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This review is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

REVIEWS
IDEAS AND POEMS
Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, The Poet's Work. An Introduction to Czeslaw Milosz (Harvard University Press) n.p.

How many of us English-speakers care about Polish poetry? Probably not many more than fifty years ago, despite the accession to us, through those years, of many Anglicized Poles. Those Anglo-Polish fellow-citizens have not shown themselves notably more concerned about poetry than the echt-British people among whom they have understandably wanted to show themselves, and feel themselves, at home. However that may be, the truth is that the Poles have a continuous poetic tradition from the Renaissance onwards - such as the Russians for instance haven't; and there has been a concerted endeavour - less on the part of the Poles themselves than by their misguided friends in the West - to conceal the richness of this inheritance. Instead we have been invited to think that the Poles in 1945 'started afresh', cancelling out as irrelevant, or irremediably tainted by ancient injustices, all the previous centuries of poetic endeavour. Moreover there were not lacking those, certainly British and less numerously American, who would reproach their fellow anglophones for not wiping the slate clean with the same radical fervour. In this way Polish poetry, though no more than ever before an experience available to English-speakers (for translators from the Polish were nowhere extolled as superior to their unregarded predecessors), yet took on salience as a talking-point, an ideological wedge. From out of that salient sharp-shooters could shoot down any one who maintained that translation of poetry was an art; for Polish poetry since 1945, so it was maintained, had cut ...


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