knowledge

Upon Reading Milosz

I read a poet’s work,

I think how long it took to write,

Of what he saw and I did not.

Concise and hammered

not in metal, in –

meter, rhythm, rhyme and word,

Wrought in inked heart-blood,

There he is.

I close the book,

set it down

Atop the coffee table

and go about my day –

Like a cloth pattern imprinted for a time

on my skin

His images and verse,

press upon my mind.

Milosz, Precision and Storybooks.

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
reading1
There is a lot going on within this poem-  I especially love the last stanza. The importance of precision seems to be a reoccurring theme of his and as a mother, who is preoccupied with diapers, children, laundry and storybooks, I began to relate this theme to Children’s Literature.
    Lack of precision irritates me and seems to be a problem in children’s story books. When I read to my children, some books just D-R-A-G on.  The reader shouldn’t be muttering to himself, “how much longer?”  A poem or story should move forward without being too wordy; Quick and crisp details carrying it forward. The reader should desire to read on.
I am guilty of abridging poorly written storybooks just to get it over with. When I find myself doing this, I look at the book and think, ‘why do I have this on my shelf?’ And if it doesn’t have excellent illustrations that stand on its own-out it goes.
At times, when I am pressed for time and don’t feel like reading a lengthy book, I get Beatrix Potter’s little tale, “The Story of the Fierce Bad Rabbit.” It’s very concise, minimalistic even and my children love it.
Another problem of children’s literature, which Tolkien touches on in some of his writings, is “sniggering” tones. But, of course, that’s another story entirely.

A Westerner Looks to the East.

I

Moment of Knowledge

When do we touch it and grasp,

When does the tree bloom?

II

It comes so softly

Then grabs the mind, soul, body

Not to be undone

III

Like Zeno’s Tortoise

Never touched caught in my hands

Half, half, half again.

IV

Knowledge grasped we know

No other way, as when

Trees turn lush and green.

V

The unseen can we

Know? The whirlwind I would not

See but for the snow.