Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday's poems: Zbigniew Herbert

"Let us detach ourselves a little from this truly horrible everyday reality and try to write about doubt, anxiety, and despair"
Zbigniew Herbert

"It is vanity to think that one can influence the course of history by writing poetry. It is not the barometer that changes the weather.

"Zbigniew Herbert

"This poetry is about the pain of the twentieth century, about accepting the cruelty of an inhuman age, about an extraordinary sense of reality. And the fact that at the same time the poet loses none of his lyricism or his sense of humor - this is the unfathomable secret of a great artist." 
Adam Zagajewski

Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998) is one of Poland's most influential and celebrated poets. 

During WW2 he fought in the Polish resistance against the Nazis and in post war Poland he opposed Communist ideology, a risky position for a poet and citizen. During the 60's and 70's he refused to submit his poetry to the Communist Government, with the result that his work was not published till the 1980's and then in underground publications.

From Mr Cogito on a Set Topic: "Friends Depart"
with the inexorable
passing of years
his count of friends

they went off
in pairs
in groups
one by one
some paled like wafers
lost earthly dimensions
and suddenly
or gradually
to the sky

I Would Like to Describe
Zbigniew Herbert

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun 

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin
but apparently this is not possible

and just to say -- I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face
and anger 
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object 

we fall asleep 
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets
our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

From "Selected Poems of Zbigniew Herbert";

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