SAL/on air is a literary podcast featuring the best author talks from over thirty years of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ programming.
This reading by Adam Zagajewski, recorded in March 2001, was postponed from its original date by the forces of Mother Nature. On February 28, 2001, the Nisqually Earthquake struck. In wry form, Zagajewski banters about the interplay between reality and poetry, life and art. He notes thematic links between his book Tremor, his poem “Lava,” and the shaking earth that brought daily life in the Pacific Northwest to a halt.
The pre-eminent Polish poet of his generation, Zagajewski’s early work was political in nature. He sought to illuminate conditions in western Poland post-World War II: “the bitter bread of urgency and contemporaneity.” With insight and imagination, Zagajewski’s poems depict the surreal experience of daily life in a totalitarian state following the Soviet takeover of his hometown, Lvov, in present-day Ukraine.
At the start of this reading, which includes poems in English and Polish, Zagajewski says, “As long as you write new poems, you are alive. It’s the only proof of this.” Zagajewski died this March, but his poems remain with us—proof he was alive and lives still. In a poetic twist of fate, the date of Zagajewski’s passing was the same as the evening he read at Seattle Arts & Lectures—exactly nineteen years earlier.