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Tadeusz Rozewicz, Noted Polish Poet, Passes Away at 92

By Harriet Staff


The New York Times recently posted an obituary for Tadeusz Rozewicz, an outspoken champion of poetry after Auschwitz, who passed away peacefully at home in Wroclaw, Poland, at the age of 92. Poland’s culture ministry announced his death. From The NYT:

…Poland has long adored its great bards, many of them of the Romantic school. But as its war-ravaged people grappled with losing six million of their number — nearly one-fifth of the population — in World War II, Polish poets faced an immense challenge: finding the words to confront meaninglessness after art, reason and religion had all seemed to fail at the task.

They rose to the occasion. Writing in The New York Times Magazine in 1996, the poet and critic Edward Hirsch said Poland’s postwar writers had produced what “may well be the most urgent and cosmopolitan poetry in the world today.”

Mr. Rozewicz — whose brother, his literary inspiration, was killed by the Gestapo — was at the center of this expression, publishing more than two dozen books of verse and 15 plays as well. When the poet Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel in 1996, she said it would be difficult to imagine Polish poetry without Mr. Rozewicz.

“We all owe him something,” she said, “although not everyone is ready to admit it.” […]

Czeslaw Milosz, the grandmaster of Polish literature, who won the Nobel in 1980 and who translated much of Mr. Rozewicz’s work into English, called Mr. Rozewicz “the most talented among those who began to publish immediately after 1945.”

Certainly none took on a sterner task: refuting Theodor Adorno, the German sociologist and philosopher, who famously said, “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

Mr. Rozewicz, in the poem “I Did Espy a Marvelous Monster,” asserted, “at home a task/Awaits me:/To create poetry after Auschwitz.”

He called for a new aesthetic that accepted Auschwitz as its awful premise and deemed all previous literature a lie. He insisted that “stillness” had come to trump words, but that when words were offered, they must be piercingly direct. Metaphysics, mystical allusion and “prettiness” had no use. […]

Learn more at The New York Times. Rest in peace, friend.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 by Harriet Staff.