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The critical reception of Czesław Miłosz and Josif Brodsky in English-speaking countries Karwowska, Bozena M. 1994

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THE CRITICAL RECEPTION OF CZESLAW MILOSZAND JOSIF BRODSKY IN ENGLISH-SPEAKING COT.flRIESbyBOZENA KARWOWSKAM.A., University of Warsaw, 1977M.A., University of British Columbia, 1989A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Slavonic StudiesWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAMay, 1995© Bozena Karwowska, 1995In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission forextensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood thatcopying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)________________________Department of SO\J13i, SoL’.e4The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate ‘ /(q5-DE-6 (2)88)iiABSTRACTThe study describes and analyses the process of criticalreception of Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodsky in English-speakingcountries. The approach of the first five chapters, whiletheoretically informed, is primarily narrative and descriptive. Thefirst two chapters present the reception processes in theirchronological development, focusing on the evolution of criticalinterest, categories of description and contextual factors and showthat the reception of the two poets has been substantial and ofconsiderable intrinsic interest. While contextual elements playeda crucial role in the early stages of the reception, the textgradually became the main focus of critical interest. Thisdevelopment was, however, complicated by the problem of translationdescribed in the fourth chapter. The study also shows that using avariety of techniques, examined in the third chapter, Mllosz andBrodsky influenced the reception of their works. Outlined in thefifth chapter growing interest in the East European poetry, andconnected with it descriptive formulas based on the experience ofthe poet, provided a significant literary context for the receptionof Milosz and Brodsky and allowed to examine the rising interest inthe text of their literary works.The analytical part examines the mediating role of translatorsand critics, treating them as an interpretive community. Theanalysis shows that the aesthetic response to literary works wasbased for years on the contexts. However, in the later stagesartistic features of the text came more frequently to the criticaliiiattention and the literary text began to play a controlling roleover the critical descriptions. Finally, in the conclusion, Fish’sconcept of interpretive community and Jauss’s concept of horizon ofexpectations, the notions of the reader-response and receptiontheories used in the course of the study, are examined from thepoint of view of their heuristic value for the description andanalysis of the actual process of reception. The conclusion alsooutlines some indication of combining them with the notions ofaesthetics object (Mukarovsky), common memory (Lotman), semioticsof culture (Lotman and Uspensky) and Tomashevsky’ s view of the roleof “the legend of the author”.TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract iiAcknowledgements ivINTRODUCTION 1Chapter 1. THE CRITICAL RECEPTION OF CZESLAW MILOSZ 9Chapter 2. THE CRITICAL RECEPTION OF JOSIF BRODSKY 87Chapter 3. METHODS OF SELF-PRESENTATION 147Chapter 4. TRANSLATION AND THE RECEPTION PROCESS 187Chapter 5. MILOSZ AND BRODSKY IN THE CONTEXT OF THERECEPTION OF EAST EUROPEAN POETRY 234Chapter 6. ANALYSIS OF THE RECEPTIONOF MILOSZ AND BRODSKY 263CONCLUSION 320WORKS CITED AND CONSULTED 335VAcknowledgementsI wish to express my sincere gratitude to Professors BogdanCzaykowski and Eva-Marie ICrOller, my research supervisors, fortheir professional advice and guidance which fosteredindependence and growth during the writing of my thesis. I amparticularly grateful to Professor Czaykowski for his unwaveringsupport during all the stages of my studies, for sharing with mepersonal letters and critical materials concerning CzeslawMilosz, and for his patient help with my attempts to overcome theproblems posed by writing this work in my second language.I would also like to acknowledge my gratitude to Dr. PeterPetro and Dr. C.J.G. Turner for their interest in my work,encouragement and comments leading to the improvement of mythesis.I am especially thankful to Mrs Jadwiga Czaykowska whosewarm friendship and loving care helped me to carry on with mywork despite numerous personal difficulties. And to Adam -- forbearing with me for several very long years.Finally, I extend my deep gratitude to those members of thefaculty and staff, including members of the former Department ofSlavonic Studies at UBC as well as Professor Marketa GoetzStankiewicz and Irma Florov, who despite the difficult situationposed by the dissolution of the Department, helped me to focus onmy academic studies.1INTRODUCTIONThe post World War II division of the world along political,ideological and economic lines resulted in a considerablepoliticization of Western responses to cultural developments inthe Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, including developments inthe sphere of literature. Interest in Russian and East Europeanwriters was often (at least initially) the result of politicalfactors, especially in the case of writers who had incurred thedispleasure of their governments and suffered persecution fortheir political activity or views (such as imprisonment orexile) . Political factors and circumstances often obscured theintrinsic literary and philosophical interest of a writer’s work,resulting in a one-sided, superficial, or distorted reception. Atthe same time the political motivation did help to stimulateinterest in East European literature to a degree unprecedented inthe history of cultural relations between the Western world andits East European periphery. By analyzing the reception of theworks of Czeslaw Milosz and Josif Brodsky this study deals, ineffect, with the general problematics of the Western reception ofEast European and Russian writers in the postwar period. Recentpolitical changes in Eastern Europe provide an especiallysuitable context for this kind of analytical study and underlineits importance.Milosz and Brodsky have been chosen for several reasons.Both have been political exiles from their homelands; both are2major poets; both have received the Nobel Prize for literature;both have been extensively translated into English; and both havereflected acutely on the problems facing the writer in exile.There are, however, significant differences between them, whichmake the comparative study of their reception particularlyfruitful. Of significance are differences in their poetics, intheir major thematic preoccupations, in their understanding ofthe role of the poet in the contemporary world and in theirtreatment of mass media. Furthermore, they entered the West atdifferent points in time (1951 and 1972 respectively) and theirwork was presented in different ways to English-speaking readers.Finally, one should mention the incomparably greater degree ofknowledge in the English-speaking world of Russian, as comparedwith Polish literature.Among the penalties incurred by the two poets at the handsof their respective governements, one of the most painful was thebanning of their works in their homelands. The banishment,obviously, extended also to critical works devoted to theirwritings and in effect made Anglo-American criticism dealing withtheir writings not only of special significance but also quitechallenging. The role Anglo-American criticism played in thedevelopment of each of the two poets constitutes anotherimportant difference between Milosz and Brodsky. Since Milosz hadgained recognition in Poland as a major poet before his defectionto the West, there was a continuing interest among Polish criticsin his writings, not only abroad, but also in Poland where, even3after 1951, critical works devoted to him appeared in printduring periods of relaxation of censorship or, later, in thepublications not controlled by the state. Moreover, at the timeof his defection Milosz was already a mature