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Editor's note.

WORLD LITERATURE TODAY proudly presents a special section of the current issue devoted to Polish poet, critic, and fiction writer Adam Zagajewski, recipient of the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. That Zagajewski should win the award is not only reason for celebration but seemingly predestined, for 2004 also marked the passing of the patriarch of Polish letters--Nobelist, Neustadt laureate, and Puterbaugh fellow Czeslaw Milosz--and was designated as "The Year of Witold Gombrowicz" in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the Polish author's birth (see Harold Segel, pp. 29-30). Such a convergence among Neustadt laureates has perhaps only been rivaled by poet Elizabeth Bishop, who, in i976, the year of the U.S. bicentennial, became the first and only U.S. author to win the Neustadt Prize. In the thirty-four-year history of the award, only two countries have been represented by more than one laureate: Colombia (with Gabriel Garcia Marquez [i972] and Alvaro Mutis [2002]) and Poland (with Czeslaw Milosz [1978] and Adam Zagajewski [2004]). Of those four Neustadt laureates, two have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Also of note is that Polish poet, essayist, and dramatist Zbigniew Herbert (i924-98) was nominated a record five times for the Neustadt Prize (1970, 1972, 1978, 1984, 1994) and was last championed as a candidate for the award by South African writer and Nobelist J. M. Coetzee, who served on the 2994 Neustadt jury.

Clearly, Polish literature has loomed large throughout the history of the Neustadt Prize and within the pages of Books Abroad and World Literature Today. In 1970, the first year the Neustadt was presented, both Herbert and countryman Jerzy Andrzejewski were candidates for the award. In addition to the multiple nominations of Herbert and that of Milosz, Polish authors Tadeusz Rozewicz and Stanislaw Lem were nominees for the award in 2976 and i988, respectively. Neustadt jurors from Poland have included Zbigniew Herbert, Jan Kott (poet, translator, and critic), Stanislaw Baranczak (poet, critic, and literary historian), and Bogdana Carpenter (critic and translator). WLT's coverage of Polish literature has featured works by the writers mentioned above, all four Polish Nobel laureates in literature (Henryk Sienkiewicz, W. S. Reymont, Czeslaw Milosz, and Wislawa Szymborska [see biographical profiles in this issue]), as well as Aleksander Wat, Julian Przybos, Bruno Schulz, Anna Swir, Tadeusz Borowski, Ewa Lipska, Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Ernest Bryll, Anna Frajlich, Slowomir Mrozek, Adam Michnik, Julian Kornhauser, and Ryszard Krynicki, among others.

Nevertheless, Adam Zagajewski occupies a unique place among modern Polish authors. As Milosz enthusiastically observed in his introduction to Zagajewski's early verse collection Tremor (1985), "What a joy to see a major poet emerging from a hardly differentiated mass of contemporaries and taking the lead in the poetry of my language." He goes on to state, "I am inclined to apply his [Zagajewski's] own words to my feeling of wonder: 'Only in the beauty created / by others is there consolation.'"

ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI was born in x945 in Lwow (then in the USSR and currently in the Ukraine) and raised in Gliwice, Poland, where he completed his elementary and high-school education. In 1963 he moved to Krakow and graduated in philosophy from Jagiellonian University. During this rime, he introduced many philosophical motifs into his writing and was an advocate of "plain speaking" in poetry, "representing reality as openly as possible and directly communicating human experiences in their richness and complexity." He became well known as the leading Polish poet of the Generation of '68 and played an active role as a political dissident in the 1970s, when he took part in the unofficial, opposition literary movement known as the New Wave.

In 2979 Zagajewski received a fellowship from the Internationale Konstlerprogramm and spent two years in Berlin. He moved to Paris in 2982, where he lived for twenty years before returning to Krakow. In 1988 he accepted a position with the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, where he was recruited by U.S. poet and critic Edward Hirsch and continues to teach one semester each year. Zagajewski is the director of the Krakow Poetry Seminar, which he founded in 2002. He is a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the recipient of numerous national and international literary awards, including Slovenia's International Vilenica Prize (1996) and Sweden's Tomas Transtromer Prize (2000), named in honor of the recipient of the 1990 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Zagajewski was nominated for the Neustadt by Bogdana Carpenter, a regular contributor to World Literature Today.

Zagajewski has published eight verse collections and eight volumes of prose, and his work has been translated into over a dozen languages. He is currently co-editor of Zeszyty Literackie (Literary notebooks), which is published in Paris. Some of the French versions of his poems have been rendered by his wife, Maya Wodecka (Zagajewska), a sample of which appears in this issue. Zagajewski is known to a wide U.S. readership for his many contributions to such publications as the New Yorker and for his prose and verse collections published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His latest prose volume, A Defense of Ardor, although not available in bookstores until mid-October 2004, saw its first release in early October here at the University of Oklahoma on the occasion of Zagajewski's receiving the Neustadt Prize. Clare Cavanagh, the translator of this essay collection and of numerous other works by Zagajewski, was present to help honor her longtime friend.

"Seldom has the muse of poetry spoken to anyone with such clarity as in Zagajewski's case."--Joseph Brodsky


Komunikat (1972; Communique)

Sktepy miesne (1975; Meat shops)

Drugi Oddech (1978; Second wind)

List: Oda do wielosci (1982; Lettter: Ode to plurality)

Cienka kreska (1983; The thin line)

Jechac do Lwowa i inne wiersze (1985; To go to Lvov and other poems)

Tremor: Setected Poems (1985)

Solidarnosc i samotnosc (1986; Eng. Solidarity, Solitude: Essays, 1990)

Ptotno (1990; Eng, Canvas, 1991)

Dwa miasta (1991; Eng. Two Cities: On Exile, History, and the Imagination, 1995)

Ziemia ognista (1995; Land in flames)

Mysticism for Beginners (1997)

Pozne swieta (1998; Late feasts)

Trzej aniotowie / Three Angels (1998)

W cudzym pieknie (2998; Eng. Another Beauty, 2000)

Pragnien<e (2999; Desire)

Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002)

Obrona zarliwosci (2002; Eng. A Defense of Ardor, 2004)

Powrot (2003: Return)
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Author:Clark, David Draper
Publication:World Literature Today
Date:May 1, 2005
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