held in our two hands Don t be surprised we can t describe the worldand just address things tenderly by name In a nest pleated from the fleshthere lived a birdits wings beat about the heartwe mostly called it unrestand sometimes love The Dead As a result of being confined in dark and unaired accommodation their faces have been radically changed They would love to speak but sand devoured their lips Only occasionally do they clutch the air with their fists and try to raise their heads clumsily like infants Nothing can cheer them, neither chrysanthemums nor candles They can t reconcile themselves to their condition, the condition of things Crypt I can still adjust the devotional picture so your reconciliation with necessity may be known, and the scarf as well, so that the inscription to my beloved might be a cause of tears But what to do with the fly, the black fly that creeps into the half closed mouth and carries out the remaining crumbs of the soul War A convoy of steel quiffs Boys painted with chalk Aluminum filings bring down houses Deafening missiles are sent into completely crimson air No one flies off into the sky The earth attracts bodies and lead Chimney On top of the house grows another house, only without a roof a chimney From it drift kitchen smells and my sighs The chimney is equitable, it doesn t keep them apart One big plume Black, very black Heart All man s internal organs are bald and smooth The stomach, intestines, lungs, are bald Only the heart has hair reddish, thick, sometimes quite long This is a problem The heart s hair inhibits the flow of blood like water plants The hair is often infested with worms You have to love very deeply to pick these quick little parasites from your beloved s cardiac hair I could write a treatiseon the abrupt changeof life into archaeology art tries to ennobleto raise to a higher levelpraise in song dance and chatter decayed human matterwashed out sufferings


  5. says:

    For anyone who s ever tried to express the inexpressible I Would Like to DescribeZbigniew Herbert, 1924 1998I would like to describe the simplest emotionjoy or sadnessbut not as others doreaching for shafts of rain or sunI would like to describe a lightwhich is being born in mebut I know it does not resembleany starfor it is not so brightnot so pureand is uncertainI would like to describe couragewithout dragging behind me a dusty lionand also anxietywithout shaking a glass full of waterto put it another wayI would give all metaphorsin return for one worddrawn out of my breast like a ribfor one wordcontained within the boundariesof my skinbut apparently this is not possibleand just to say I loveI run around like madpicking up handfuls of birdsand my tendernesswhich after all is not made of waterasks the water for a faceand angerdifferent from fireborrows from ita loquacious tongueso is blurredso is blurredin mewhat white haired gentlemenseparated once and for alland said this is the subjectand this is the objectwe fall asleepwith one hand under our headand with the other in a mound of planetsour feet abandon usand taste the earthwith their tiny rootswhich next morningwe tear out painfully


  6. says:

    As I already said much of what I would say about Herbert s poetry in my review of Mr Cogito included in this, the collected works , I ll leave it at that Suffice it to say that I enjoy Herbert s gentle humor, introspective bent, love of art and mythology, and habit of slowing me down as a reader by not using much in the way of periods, commas, or capital letters I take on the burden of careful reader, instead, and I can t do that very well unless I slow down and reread something every poet would ask of his readers Here s a last poem from his penultimate book, Rovigo ShameWhen I was very ill shame abandoned mewillingly I bared for alien hands surrendered to alien eyesthe poor mystery of my bodyThey invaded me brutally increasing the humiliationMy professor of forensic medicine the old Mancewiczfishing a suicide s remains from a pool of formaldehydebent over him as if he wished to ask him for his pardonthen with a deft movement he opened the proud thoraxthe basilica of the breath fell silentdelicately almost tenderlySo faithful to the dead respectful of ash I understandthe wrath of the Greek princess her stubborn resistanceshe was right a brother deserved a dignified buriala shroud of earth carefully drawnover the eyes


  7. says:

    THREE POEMS BY HEART 1 I cannot find the title for a memory of you with a hand torn from the dark I move on the remains of faces faint profiles of friendsfroze into hard outlines revolving around my head empty as the wind s forehead the silhouette of a black paper man2.living despiteliving against I reproach myself with the sin of forgetting you left an embrace like a needless sweater a gaze like a question our hands won t pass on the shape ofyour hands we let them go to waste touching common things our eyes reflect a question tranquil as mirrored glass unclouded by warm breath every day I refresh my eye every day my touch grows tickled by the nearness of so many things life purls like bloodShadows softly melt let s not let the fallen perish a cloud will pass on their memory the worn profiles of Roman coins ON A ROSE To Tadeusz Chrzanowski 1 Sweetness bears a flower s name Spherical gardens tremble suspended over the earth a sigh turns its head away a wind s face at the fence grass is spread out belowthe season of anticipation the coming will snuff out odors it will open colors the trees build a cupola of green tranquility the rose is calling youa blown butterfly pines after you threads burst instant follows instant O rosebud green larva unfold Sweetness bears the name rose an explosion purple s standardbearers emerge from the interior and the countless ranks trumpeters of fragrance on long butterfly horns proclaim the fulfillment 2 the intricate coronations cloister gardens orisons gold packed ceremonies and flaming candlesticks triple towers of silencelight rays broken on high the depths O source of heaven on earth O constellations of petals do not ask what a rose is A bird may render it to you fragrance kills thought a lightbrushing erases a face O color of desire O color of weeping lids heavy round sweetness redness torn to the heart 3 a rose bows its head as if it had shoulders leans against the wind the wind goes off aloneit cannot speak the word it cannot speak the word the the rose dies the harder to say rose


  8. says:

    A beautiful collection of poetry that bleeds open like a window to the life that sits behind the words I am in no fair position to judge the translation of the work, but the work in itself, separate from comparison with the original, rings true as a subtle but profound human expression Although the whole book is worth its labour in reading, it is the mid section that conceals the peak of poetical prowess starting with Mr Cogito Here the real insistence on deploring the world and it dehumanising features come to light but not in a vulgar, overbearing and violent manner but in the gentle tones of something human, lost within the strengths of old fashioned values such as Friendship And this is what the whole book really captures for me, the reluctance to give in to the modern automation and disqualification of love, dream, passion etc but at the same time refusing to harbour itself into a fantasy realm The book denies the truths of reality as any sort of just cause, or correct manner, but without taking the escapist notion, the infertile venture into a Second World, as an answer The collection does falter towards the end, at least in a stylistic sense Yet, in the place of the stronger poetry of the 70s and 80s I found Herbert s latter years, especially within the poetry of the last book Epilogue to a Storm , were filled with a sweet and timely sense of regret for a life to be soon lost and parts already lost , love for the humanity of friends and family, and importantly, a humble expression of deep honesty and sincerity Herbert does not feign any false sense of strength and perverted monstrosity Herbert s poetry, although not always balancing at some absurd peak of perfection, never falters away from the humane core Beautiful, at times thought provoking, always warming, this is a wonderful introduction to a sometimes overshadowed poet.


  9. says:

    I really dig this guy, and not only because he looks like a Polish Frank Sinatra on the cover of this book Here s an excerpt though they re not all this short, humorous, or prose y Dwarfs Dwarfs grow in the forest They have a peculiar smell and white beards They appear alone If a cluster of them could be gathered, dried, and hung over the door we might have some peace.


  10. says:

    the best poetry ever written