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This article is taken from PN Review 250, Volume 46 Number 2, November - December 2019.

Poetry and Music
Exile and Return
Sarah Rothenberg

Poet Adam Zagajewski joined the pianist Sarah Rothenberg for a program of music and poetry in Houston, as part of DACAMERA’s 2017–18 season theme, ‘No Place Like Home’. The myriad meanings of home were explored through concerts of chamber music, jazz and contemporary works . In ‘Music and Poetry: Exile and Return’, Zagajewski’s recent poems interwove with Rothenberg’s performances of Bach, Schubert and Beethoven.



The poet Adam Zagajewski has lived much of his life in exile. Shortly after his birth in Lvov, Poland in 1945, the city came under Soviet rule and his family was resettled in the Polish city of Gliwice. As recounted in his lyrical memoir, Two Cities, the abrupt uprooting turned his family’s gaze to the past, to the home that had been. Home became a memory, a place in the imagination - and memory became identity. Lvov, the absent home, was inherited from the remembering of others, as Adam left as an infant; the child-poet grows up in Gliwice amid the stories of uncles and aunts, parents and grandparents, seemingly endless stories that will later fill the poet’s pages – myth or fiction, dream or reality, stories contradicted by competing witnesses as are all family stories, subject to numerous personal variations. The lost city of Lvov and all it represents are forever present in Zagajewski’s writings, from the rhapsodic poem, ‘To Go to Lvov’ to his most recent books of prose, Slight Exaggeration, and poetry, Asymmetry.

The next exile came about in the disruptive 1980s, when the ...


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