poet of considerableachievement.Brodsky, at the time of his expulsion from the Soviet Unionwas at the beginning of his poetic career, and although he wasalready recognized as a promising young poet, his poeticachievements were not yet substantial. No collection of Brodsky’spoems appeared in print in the Soviet Union before his exile (infact, not until the late 1980s), and his work did not evoke anactive interest among Russian critics for a considerable periodof time.Western (primarily Anglo-American) criticism played asomewhat different role for Brodsky than it did for Mi.osz. Inthe late 1970s a number of critical works by Polish criticsappeared in translation in English-speaking countries; alsoarticles by critics of Polish origin living in the West, whichwere published occasionally in 1970s and l980s in English-language periodicals, had an impact on the Western reception ofMilosz’s works. Brodsky’s works, in contrast, were promoted inthe West almost exclusively by non-Russian critics and until theearly 1990s the Western reception of his works developedindependently of the reception by Russian readers. Thus it wasWestern criticism that brought Brodsky the high internationalrecognition and prestigious literary prizes; it was also Western4criticism that contributed significantly to Milosz’s success,including the Nobel Prize. These prizes, in turn, had an impacton the subsequent interest in their writings among readers andcritics in their homelands.Since most English-speaking readers could not read Mlloszand Brodsky’s poetry in the original (except for the few textsthey wrote in English), translation played a most crucial role inthe reception process of both poets. The two poets, who reflectedacutely on the question of translation, differed quitesignificantly in their approach to the translation of theirworks. Translators also faced different problems in translatingMiaosz and Brodsky’s poems because of the very different poeticsof the two poets.Milosz and Brodsky’s strategies -- aimed to make their workavailable as well as to stimulate and facilitate its reception --are important from the point of view of the critical reception oftheir works. Especially significant is their work withtranslators and their “approval” (or rejection) of translationsand their own attempts to provide literary backgrounds andcontexts to their works. My analysis of these strategies is basedon M±losz and Brodsky’s interviews, essays, editorial activitiesand public readings in addition to their activities astranslators or co-translators, critics, anthologists andacademics.One of the major differences in the reception of the twopoets concerns the great disparity in the knowledge of the5Russian and Polish poetic traditions as well as the modern Polishpoetry in the West. Polish poetry was almost unknown in theEnglish-speaking world until the late 1960s when it gained thecritics’ and readers’ increasing interest. The successful entryof postwar Polish poetry into the English-speaking “reader’smarket” was partly due to Milosz’s activities as translator andpromoter of Polish poets in the West, but it became, at the sametime, one of the major elements which helped to familiarizeWestern readers with Milosz’s own poetry. In the opinion of manycritics, postwar Polish poetry along with the poetry of otherEast European nations, including Miaosz and Brodsky’s writings,has had a considerable impact on contemporary poetry written inEnglish and may be said to have altered its existing order (torecall a phrase of Eliot’s).The focus of my study is not the literary text itself, thatis Milosz and Brodsky’s literary writings, but the criticalresponses to their works. Therefore, my work involves an analysisof critical texts published in English about Milosz and Brodskyand their writings. In general, I do not evaluate these texts fortheir quality. Rather I treat them as documents which show howthe “interpretive community” has approached and interpreted theirliterary work. By critical text I understand a reasoneddiscussion of a literary work, an activity of classification,analysis, interpretation, aesthetic judgement and estimation ofthe work’s likely effect on the readers. Critical texts varyaccording to schools of criticism and, what is more important for6this study, in the way in which they approach the literary work.Besides literary and scholarly criticism there is also a categoryof criticism often relegated to the margins because of its non-scholarly character or interests that go beyond the discussion ofspecific literary works. The latter frequently touches uponproblems that may be only marginal to the literary text. Itincludes book reviews and critical articles that aim at promotingor evaluating specific literary works from the point of view oftheir potential interest to the reader. Thus the category of non-academic criticism comprises a variety of texts that sometimesare difficult to compare. In general, however, it should be notedthat while academic criticism is directed at the specialists inthe field of literature and focuses on the artistic, formal orthematic features and values of the text, non-academic criticaltexts are directed at a more general readership and focus onelements which can evoke an aesthetic response on the part of thereader.My study consists of six chapters. The first and secondprovide a survey of the reception process of Milosz and Brodskyin the context of Western knowledge of Polish and Russian poetry,changes in the politically oriented interest in their writings,the increasing availability of their poetry in translation andthe growing recognition in English-speaking countries of theirrespective poetic achivements. The third chapter deals with themethods of self-presentation of Miaosz and Brodsky. The impact ofthe self-presentation techniques on the reception process is7described and analyzed with special attention to the differencesin the Western and East European conceptions of the role of thepoet in the contemporary world. The fourth chapter deals with theavailability of Milosz and Brodsky’s poetry in English and thequality of translations. The control that both poets assumed overthe translation of their poetry (selection, evaluation ofquality, co-authorship of translations) is discussed in thecontext of the more general problems arising from differencesbetween the languages, literary traditions, formal features andthe cultural contexts of the respective literatures. The fifthchapter is devoted to the impact East European poetry has had inEnglish-speaking countries beginning with the 1970s. The risinginterest in the poetry of this region provides an interestingframe for the reception of both poets, revealing the respectiveroles of the thematic and artistic aspects of their writings inits development. In the sixth chapter I analyze the receptionprocess from the point of view of the most important features inits development. The analysis focuses on the critics and theirroles both as mediators and readers. The interest in the text ofthe literary works of both poets is related to the pre-textualreception and special attention is paid to the aestheticreception and search for aesthetic values in the actual text andin the tension between their writings and various literary andnon-literary contexts. The approach in the first five chapters,while theoretically informed, is primarily narrative anddescriptive and may be described as empirical in character. The8analysis in the sixth chapter lays the groundwork for theconclusion, which deals with the implications of the evidentialand analytical parts for reader-response and reception theories.9chapter 1THE CRITICAL RECEPTION OF CZEStAW MIt.OSZIAt the time of his defection to the West, in 1951, CzeslawMilosz was virtually unknown as a poet outside his homeland, andhis decision to become an exile carried considerable risks forhis literary career. Moreover, he was facing a number ofimmediate problems as a consequence of his defection and thepolitical situation at the time. For instance, during the firstfew months after his decision to remain in the West, Miloszstayed hidden in the house of the Polish émigré monthly Kulturain Maison