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Adam Czerniawski

The Invention of Poetry

The Invention of Poetry


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‘Adam Czerniawski’s poetry springs from a conjunction of Polish and English (or perhaps European) culture. Deeply rooted in the Polish language, he is at the same time a poet of universal themes observed from a wide perspective of the Western world. I would even claim that this poetry springs from a different basis of culture and literary tradition, that he has managed to set himself free from many complexes of contemporary Polish poetry, to grasp and see them from a global perspective. Additionally, there is his special position as a poet standing outside the émigré cultural life, which gives him the advantage of distance, of reserve and of being above the current disputes and entanglements. The art which he practises enables us to count him among poets of culture full of erudition and various tropes which bear witness to his inheriting the great tradition of European culture.’

–Konstanty Pieńkosz, Literary critic

‘My favourite poems by Adam Czerniawski include “Seaside Holiday”, “Interior Topography” (one of his best poems), “You and I”, “Man”, “Science Fiction”, “Listening to a Schubert Quartet”, “World”, “Bridge”, “Fish”, “Triangle”, “A View of Delft”, “Evening, or a Field of Vision”, “Token of Remembrance” and “Golden Age”. These poems display a dialectical synthesis of feeling and awareness; without falling below the level of the author’s understanding – and let’s note that it is a philosophical understanding rare among Polish poets (Miłosz is a philosopher of a totally different kind) – these poems do not leave feelings behind, and this is precisely what works in their favour.’

–Bogdan Czaykowski, Poet and scholar



Reviews of this Book

‘This is a book about how seemingly insignificant moments may be the ones that turn out to matter most. It’s about disappearances and exile, love and loss, mystery and poetry. It’s a book to live with – not just read.’ —Helena Nelson

‘There is a note of sadness in Czerniawski; his tone is at times nostalgic, even, funereal of, for instance, ‘annihilated childhood’ – a childhood buried in a diasporic past. There is, in his later works, an untitled poem, almost an epigram: ‘he arranged his life, but not his death’, reminiscent of fraszka, a form preferred by Kochanowski, another Polish poet, a seventeenth century master. ‘Fraszka’ (from Italian frasca: a joke, an anecdote) is a humorous form, composed, speaking melodically, in key-major. I detect in Czerniawski’s piece that sense: a wry humour over a life lived well and an unavoidable passing. But ‘not everything ends’, the poet says in teh book’s epigraph: poetry withstands time, it is eternal, and thus is the poet. This book spans the poet’s entire life – the formative and the most recent years, and it celebrates just that.’ —Piotr Wesolowski

‘The last poem in the collection, “For the Muses Return’, serves as Czerniawski’s summa poetica in the way it combines his characteristic attitudes of self-assertion and self-effacement. The poem recalls a visitation by the Muses, nothing remains from the original experience, only some words the poet jotted down in his journal and now can read ‘with difficulty’ ... The Muses’ inspiration is a blessing an a beginning. A moment of poetic madness offers (as we learn in Plato’s Phaedrus) a transcending experience for both poet and for the future generations of his readers. It is a fit conclusion to Czerniawski’s remarkable volume.’ —Piotr Gwiazda

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