Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski

Past Event: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

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Adam Zagajewski writes lucid poetry—at once imaginative and insightful—that illuminates the post World War II history he has experienced. He is widely considered to be the preeminent Polish poet of his generation. The New Republic writes, “[Zagajewski is] a thoroughly contemporary man who aspires, without embarrassment, to a verse that is a concrete avenue to an invisible reality.”

Born in Lvov, in what is now the Ukraine, in 1945, Zagajewski and his family were forced to relocate to western Poland after the Soviet takeover of the town. He started writing by satirizing, both in verse and prose, the surreal character of the totalitarian state. In the 1970s, along with many of his fellow artists and intellectuals, he turned to activism. This offered Zagajewski “the bitter bread of urgency, of contempraneity,” he writes in Another Beauty(2000). “It ripped me from the lovely sphere in which time doesn’t count, where I could read Norwid one day and Kafka the next, as if the real, historical worlds in which they lived were completely extraneous.”

In the last two decades Zagajewski’s poetry has moved from the political toward an examination of the individual’s relationship to history, philosophy, and the divine. “To defend poetry means to defend a fundamental gift of human nature, that is, our capacity to experience the world’s wonder, to uncover divinity in the cosmos and in another human being, in a lizard, in chestnut leaves, to experience astonishment and to stop still in that astonishment for an extended moment or two,” he writes. He lives in Paris, France and teaches one semester a year at the University of Houston.

Adam Zagajewski’s many honors include a fellowship from the Berliner Kunstleprogramm (Berlin), the Kurt Tucholsky Prize (Stockholm), the Prixe de la Liberte (Paris), the Koscielski-Foundation Prize (Geneva), and a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry. His poetry and essays have appeared in The New YorkerThe New Republic, and The Paris Review. He co-edits Zeszyty Literackie, a quarterly Polish-language literary magazine.

Selected WorkTwo Cities (1995)Solidarity, Solitude (1990)Mysticism for Beginners (1998)Canvas (1991)Tremor (1985)

LinksAcademy of American Poets web page of ZagajewskiUniversity of Texas homepage for Zagajewski