Sunday, May 24, 2009

Preface

First, plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it, you should be able to see
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road,
As if in a flash of summer lightning.

And it should contain more than images.
It has been lured by singsong,
A daydream, melody. Defenseless,
It was bypassed by the sharp, dry world.

You often ask yourself why you feel shame
Whenever you look through a book of poetry.
As if the author, for reasons unclear to you,
Addressed the worse side of your nature,
Pushing aside thought, cheating thought.

Seasoned with jokes, clowning, satire,
Poetry still knows how to please.
Then its excellence is much admired.
But the grave combats where life is at stake
Are fought in prose. It was not always so.

And our regret has remained unconfessed.
Novels and essays serve but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.

--Czeslaw Milosz

3 comments:

SM said...

I love this poem. Thanks for posting it!

jajamama said...

Bought a used book with a bookmark with a quote:
Every word was once a poem. Emerson.
I've been reflecting on it. The book is good too.

Busboy said...

"One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose."

Without getting into a discussion about what is or isn't poetry, I think this is the power song lyrics have always had. It may not have been until the '60s that song lyrics appeared in American pop culture which finally got around to addressing the wide range of subjects poetry always has, but song lyrics have always done exactly what Milosz says a clear stanza can do. And, like poetry, there are a whole lot of bad songs to be suffered through before you find that diamond in the mine.