Saturday, July 17, 2021

What Luck


What Luck

By Tadeusz Rozewicz

translated by Adam Czerniawski

What luck I can pick
berries in the wood
I thought
there is no wood no berries.
What luck I can lie
in the shade of a tree
I thought trees
no longer give shade.
What luck I am with you
my heart beats so
I thought man
has no heart.

This beautiful and affecting poem is about how we slowly come back to life and sense once again simple pleasures after a heartbreak in relationship.  Emerging from devastation, man (can be woman too) finds his way back into the world: woods, berries, trees, shades. The world that had been taken away is slowly returned. And then one day, your heart beats again. Beats in time to another's. What luck. What luck that you can return to the world.

Widely held to be the most influential Polish poet of a generation that includes Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska, Tadeusz Rózewicz gives voice in the sharpest, most disturbing way to the crisis of values that has plagued our civilization. 

Tom Paulin says the following about the poet in an afterword in the book I have.

“Rózewicz's poems have the clipped, intense feel of conversation in wartime. They are clandestine speech, wary phrases, oblique gestures, wry turns that stop, start, disappear like jammed radio signals. These are messages from the underground. Always in these poems the individual emotion seems not to be the possession of the writer so that each impersonal lyric appears clamped by something that is out there — history,politics, the metal sinews and coiled wires of the public world. He gives that grey void a voice, then turns that voice against, itself, against poet, reader, world.As he states in My Poetry, his poetry "loses even against itself. It hides "itself in itself" and explains nothing. 

Różewicz's poems were ascetic, without metre, rhyme or metaphors, stripped bare of any rhetorical posturing and ornamentation or anything that could be considered aesthetically pleasing. One result of this is that long before Barthes he creates what that critic terms "writing degree zero" — he designs "a non-style or an oral style" which is free from the frozen classical or romantic gestures of the printed word. His poems therefore have a tentative, throwaway, ephemeral, intensely vulnerable look to them— they seem to say "I'm like that bit of paper you see on the street.”

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