Laffitte (near Paris). As Zofia Hertz explained in aninterview, the editors of the journal were afraid that Miloszmight be kidnapped by Polish secret agents and sent by force toPoland, since such things were known to have happened todefectors from the Soviet Bloc (Chruliñska 1994, 63). Another ofthe difficulties faced by Milosz was his inability to obtain avisa to the United States, where his wife and children wereresiding at the time. And there was, of course, the down-to-earthquestion of earning a living in a foreign country where interestin Polish literature was minimal, and interest in the author, asfar as it existed at all, was coloured by the strongly pro-10communist sympathies of the intellectual elite.Ironically, it was actually Milosz’s difficulties with hisentry into the United States, and not his poetry that brought hisname to the attention of American readers for the first time.These difficulties were used by the editors of some of the moreliberal-minded American magazines as an argument against thecontroversial policy of senator McCarran to bar not only foreigncommunists but also ex-communists from entering the U.S. Theexample of Milosz was used to support more substantive argumentsagainst this policy and, although journalists did not referdirectly to any of Milosz’s literary writings, they described himas one of Poland’s “leading young poets and intellectuals.” Theauthor of the editorial in the March 10, 1952 issue of Lifestated thatCzeslaw Milosz is a poet, perhaps the best now writing inthe Polish tongue. He has translated Shakespeare, Milton,Blake, Wordsworth, T.S.Eliot. He considers Polish culture tobe part of Europe’s, a heritage of Rome. He never joined theC.P; nevertheless, he served the Communist government ofPoland as cultural attaché of the embassy both in Washingtonand in Paris. When he was summoned to Warsaw in 1950 forreassignment he found that all Polish writers musthenceforth copy Russian models. This decided him to make thebreak.. . . In Paris he has written absorbing studies of theCommunist and pro-Communist mind.. . .Milosz was “better off”under Communism (writers get the privileges of bigbureaucrats) than he is now. (p.30)There were other aspects of Milosz’s defection whichcomplicated his personal and literary situation. Although he wasopposed to Communism, at least in its Soviet version, he did notwant to be associated too closely with either Polish émigré orWestern anti-Communism, both of which seemed to him to be based11on too simplistic a view of postwar reality. Many years later, inthe book Rok my1iwego [A Year of the Hunter] (1991) Miloszrecalled: “1 wrote The Captive Mind in 1951, which was perhapsthe worst year to write it, as at the time the cult of Stalin wasreaching its peak in France.... The writing of the book cost metoo much to boast about it. It involved too many conditions.” (p.168) He further pointed out that he could not have written TheCaptive Mind had he chosen freedom in the United States:because there Joe Mccarthy organised a witch-hunt againstthe communists, and this threw the intellectual milieu intosuch a panic that naturally no self-respecting person couldbecome associated with the anti-communist campaign, whichwas viewed as the beginnings of fascism in the UnitedStates.... “If s” are always risky, but I think that had Istayed in the United States, I could not have written TheCaptive Mind without finding myself ostracised by the onlycircles in that country on which I could count. It wasactually worse in France, but I knew in advance that I wouldbe isolated there.This book trailed behind me for a long time. Because ofit various Poles denounced me to the American embassy inParis (since they considered it to be crypto-communist), andthat meant no visa to the United States for nine years; itmade me a “renegade” in the eyes of progressive circles, andwhat’s more, something which certainly wasn’t to my liking,it led to my being classified as a prose writer and aspecialist in political science. Incidentally, it did nothelp me in getting an academic position, just the opposite.(p. 168-70)In the foreword to the 1981 edition of The Captive Mind herecalled the French intellectual scene in the early 1950s aspresenting a different kind of dilemma for an East Europeanopponent of Soviet-style communism:This book was written in 1951/52 in Paris at the time whenthe majority of French intellectuals resented theircountry’s dependence upon American help and placed theirhopes in a new world in the East, ruled by a leader ofincomparable wisdom and virtue, Stalin. Those of theircompatriots who, like Albert Camus, dared to mention a12network of concentration camps as the very foundation of apresumably Socialist system, were vilified and ostracized bytheir colleagues. When my book appeared in 1953, itdispleased practically everybody. The admirers of SovietCommunism found it insulting, while anti-Communists accusedit of lacking a clear-cut political stance and suspectedthat its author was a Marxist at heart. A lonely venture, ithas been since vindicated by facts and defends itself wellagainst both kinds of criticism. (p. v)Highly conscious of the complexity of his predicament,personal as well as literary, Mllosz took into account thedifficulties that had to be overcome if he was to share hisknowledge about the actual situation of the intellectuals in theSoviet Bloc. Knowing perfectly well the extent to which Europeanintellectuals were at the time under the influence of communistideology, Milosz did not launch a frontal attack against them,but rather, he tried to convey both concretely and in a reasonedmanner the consequences of Communist ideology and power forintellectual and artistic life, realizing that the Westernintellectuals were often idealists who mistook ideology andpropaganda for reality. He was also aware of the differencesbetween American and West European intellectuals. Reacting toMilosz’s concerns about the Western intellectuals, DwightMacdonald, one of the leading American publicists, in his reviewof The Captive Mind not only noted the gullibility of Westernintellectuals but also drew a distinction between what he calledthe “innocence” of American intellectuals and the experience oftheir European counterparts:Compared to Europeans, we Americans are an innocent, almostvirginal people... The difference is not so much in moralityas in experience, and never has the gap been wider than itis today.... It is simply that they have “been taught”13things which we have not -- things so unnatural and terriblethat it is hard for us even to imagine them. (1953, 157)Macdonald concluded his observations by re-emphasizing theexperiential “innocence” of Americans in comparison with someonelike Milosz: “[M]odern history has simply passed us by, as thoughwe were some aboriginal tribe placidly living its traditional,idyllic days in an out-of-the-way nook of the globe.” (p. 158)In these words of Macdonald, as will become apparent later,one may find the kernel of one of the initial formulas of thereception of Milosz’s poetry. The distinction, which the poethimself made in The Captive Mind, between those who had and thosewho did not have certain kinds of experience, became a persistentmotif of Western criticism dealing with Milosz’s poetry, whichwas often viewed as an artistic response to the horribleexperiences of the Nazi occupation and of Stalinism. Theseexperiences drew a dividing line between the two worlds and inconsequence between two kinds of poetry.Because of the political situation resulting from thedivision of the world into two hostile camps, one controlled bythe Western countries and the other by the Soviet Union, thequestions raised by Milosz in The Captive Mind were at the centreof Western public interest. The falling of the “iron curtain” cutof f to a considerable degree the flow of information about thereality behind it. Moreover, the picture of life in the SovietBloc that one could obtain in the West was distorted by communistpropaganda. At the same time, the tension generated by the ColdWar heightened Western interest in the Soviet Union and in the14other countries of its Bloc. This interest, however, was