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A review of new poems from American Poet

 

New Poems collects Bill Johnston’s translations of the three most recent volumes by Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz. Though never achieving the popularity of his contemporaries Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, and Wislawa Szymborska, Rozewicz is considered a giant of post-war Polish poetry. Rozewicz, now midway through his eigth decade, is still prolific and vital, possessed of a fierce intelligence and acerbic tongue that prompted Milosz to call him “a poet of chaos with a nostalgia for order. Around him and in himself he sees only broken fragments, a senseless rush.” Like Herbert, Rozewicz is a veteran of the Armia Krajowa resistance movement during World War II, and his poems bear witness to his age through the lives of those lost and the objects they leave behind. These stunning new poems, delivered to us by Johston’s deft and modest hand, juxtapose often ruthless interrogations of human cruelty and banality with haunting meditations on memory and loss, as they attempt to address the complexities of present-day human experience under the shadow of the past century.

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