How do you find a poet? You can have parents like mine who read poetry for the joy of the words. Through them you meet Frost, Shakespeare and Burns. You laugh with Eugene Fields, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. Eventually you make new acquaintances — Keats, Wordsworth and Edgar Lee Masters. Auden and Stevie Smith add dimensions.
So how about today — how did I meet the words of today’s poet, Czeslaw Milosz? How did I discover the works of a man, who began his career in inter-war Warsaw? Was a member of the Resistance in war-ravaged Europe’s second blooding; eventually defecting to the west from his Polish diplomatic posting in post-war Paris. He won the Nobel Prize in 1980. He sounds fascinating, right? And that’s why I fell for his poetry, yes?
Well, no…. I first heard of Milosz while watching the news on my birthday in 2004, the newscaster said he died. There was a bit about the bio, which sounded fascinating, the defection and the Nobel Prize. So, I looked him up….
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.
Night’s End: The Bitter End (Carlene Carter — she’s an under-appreciated member of one of country’s oldest families); On and On and On (Wilco, not quite abandoned to pop); Window to the World (Shawn Colvin — love her voice); The Song is Ended (Nat King Cole — but the melody lingers on); Alright, OK, You Win (Tony Bennett & Diana Krall); One World (Not Three)/Love Is The Seventh Wave (Sting, from the live Bring on the Night album); End of the Innocence (Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby together is just fun); Am I the Only One (Maria McKee — so want more from her); Bookends Theme (Simon & Garfunkel); Who Do you Love (Townes Van Zandt); the End of the End (Paul McCartney –he just loves what he’s doing); Who’ll be the Next in Line (the Kinks); Until the End (Norah Jones — smooth); How’s the World Treating You (Alison Krauss & James Taylor); Worlds Apart (Bruce Springsteen — I love the Rising); The Life (Wendy & Lisa — one of Prince’s smart decisions); World Spins Madly On (Weepies); and It’s the End of the World As We Know It (R.E.M.)
We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written –> Robert Gould Shaw