mainlypolitical and ideological and this, in turn, considerablyinfluenced the reception of literature written by authors behindthe “iron curtain”. The Captive Mind was welcomed upon itspublication in 1953 in English translation as a primarilypolitical essay based on the real experiences of its author. Thetruth about the difficult situation of the author as a poet wasseldom brought to the attention of the reader in itsunpoliticized form. The political interest in the questionsdiscussed in the book overshadowed its literary aspects. The bookwas, in fact, classified not as literature but as politicalscience, partly at least because of its genre, rarely used at thetime. Dwight Macdonald, praising the form of the book as“admirably suited” to the subject, nevertheless noted that“Milosz’s book represents.... an unfamiliar and rather antiquatedform - the speculative essay.” (1953, 157) Moreover, given thefact that the general interest in Eastern Europe was at the timeconsiderably weaker than the interest in the Soviet Union,critics scarcely noticed that The Captive Mind was not about theSoviet Union (at least not directly), but about Communist Poland.The second book published by Milosz soon after his defectionwas The Seizure of Power (British edition The Usurpers, 1955), anovel devoted to a theme similar to that of The Captive Mind. Thenovel brought the first Western literary prize to its author, butalso reinforced the initial classification of Milosz as apolitical writer. There were actually few reviews of the book,15and their focus was principally thematic and political. Theanonymous author of a short notice “Fruits of Experience” inTimes Literary Supplement wrote:Mr. Milosz suggests this period, of suspension and fear,where only the intellect and the spirit could renderabnormality endurable, in a cool, studied prose that givesthe incidents of the season of deception and treason theuniversality and illogical strangeness of nightmare. (1955,393)The classification of Milosz as a political writer followedhim for years, even after the publication of his poems in Englishtranslation. However, both books definitely contributed to theWestern understanding of the Communist system and of Communistpolicies in the sphere of literature. A chapter of The CaptiveMind entitled “Murti - Bing” was published in the United Statesin 1951 by the American Committee for Cultural Freedom and thebook itself, or rather, a shorter version of it in Frenchtranslation, was reviewed in English and American periodicalseven before it reached the readers in English translation (TimesLiterary Supplement, 1952; Books Abroad, 1954). It is worthnoting that critical texts about The Captive Mind as a wholemerely developed some of Mllosz’s own thoughts. The major pointsof many of the critical reviews and articles were principally arestatement of Milosz’s own words. One may even say that TheCaptive Mind itself suggested the major points of its reception.Since Milosz introduced himself in The Captive Mind as apoet, not surprisingly many critics pointed out this fact intheir reviews. However, they made no attempt to acquaint thereader with his poetry. The fact that Milosz was a poet was16mentioned, it would seem, primarily to underscore the sincerityand sensivity of the author as well as his ability to appreciatetraditional values. Albert Guerard wrote in 1953:Milosz is a poet. The man of letters may count himself aleftist in his political sympathies, like Hugo or France;but the very nature of his work makes him a traditionalist.Even when he rebels against certain traditions, his languageis a link with the past. He is an heir. His public are thosewho can appreciate -- through a liberal education --traditional values. (p. 436)In fact, although not a single line of Milosz’s poetry was quotedin any of the reviews, in some critical texts Milosz was evencalled “an outstanding poet”. Most of the reviewers repeated thesame formulas consisting of a mixture of biographical andliterary information. William P.Clancy wrote:Czeslaw Milosz is a Polish poet. During the war he wasactive in the anti-Nazi underground. In 1946 he entered thediplomatic service of the new Polish government (although hewas not then, or ever, a member of the Party) and wasstationed at the Polish Embassy in both Washington and Parisas a member of the Cultural Affairs Division. He broke withthe Warsaw government and since then has lived as an exilein Paris. (1953, 328)Nicola Chiaromonte in the Partisan Review offered essentially thesame formula in a somewhat elaborated form:A Polish intellectual, an outstanding poet, and a member ofthe underground during the war, Czeslaw Milosz, when Polandbecame a People’s Democracy, tried to come to terms with“naked reality” and even with the Diamat1.. . .He finally gaveup the attempt because he felt that to him, as an individualand a poet, truth and genuine emotion were more importantthan the infinite rhetorical possibilities (and the good1 Abbreviation for dialectical materialism. In his reviewMacdonald writes: “diamat, which is an impressive terminology allits own that only adepts can understand, claims to explaineverything, is intellectually consistent, and can be manipulatedas an intellectual tool in the most complicated and subtle ways.”17salaries) offered by socialist realism. (1953, 698)1The English-speaking reader became, from the very outset,familiar with the fact that Milosz presented himself to the Westusing literary techniques different from those that brought himrecognition at home. Moreover, the politically and ideologicallymotivated Western interest made Milosz’s political views andaffiliations of far greater importance for the English-speakingreader than his literary past and achievements. As far as can beascertained, not a single poem of Milosz’s was available intranslation to the English-speaking reader at the time of thepublication of his first two political books. What the criticspresented was an image of Milosz suggested by the writer himselfin The Captive Mind, that is, an image of a poet, anintellectual, and a member of the underground during the war whotried honestly to cooperate with the Communist-led coalitiongovernment yet had to give up the attempt. This image was thenused to underscore Milosz’s special qualifications to write withinsight about the situation of intellectuals in the Soviet Bloc;however, no attempt was made to find out what kind of a poet hewas, as if the matter had no relevance to Milosz’s story and1Other reviews of The Captive Mind began:The apologia of a Polish poet and writer who stayed on in his owncountry after its 11liberation” by the Russians, served the regimeas a member of the Polish Foreign Service and, finally, brokewith it and escaped to France. (Time Literary Supplement, 1953)Czeslaw Milosz is a Polish poet who although not a Communist,served in the Red Polish diplomatic corps after the war andfinally abandoned his country because Communist pressure forartistic conformity became unendurable. (Atlantic Monthly, 1953)18arguments. Thus, the very limited interest in and knowledge ofPolish literature on the one hand, and the overriding politicalinterest in the Soviet Bloc on the other, completely obscured thefact that MiIosz was first and foremost a poet.As I have already mentioned in the Introduction, Polishpoetry was almost completely unknown to British or Americanreaders before the 1960s; works of Polish literature available inEnglish translation were comprised mostly of prose, and eventhose were few in number and on the whole poorly translated.English-speaking readers (or Western readers in general) had verylittle interest in Polish literature. MiIosz was aware of thelack of interest in contemporary Polish poetry in the West evenbefore he decided not to return to Poland. In his conversationswith Renata Gorczyñska, recorded in the mid-l980s, the poet,recalling his first stay in the United States in the years 1946-50, said:By that time I was trying to translate Rá±ewicz into English-- his poems are easy to translate. When I showed them toAmericans, no one understood them. But people liked thosesame poems when I printed them recently. A certain evolutionhas