Without End New and Selected Poems

Adam Zagajewski; Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C. K. Williams

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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This selection draws from each of Adam Zagajewski's English-language poetry collections, both in and out of print, including Tremor, Canvas, and Mysticism for Beginners. It also includes work from his early books, Communiqué and Butcher Shop, as well as some sixty pages of new poems that are among Zagajewski's most refreshing and rewarding. Meditating on both human frailty and vigor, this new poetry is keenly imagined, of great clarity of thought, and scrupulous in its attention to the natural world.

Featuring lucid and graceful translations by Clare Cavanagh, Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C. K. Williams, Without End: New and Selected Poems allows us to view the whole arc of this master poet's career thus far—a career that might be seen as an ongoing attempt to, in Zagajewski's words, "experience astonishment and to stop still in that astonishment for a long moment or two."


Praise for Without End

"[Zagajewski's poetry] is the quiet voice at the corner of the immense devastations of an obscene century, more intimate than Auden, yet as cosmopolitan as Milosz, Celan, or Brodsky . . . [Without End is a] stirring and profound and delightful collection."—Derek Walcott, The New Republic

"Zagajewski's variety of tone is remarkable . . . Recognizing [the influence of other poets in his work] clearly enriches our reading of Zagajewski's poems, but their force is by no means weakened if we do not, just as missing a coded homage to Beethoven hardly prevents us from feeling the power of Brahms. Zagajewski's work does, in fact, display a Brahmsian richness of color, intricacy of rhythm, and the occasional use of ambiguous tonality—all in the service of an inward urgency, powerfully captured in these translations . . . These renderings—by Clare Cavanagh and Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C. K. Williams—have their own enchanting music, and the translators have consistently chosen elegant solutions for difficult passages . . . Zagajewski's poems pull us from whatever routine threatens to dull our senses, from whatever might lull us into mere existence. [Without End] is an astonishing book, worth standing hours in line for, a book to sneak into the workplace or smuggle abroad, to ship to relatives."—Philip Boehm, The New York Times Book Review

"Seldom has the muse spoken to anyone with such clarity and urgency as in Zagajewski's case."—Joseph Brodsky

"Zagajewski's poems put us in the presence of great mysteries. They deliver us to something deep and strange and perhaps even unlimited within ourselves . . . [They] are everywhere shadowed by death, and extremely conscious of human cruelty . . . Yet [they] are also filled with splendid moments by spiritual lucidity . . . Zagajewski has never forgotten the importance of addressing communal concerns, the necessity of civitas, and yet he has also learned the fundamental value of privacy, of the morality of speaking only for oneself . . . He is in some sense a pilgrim, a seeker, a celebrant in search of the divine, the unchanging, the absolute. His poems are filled with radiant moments of plentitude."—Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post Book World

"Zagajewski's newest collection marks a major literary event. Zagajewski is a poet of the world, and one of its finest. He is one of those rare poets who writes of art, philosophy, travel, history, and aesthetics without pretension or posture, with knowledge and understanding that is not labored but intrinsic. His work reveals an expansive and contemplative citizen, sober with learned yet compassionate wisdom. Everywhere in his poetry we find Western culture presented to us anew. Whether he's writing about Hegel or Heraclitus, Chopin or Schopenhauer, always he connects us to the beauty and sadness of our relationship to Art."—The Christian Science Monitor

