The Nobel prize-winning Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz’s poems are regarded as modern classics. He published his first collection of poems, Poemat o czasie zastyglym (“Poem of the Frozen Time”), at the age of 21.
A compilation of his selected and last poems from the years between 1931 and 2004 were published by Penguin in 2014. Translated by Anothony Milosz and with an introduction by the great poet, Seamus Heaney, this is a collection of chilling intelligence and bountiful beauty. Having witnessed two World Wars during his lifetime, his verse is marked with a piercing knowingness about the brittleness of life. There is also a persistent urge in his writing to write of an individual as a mere visitor on earth. For example in the poem ‘Faith’ he writes ‘Faith is in you whenever you look/At a dewdrop or a floating leaf/And know that they are there because they have to be/Even if you close your eyes and dream up things/The world will remain as it has always been/ And the leaf will be carried by the waters of the river’.
Milosz’s call is for each human being to realize that his time in the worldly realm is finite, and once armed with that knowledge, begin to see life in richer tones. In the poem ‘Love’ he writes ‘Love means to learn to look at yourself/The way one looks at distant things/For you are only one thing among many/And whoever sees that way heals his heart’.
This collection is unmissable for its timelessness, and as a stunning tribute to the spirit of humanity.