occurred in America -- some things can now beunderstood. But back then an even greater distance existedbetween Poland and America than does today. Those were twovery different worlds. (Czarnecka and Fiut 1987, 142)At the time contemporary Polish poetry was very seldompresented to the English-speaking reader, and when it waspresented, as in the December 1955 issue of the British monthlyThe Twentieth Century, the fact seemed to require specialjustification. “You may have different views” -- wrote the editorof the monthly --19about how or why the poets, writing in Poland, come to saywhat they do and express sentiments that remind one of TheWaste Land, but you will surely find something heartening intheir warm and human language. It is very unlike the parrotcries we have come to expect from that part of theworld. (p.503)The lack of interest in contemporary Polish poetry wasaccompanied by a lack of knowledge of Polish literary history andtraditions.The situation began to change very slowly in the 1960s.After a spurt of interest in the mid-1950s evoked by politicalunrest in Eastern Europe and especially the so-called “PolishOctober,” translations of Polish poetry began to appear morefrequently in British and American periodicals thanks to theefforts of Milosz and of the young generation of Polish émigré-poets from the London-based Kontynenty group. The firstcontemporary Polish poets published in English translation duringthis new and more genuine phase of interest were MironBialoszewski and Zbigniew Herbert. Renata Gorczyska, indiscussing Milosz’s efforts to translate contemporary Polishpoetry into English and promote it in the West, observed;It must be said that he did not spare his efforts to makeHerbert’s poetry known in the English-speaking countries. Hepresented him to English and American readers not only inhis anthology, but also in a separate volume (SelectedPoems) published by Penguin in a large edition. Miaosz tookan interest in Herbert almost from the very moment of hisarrival in California. Already in 1962 he published in theLondon Observer five of his poems in his own translation.(1992, 352)Mllosz’s efforts to promote Herbert in the English-speakingcountries turned at some point against Milosz himself. Recognizedas a major poet, Herbert for a time overshadowed Milosz the poet,20whose role became relegated to that of the translator of Herbert.He did more for [Herbert’s] fame than for his own. Ineffect, when Herbert came to the States, Milosz wasintroduced at Herbert’s poetry readings exclusively asHerbert’s translator -- clearly a paradoxical situation. Butmuch of the fault lies with Milosz-the-translator whoneglected his own poetry. (1992, 352)The turning point in the rise of a genuine and wideninginterest in contemporary Polish poetry in English-speakingcountries is undoubtedly connected with the appearance of PostwarPolish Poetry (1965), an anthology of poems in Milosz’s owntranslation. The anthology was very well received by critics andthe interest it generated in postwar Polish poetry resulted in anumber of publications of selections of poems by Polish poets ofthe younger generation in several periodicals and magazines.1 In1969 the first volume of poems by Tadeusz RO±ewicz (Faces ofAnxiety, London and Chicago) appeared in English, translated andedited by Adam Czerniawski. In the late 1960s and early l970s,mostly thanks to the efforts of Polish poets and translators fromthe Kontynenty group (A.Busza, B.Czaykowski, A.Czerniawski andJ.Darowski) and to Czes3aw Milosz, contemporary Polish poetrybegan to appear in representative selections in a number ofjournals. Moreover, some of the poets (foremost among them Z.Herbert and T. Rá±ewicz) came to be known more widely. Thepublication of their poetry in individual volumes as well as inperiodicals, provided an opportunity for a more generalIt is significant that J.Peterkiewicz and Burns Singer’santhology Five Hundred Years of Polish Poetry (1960), which didnot include contemporary poets, failed to have a similar impacton critics and readers.21introduction of Western readers to Polish literary traditions andto the contemporary situation of Polish poetry. It was in thisatmosphere of growing interest in contemporary Polish poetry thatthe first translations of Milosz’s poems into English appeared ina number of periodicals. San Francisco Review Annual (1963)published “Not More” translated by Adam Czerniawski, Encounter(February 1964) published “Through Our Lands” in Milosz’s owntranslation, and Modern Poetry in Translation (1966), whichpresented several of Milosz’s poems with a short introductorynote, were only some of the first publications. However, until1973, when the first volume of Milosz’s poems in Englishtranslation appeared in the United States, the number oftranslations of Milosz’s poems published in periodicals remainedrelatively small, in fact, incomparably smaller than the numberof translations of Ráewicz’s and Herbert’s poems.The explanation of the surprisingly small number ofpublications of Mi)osz’s own poems in English-language magazines,at a time when poetry written in Poland was being increasinglysuccessful, cannot be sought exclusively in the fact that in theeyes of editors and critics Mllosz was principally a politicalwriter and translator of postwar Polish poets. Adam Czerniawski,who was also very active in promoting Polish poetry, provides amore plausible explanation in his essay “Writing and TranslatingDuring the Cold War in a Country of which I Know Something.’” Hedescribes how, in 1966 he was asked by a prominent translator ofPolish literature, Celina Wieniewska, to contribute translations22to an anthology which eventually appeared under the title PolishWriting Today. “It soon became clear -- writes Czerniawski --that under no circumstances would [Wieniewska] countenancethe publication of any work by Polish writers abroad on thegrounds that English readers are interested only in whathappens in Poland. She assured me however that the émigréswould merit a passing mention in her preface on account oftheir translation efforts. And that is how Czeslaw Milosz,Jan Darowski and I were secured a humble but permanentplace in the Polish Pantheon. (1994, 11)Czerniawski makes clear that Wieniewska’s attitude was hardly anexception:I report the Wieniewska case not only in order to recordher bad faith but because her attitude reflects a positionwidely held at the time by Western intellectuals andculture-aparatchiks. The émigrés were dinosaurs, politicallybankrupt, and therefore of course so was theirculture.... [Moreover], Wieniewska was also guided byrealpolitik -- again like the Western intellectuals: shemaintained good relations with the authorities in Warsaw,so including as authors in her anthology such agents ofcapitalist war-mongers as Darowski, Milosz or myself wouldhave meant that she as translator of Polish literature wouldhave lost her privileged access to state-controlledpublishers in Warsaw. (1994, 11)Czerniawski’s explanation illustrates tellingly the complex wayin which the politics of the Cold War affected the literaryprocess and cultural matters in general.1Over time, the political motivation that initiallyunderlined the growing interest in contemporary Polish poetry1 Czerniawski is the source of another interesting piece ofinformation, namely that in the late 1960s A.Alvarez, the teneditor of the Penguin series of Modern European Poets, offered topublish Milosz’s poems in the series in a volume shared withTadeusz Ráewicz. Apparently both poets declined the offer. SeeCzerniawski’s essay “Odbiár nowoczesnej poezji polskiej wWielkiej Brytanii” [The Reception of Modern Polish Poetry inGreat Britain] (1994, 57). Milosz’s poems never appeared in theseries, while Herbert’s (in Milosz and Peter Dale Scott’stranslations) appeared in 1968 and Ráewicz’s in 1976.23began to include aspects which, while being still thematic ratherthan artistic, were no longer narrowly topical. One of theseaspects, which helped to reinforce the interest in contemporaryPolish poetry, was derived directly from Milosz’s prose writtenin the 1950s -- especially from The Captive Mind. Although, as wehave seen, the reception of the book was primarily political incharacter, and most critical opinions were little more thandescriptions and repetitions of Milosz’s own thoughts, somecritics were clearly influenced, or felt challenged by Milosz’sperspective of looking at literature and art in terms of hiswartime experience and treated it as a yardstick of criticalevaluation. In his review of The Captive Mind, Walter Allenwrote:These men [who went through the experiences of EasternEurope], Mr.Milosz argues, knew a reality denied to theAnglo-Saxon West because for years they have lived andworked in countries occupied and often worse - by theenemy.. . .To such men, Mr. M±losz contends, the Anglo-SaxonWest in 1946, despite its professions of freedom, hadnothing to offer except emotional luxuries; its religion wasineffective, its art decadent and cut off from people.