I’ve had this poetry book on my shelf since university but never made a focused effort to read through it until this year. I enjoyed the variety of voices, styles, and historical contexts brought together by Czeslaw Milosz. Many of the poems are translations with quite a lot of those being done by Milosz himself.
There is a definite influence here of California, Buddhism, and mid-20th century aesthetics. Each poem has a short blurb from Milosz and he seems to have picked a lot of poets he knew or worked with. But that is really what makes this a unique anthology. Milosz isn’t trying to collect a certain kind of poem or to anthologize a certain period. The poets are quite varied and instead of being organized by form or time period they are collected in chapters with names like “The Moment” or “A Woman’s Skin.” (I was ready to not enjoy that chapter, expecting a heavy dose of the male gaze but was pleasantly surprised by the poems Milosz included there, including several by women poets from past and present.)
This is a book of poetry for poetry’s sake. It isn’t attempting to teach anything but really reads simply as a lot of poems that Czeslaw Milosz enjoys and wants us to read. Reading the poems in the clusters that he gathers them within offered a varied and interesting perspective on his categories, as arbitrary as they seemed at times. For a reader who enjoys reading poetry, this would make an enjoyable book.