"Poet Zagajewski has inhabited the realms of shadow and light for a number of years. Without End, a generous selection of his work in English translation, presents him above all as an elegiac poet . . . His strongest poems come out of the sense of loss . . . The few samples of Zagajewski's early work included in Without End already reveal the essential aspects of his artistic idiom: the anchoring of the poem in contemporary reality, the preference for straightforward yet somewhat detached commentary, cutting irony complemented by skepticism . . . The later work reveals him increasingly as a true if belated humanist, a proclaimer of restrained hope, a muted affirmationist. He doesn't shun such old-fashioned concepts as Beauty, Truth, Presence, the Self, and the Soul, an attitude which somehow tempers his irony and skepticism, on occasion leaving the reader with the impression that his poems could have been written in the first decades of the twentieth century . . . If Milosz is a visionary who occasionally reveals himself to us as a human being, Zagajewski is the reverse: an ordinary man capable of piercing insights that will not last and will not save us. Zagajewski tends to be wary of poses. His speaking persona is ascetic, economical, understated. He travels across time and space, a contemplative chronicler of European and occasionally of American culture. He readily loses himself in meditation on natural beauty, on human intellect, on artistic creation. Philosophical, historical, and literary references serve as starting points for whole poems: here one can find pieces about a weeping Schopenhauer, Franz Schubert at a press conference, Vermeer's teenage model, or Shoah watched 0 on television in a hotel room in America. Zagajewski's poems reveal a subtle intellect and an abundant sensibility—neither of which is lost in these elegant translations."—Piotr Gwiazda, Times Literary Supplement

"Not only a worthy introduction but also a broad, breathtaking overview. The new and selected poems in this 278-page collection combine a collage of early and recent writings with nearly 90 percent of the pieces from Zagajewski's other three books . . . The writing in every section flows without seeming superfluous, argues without menace or contempt, captures history with camera-like adeptness without seeming flat, tedious, preachy . . . After the release of this book, in fact, if Zagajewski is not on the Nobel voters' short lists for the prize, it seems a crime against culture, reason, and more importantly, verse . . . A must-read for anyone interested in some of the best poetry being written today."—Ace Boggess, The Adirondack Review

"Born into an anguished society made anguished by the wounds of the political, [Zagajewski] eschewed early on the lyric notion of the poet as a self-contained universe who, in building his identity in verse, constitutes the world of his experience ('I am my world,' as Stevens' rooster crowed). Zagajewski chose instead to live in history, and to make his poems accountable to the demands of the world around him . . . Zagajewski's progress out of the political-historical register of his early work, his discovery that the individual may also be the gravely universal, is by no means the only progress or the only development or the only axis visible in Without End: but it is the most apparent axis, and it is to me the most striking. Good poets are always important, of course, and the pleasures and lessons of reading Zagajewski's work are manifold in themselves. But a poet such as Zagajewski is also important for what he reminds us about poetry itself. History is also experience. Poems chronicle what they create. The world is more than a subject."—Brian Phillips, The Hudson Review

"From Central Europe, whose great writers have set the pitch for much of [the 20th] century's seriousness about feelings, about barbarism and culture, about the limits of the political, about the life of forms in art: these reflections, this voice. Adam Zagajewski, a wonderful poet . . . writes only about what really matters—with exemplary purity and skepticism."—Susan Sontag

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Excerpted from Without End by Adam Zagajewski. Copyright © 2002 by Adam Zagajewski. To be published in March, 2003 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


Oh my mute city, honey-gold, buried in ravines, where wolves loped softly down the cold meridian; if I had to tell you, city, asleep beneath a heap of lifeless leaves, if I needed to describe the ocean's skin, on which ships etch the lines of shining poems, and yachts like peacocks flaunt their lofty sails and the Mediterranean, rapt in salty concentration, and cities with sharp turrets gleaming
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  • Adam Zagajewski; Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry, and C. K. Williams

  • Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov in 1945. His previous books include the poetry collections Tremor (1985), Canvas (1992), and Mysticism for Beginners (1998), and the essay collections Two Cities (1995) and Another Beauty (2000). He lives in Europe.

    Clare Cavanagh is a professor of Slavic languages at Northwestern University, and has translated the poetry of Wyslawa Szymborska.

    Renata Gorczynski is an essayist, a literary critic, and a teacher of journalism. She lives in Gdynia, Poland.

    Benjamin Ivry is a poet ("Paradise for the Portuguese Queen"), biographer (of Ravel, Poulenc, and Rimbaud), and translator.

    C. K. Williams has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry. He teaches at Princeton University.
  • Adam Zagajewski Jerry Bauer
    Adam Zagajewski