(1953, 464)To make the point clearer, the critic quoted from The CaptiveMind:A man is lying under machine-gun fire on the street of anembattled city. He looks at the pavement and sees a veryamusing sight: the cobblestones are standing upright likethe quills of a porcupine. The bullets hitting against theiredges displace and tilt them. Such moments in theconsciousness of a man judge all poets and philosophers.The vision of the cobblestones is unquestionably real, andpoetry based on an equally naked experience could survivetriumphantly that judgernent day of man’s illusions. In theintellectuals who lived through the atrocities of war inEastern Europe there took place what one might call theelimination of emotional luxuries. (1953, 464)24This passage from The Captive Mind made quite an impression onsome English poets and critics, being quoted by several of them,especially in discussions concerning the impact East Europeanpoetry had in English-speaking countries. Milosz’s perspective oflooking at poetry in terms of extreme experience especiallyappealed to critics promoting East European poetry in the West,while others found it necessary to comment on its apparentimplications. Introducing the poetry of Vasko Popa (PenguinBooks) in 1969, Ted Hughes wrote:I think it was Mflosz, the Polish poet, who when he lay in adoorway and watched the bullets lifting the cobbles out ofthe street beside him realized that most poetry is notequipped for life in a world where people actually do die.And the poets of whom Popa is one seem to have put theirpoetry to a similar test. (p.10)The same fragment of Milosz’s book was quoted by Geoffrey Hill(1971/72, 14-23) , John Bayley (1984, 215-16) and Donald Davie(1989, 164-66) . Others adopted MiIosz’s point of view, sometimesmisunderstood or simplified, in their evaluations of their nativeAnglo-American contemporary poetry.Milosz’s third prose work which appeared in English, theautobiographical Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition(1968), initially did not meet with wide interest; the firstsubstantial reviews of the book did not appear until the early1980s after Milosz had been awarded the Nobel Prize and the bookhad been reprinted. The immediate effect of Native Realm, likethat of Seizure of Power, was limited to reinforcing the initialcategorization of Milosz as a political writer. In the long run,however, it contributed (along with several of Milosz’s essays25published in various periodicals) to a shift among some criticsin their evaluation of contemporary poetry and eventually helpedto enhance the interest in Milosz’s own poetry in the West. Thelong-term impact of Native Realm and his other prose works onMilosz criticism became noticeable later, especially during the1980s. It is worth noting, however, that Native Realm gainedconsiderable interest among critics writing about Milosz’s poetryeven before the book was reviewed after its reprinting in 1981.After he had been awarded the Neustadt Prize it was constantlyreferred to in critical articles and was subsequently treated asone of his most important literary works.IIDuring the initial stage of the reception process everywriter becomes categorized by criticism. In the course ofreception, the initial formulas are often treated as elementsalready familiar to the reader and may be either challenged orused as “points of departure” for further characterizations of awork or works by the same author.Milosz, who went through the initial stages of the receptionprocess twice (first as a prose writer and then as a poet), wasregarded in the early 1970s as both a poet and a political prosewriter. Milosz-the-poet was known, however, not through hispoetry but through his prose and the way he presented himself asa poet in his prose works. His literary work was seen not only26through its literary context but also in terms of hisexperiences. Since Poland was in the centre of major politicalevents of the century, the writings of Milosz were commonlyviewed through the history of his nation.The situation of Milosz as a writer in English-speakingcountries in the late l960s and early l970s presents a number ofinteresting features. In the years preceding the appearance ofhis first collection of poems in English translation (1973), hewas already recognized as primarily a poet; however, norepresentative collection of his poems was available to theEnglish-speaking readership. Hence, he owed his recognitionmostly to his prose and to his own descriptions of himself as apoet. Only a very limited number of Milosz’s poems appearedbefore 1973 in various periodicals, while a few were included inhis anthology Postwar Polish Poetry (1965) and in The History ofPolish Literature (1969) . Some critics, however, were able totake note of his Polish collections of poems. In 1969, BooksAbroad published a comprehensive review of his collected poems,Wiersze, brought out in 1967 by the London “Of icyna Poetáw iMalarzy.”In his prose Milosz defined himself as a poet, and in allhis books published in English he emphasized the fact that hewanted to be considered by his readers and critics first andforemost as a poet. The public readings which he gave in New Yorkand at various North American universities, were almostexiusively devoted to poetry. As one of the principal speakers at27the Rencontres Mondiales de Poésie in Montreal in 1967, Miloszpresented his views on contemporary poetry and the role of thepoet in the contemporary world. His prose, especially his essays,is sometimes called the best introduction to and explanation ofhis poetry. In the situation of an author recognized as a poetbut not known to the reader by his poems, the role of criticsseemed to be of special importance. They had to act as mediatorsbetween MiIosz’s poetry and the reader. Obviously, Mllosz himselfalso played the role of mediator, introducing Polish literatureand especially contemporary poetry to the English-speaking readeras well as introducing his own poetry in his books and essays.Since, in the absence of a representative body oftranslations, this kind of mediation required that the criticknow Polish, the circle of critics capable of discussing Milosz’spoetry was limited to those who were able to read and understandPolish. In practice, most of the critical texts devoted toMilosz’s poetry in the 1960s and 1970s were written by critics ofPolish origin, or by his students at Berkeley, of whom severallearnt Polish sufficiently well to be able to read MLlosz in theoriginal, or even to translate his works. For quite some time, atleast until he received the Nobel Prize in 1980, MiIosz’s criticscame almost exclusively from these two groups. Of importance hereis not only their knowledge of Milosz’s poetry but also theirtreatment of the author as a poet. For those who read his worksin Polish, Milosz was primarily a poet, since his firstsignificant work in prose appeared almost 20 years after his28poetic debut and was always treated by Milosz as being ofsecondary importance. Those critics who came from his “workshop”in Berkeley were introduced to his writings by the author himselfand their point of view was to a large extent shaped and directedby the poet.The first texts in English devoted exclusively to Milosz’spoetry were Z. Folejewski’s fairly substantial article “CzeslawMilosz: A Poet’s