I have always aspired to a more spacious form
In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
That’s why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion,
What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,
It’s true that what is morbid is highly valued today,
There was a time when only wise books were read
And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
The purpose of poetry is to remind us
What I’m saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
I was introduced to Milosz several years ago by Dr. Roger Lundin, in a class on “Modern Literature and the Question of Belief”. This class changed my life, not in the least part because of reading Milosz.
Milosz was a Lithuanian who grew up during World War II, and his experience of the ravaging war influenced his perception of the life, art, and love. His poetry was written in Polish, and translated into English by one of his students at Berkley. In all the deep questioning in all his work, Milosz had a great many things to say about humanity and our struggle find reason and purpose.
This poem less a contemplation of “what makes poetry,” and more an exploration of what effect the arts have on Man. What is the purpose of Art, in the wide scope of human action?
It is the “sublime agonies” of art – pushed away in the first stanza – that are at the heart of it’s substance and purpose. The self-revelation that comes as a surprise not only to the viewer, but to the artist.
And it is only hope and openness that Art can be made, and become something touch our mind, heart, and soul.