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This review is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

Poetry Searches for Radiance adam zagajewski, Selected Poems, translated by Clare Cavanagh, Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry and C.K. Williams (Faber) £12.99
adam zagajewski, Eternal Enemies, translated by Clare Cavanagh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) $14.00
adam zagajewski, Unseen Hand, translated by Clare Cavanagh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) $23.00

Titles have a poetry of their own. Eternal Enemies refers to Zagajewski's 'Epithalamium' (for Isca and Sebastian): 'Only in marriage do love and time, / eternal enemies, join forces'. Time, with its companions loss and death, plays a central role in Zagajewski's poems. The changing seasons, dawn and dusk, past history, the decline of cities, all furnish the imagery that fuels the pervasive melancholy of his beautifully observed tributes to persons and places. As for love - it is the great reconciler, the motive force of hope, life itself.

Eternal Enemies is dedicated 'To Maya, toujours', and her presence is felt throughout, in 'Music Heard' and 'Music Heard with You', in remembered quarrels, estrangement, moments of joy. Most of the poems are autobiographical, a poet's life distilled to a fleeting moment, an emotion shadowed by its opposite. An early 'Self-Portrait' is qualified ironically by a second, 'Self-Portrait: Not Without Doubts': 'Enthusiasm moves you in the morning, / by evening you lack the nerve / even to glance at the blackened page'.

I met Zagajewski in his beloved Krakow, the 'gray and lovely city' to which he has returned after years of self-imposed exile in Paris. We had lunch in an ancient restaurant, looking out through a driving rain on the medieval Market Square - Adam, his wife Maya, and I. I felt as if I already knew Adam through his poems, in which he appears as a solitary wanderer, a traveller to far-flung places, a ...


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