Road to Ithaca Between Worlds, Wars, andPoetics,” published in Books Abroad in 1969, and George Gâmôri’sreview of Milosz’s collected poems Wiersze originally publishedin London in 1967.Reflecting on the distorted image of Milosz in the West,Folejewski compared his reception in English-speaking countriesto Boris Pasternak’s popularity in the West:Just as Boris Pasternak is best known to the Western worldnot for his poetry but for his prose work, Doctor Zhivago,so is the name of Milosz associated mainly with The CaptiveMind and La prise du pouvoir. In both cases the works thatbrought popularity to their authors, though intellectuallyimportant, artistically do not constitute the height oftheir creative ability, which is above all poetic. (1969,17)A comparison with Pasternak, which must have made at least somecritics aware of the way in which prose overshadowed Mi]iosz’spoetic achievement, was used later (for various reasons) in manycritical texts; Milosz himself devoted to him an essay “OnPasternak Soberly” (Emperor of the Earth, 1977; the essay, dated1963, originally appeared in English in Books Abroad in 1970).Folejewski and GârnOri’s critical texts have some significantfeatures in common. Both authors treat Milosz primarily as a poet29and both appear to have tried quite consciously to separate theirdiscussion of his poetry from the picture of Milosz derivedprincipally from his political prose, which they barely mention,although GOmôri quotes MUosz’s Rodzinna Europa (Native Realm, atthat time not yet available in English) . Both critics describedand analyzed Milosz’s poetry in its development within the widercontext of twentieth century poetic trends and groups in Poland,of historical events he witnessed or took part in, and of his ownbiography. The entirety of his poetic oeuvre is divided intoperiods and the main poetic features of each period arecharacterized briefly. Both critics emphasized the major thematicpreoccupations of Milosz’s poetry, such as the circumstances ofthe Nazi occupation and the personal experiences of the poetduring that time, underlining the impact they had on his poeticdevelopment. According to both critics Milosz’s war-time poemsmarked a poetic break-through for their author. Folejewski wrote:While in earlier attempts to keep pace with the Europeanmainstream Milosz was quite successful but often remainedhermetically Polish, even provincial, now by becomingnational he is at the same time more universal. (1969, 22).Gômâri, after a brief description of Milosz’s experiences duringthe Nazi occupation (experiences shared by the entire nation)stated that “from 1943 onwards Milosz’s poetry becomes different;it is now simpler, deeper, more human and mature.” (1969, 201)By emphasizing the impact of the events of the Nazioccupation in Poland on Milosz’s poetry, the critics did notlimit his poetic achievement to the poems of this period only,but treated them primarily as a stage (though one of great30importance) in his poetic development. Nor did the two criticslimit their reflections to the thematic preoccupations ofMilosz’s poems, but also characterized briefly the formalfeatures of his poetry in each of the periods. Stating that“[t] here are few writers in world literature whose developmentequals Milosz’s in artistic intensity and intelectual honesty”Folejewski (with whom GOmOri agrees almost completely) underlined“the basic conviction of his poetic vocation, his talent, and theforce of the specific poetic vision” which in the critic’sopinion “was from the start unmistakeably his own.” (p. 17)Concluding his reflections Folejewski wrote:It is not a happy, optimistic poetry. The basic element ofpessimism is there, interchangeable with the notes ofprotest from earlier works. But it is a matter-of-factpoetry, filtered through philosophical reflection, exotic inpersonal retrospective detail, and universally valid in itsawareness of modern man’s problems. There is also a furthershift in poetic expression. More and more, all the formalfeatures are eliminated; there is no trace of rhyme andstanza, and even rhythm and imagery are reduced to aminimum. The latest volumes. . . .reveal a steady developmentin the direction of purity and organic simplicity. (1969,24)Bogdan Czaykowski, in his essay “The Fly and the Flywheel”,did not undertake to describe the development of Milosz’s poetrybut tried to show its basic features. Czaykowski approachedMilosz’s poetry from a perspective entirely different fromFolejewski and Gômâri’s and tried to highlight both thesimilarities and the differences between Milosz and Herbert andRáewicz (the two postwar Polish poets best known to the Englishspeaking reader and the most representative of the postwargeneration) . In defining the distinctiveness of Milosz’s poetry31in its wider context, Czaykowski stressed its thematic and formalrange, and, as he put it, Milosz’s “inability to write merely apoetry of survival.” (p. 28) The critic did not pay specialattention to Milosz’s war-time poems, viewing them as part of abroader response of the poet “to the combined forces of history,geography and ideology.”As an East European, MiIosz embodies in his poetry thebitter experience of politics as an invader and destroyer ofboth these spheres [i.e. “man’s right to a private life andpersonality” and his “right to pursue religious andmetaphysical ends”]; he embodies the experience of thevulnerability of the individual in the face of the combinedforces of history, geography and ideology. (p. 28)Comparing Milosz’s poems to the poetry of Herbert andROewicz, Czaykowski noted that all three poets (as, indeed, mostEast European writers) were convinced that “the poet has not onlyhis art, but tasks to perform.” (p. 25) Stating that his purposewas not “to trace Milosz’s intellectual and poetic development,but rather to define and describe the specific nature of hispoetic achievement,” the critic focused on one of Milosz’s“Californian” poems, “Bobo’s Metamorphosis.” This poem, in hisopinion, expressed “Milosz’s poetic personality most fully” andthis is what Czaykowski was seeking to delineate.Among the characteristic features of Milosz’s poetryCzaykowski emphasized the profoundly personal character of poemson universal themes. He pointed out that Milosz’s constant poeticgoal wasto give back to poetry what it lost, first through theexcesses of Modernism, and then was unable to regain fullyon account of the enervating effect of the horror of war andtotalitarianism: a full voice and range of feeling and32expression. (p. 28)He concluded:Milosz’s poetry stands apart from the dominant trends ofcontemporary European and American poetry.... [Hie belongsclearly with the “older poets”, not because of his age, butbecause of his style, its richness of tone, imagery andsyntax. . . . (p. 28)Czaykowski’s point of view and its presentation to theEnglish-speaking reader, however interesting and challenging,was, nevertheless, probably premature from the point of view ofthe Western receptivity to Milosz’ poetry at that time. Thecritic did not take into account the gap between the very limitedknowledge of Milosz’s poems in the West and the alreadyfunctioning clichés of MiIosz-the-poet put in circulation by hisprose. Furthermore, Czaykowski introduced a new way of viewingMilosz by providing the reader with a “close reading” of aselected poem in order to illustrate features typical of theentire oeuvre of the poet. Folejewski’s and GOmâri’s way ofpresenting Milosz’s poetry, although it went considerably beyondthe established clichés, was probably more appropriate since thecritics tried to achieve a balance between their own opinions andthe image of the poet as it existed at the time; their articleswere thus probably more attuned to the Western reader. Studies ofsimilar depth and understanding of Milosz’s poetic achievementdid not begin to appear and have an impact on the receptionprocess until much later, when Milosz had already been awardedmajor literary prizes and was generally recognized as a majortwentieth-century poet.33It is interesting to note that in 1973, when VictorContosky wrote “Czeslaw Milosz and the Quest for CriticalPerspective” (published in Books Abroad), the critic mentionedonly the texts by Folejewski and GâmOri. Contosky’s articleappeared in the year of the publication of Milosz’s SelectedPoems, but since there are no references in his text to thevolume, we can assume that Contosky wrote the article before thecollection was published and was thus not influenced by theselection or composition of this volume. The critic points outthat “The Captive Mind has become something of a classic andachieved a popularity in the West which his essays and poetry canhardly hope to attain. Yet many who know the Polish languageconsider poetry to be his greatest achievement.” (p. 36) Contoskytried to show Milosz as a writer critical of his times, treatinghis poetry and prose as elements of unified thought. Within thisunity, Contosky argued, Milosz used different genres andtechniques (prose and poetry) to communicate with the reader:“Because of his double vision (Eastern and Western) and hisdouble role (politician and poet) Milosz is especially sensitiveto the delicate balance a critic must maintain.” (p. 36) Theauthor took into account the entirety of Milosz’s literary outputto identify the constant and underlying theme of his writing,which he defined as the search for a critical perspective.Contosky described his essay as an examination ofMilosz’s attempt to find a middle ground between theextremes of the public and private person, between thejournalist or propagandist and the practitioner of Ketman.For in his sociological essays, his fiction and in34particular his poetry this search for a critical perspectiveis a constant theme. (p. 36)Contosky used MiIosz’s The Captive Mind as a point ofdeparture for further discussion: he demonstrated its limitationsin so far as the book assumed “the supposedly static character ofthe communist society, a standard myth perpetrated by everygovernment that poses as perfect”. (p. 37) Polish literature wasno longer limited to socialist realism which M±losz described andanalyzed in his essay. The critic pointed out that MiIosz wrotehis book before the “emergence of such surrealistic poets asGrochowiak and Harasymowicz who came to prominence in the postStalinist period” (p. 37). According to Contosky the value of thebook consisted primarily in its being “a psychological study ofthe public and private man in conflict within the same person”(p. 37). In contrast to the majority of critics, who saw TheCaptive Mind from the Western perspective and treated it as astudy of the politically controlled literary process in EasternEuropean countries in general, Contosky tried to see the book aspart of Milosz’s attempt to develop his critical perspective. Asa critic of his age Milosz was interested in many problems of thecontemporary world, not only those that characterized societyunder Communist rule; he was, for instance, concerned with theerosion of traditional values of truth and ethics, which alsoaffected the Western world. The Captive Mind -- as well as theNative Realm, other prose works and poems -- showed Milosz’spreoccupation with contemporary ethical and philosophical issuesirrespective of the system under which they occurred. Contosky’s35essay was then the first critical text which did not discuss TheCaptive Mind from a primarily political point of view. Westerncriticism did not see this book in the context of Mllosz’s otherworks but rather in terms of the readers’ interest in thecountries “behind the iron curtain”. Moreover, Milosz himselfconstantly stressed the political aspects of his study ratherthan its literary character.The critical essays mentioned above appeared in publicationsof very limited circulation, which meant that they had a verylimited impact, if any, on English-speaking readers of Milosz’sworks. In effect, the rare voices of genuine, non-politicallymotivated interest in Milosz’s poetry continued to beovershadowed by formulas introduced by the critical reception ofThe Captive Mind. As we have seen, reviewers of Milosz’s worksconstructed an image which had been suggested by Milosz himselfin his first Western books in prose: of a poet, intellectual,member of the underground during the war who found it impossibleto cooperate with the Communist authorities, and who was ofinterest to Western readers because of his unusual experience ofand insight into the Communist system.IIISelected Poems, the first volume of Milosz’s poems to appear36in English translation, was published in 1973 when there alreadyexisted an obvious gap between the common knowledge of the factthat Milosz was a major poet and the “second-hand” (orfragmentary) knowledge of his poetry. However, the collection didnot give Western critics and readers a chance to bridge the gapfully, since the volume was composed in a very special way anddid not present the entire spectrum of Milosz’s poetry.The first section of the volume consists largely of poemswhich embody Milosz’s point of view on poetry and the role of thepoet. The second section, subtitled “How once he was,” containsthree poems from Milosz’s prewar period in rather flattranslations. The central section (titled “What did he learn”)contains mainly Milosz’s war-time and political poems, while thelast section contains principally poems of exile written inCalifornia. Thus Milosz presented himself in his first English-language volume not only as a poet, but also as a witness of theNazi occupation and of the Holocaust, as a critic of Communism,and, in the final part, as a poet aware of modern Americancivilization who is both influenced and inspired by the place ofhis exile.In effect, the appearance of the first volume of Milosz’spoems in English translation did not become a turning point inthe Western reception of his poetry. Reviews of the collectionwere not only few in number but also very general. The well-worncliché of Mi]iosz the political prose writer was combined with thedescriptive formula of Milosz as the poet who had survived the37Nazi occupation and as a poet of exile reacting to thecontemporary world as seen from an American perspective. Theconclusion of a review by D.J.Enright was typical:He has one great advantage, at least poetically speaking,and one great quality: his wounds are not self-inflictedones, and he does not wear them on his sleeve. (1974, 29)The major points of the critical response to the Selected Poemswere basically of the same kind. They may be illustrated by aquotation from Paul Zweig’s review in The New York Times BookReview (the review was not overly enthusiastic).Against the strident claims of an ideology that pretends towipe clean the slate of history in order to create newvalues and a ‘new man’, against the discontinuity of war andexile, the poet offers a modest voice, speaking an oldlanguage. (1974, 7)Even a very enthusiastic review by Stephen Miller simply repeatsthe basic elements of the already current description of Milosz’spoetry.Though the form of Milosz’s poems often seems American, themind at work in the poems seems thoroughly European:preoccupied with the devastations and dislocations ofhistory, suspicious of paeans to nature or hymns to theimagination. (1977, 318)There is probably more than one reason why the SelectedPoems did not lead to a significant change in the perception ofthe character and status of MiIosz’s poetry. Summarizing Milosz’scritical reception in the West we can distinguish two mainstrands of the reception process. One came from the reception ofhis prose works published in the West in the l950s; it broughtrecognition to Milosz as a writer. This politically (ortopically) motivated popularity also brought to the readers’38attention the fact that Milosz was a poet; however the “formula”of the poet was not based on his poetry. Since the interest inMiosz’s prose was, to a large extent, the result of thepolitical division of the world and of the various historicalevents in his homeland, Milosz’s poetry was also viewed withinthis general framework. On the other hand, Milosz was alsopresented by some critics as a major, even outstanding nationalpoet whose poetic achievement was of importance to worldliterature. However, because of the lack of translations, thispoint of view was confined to a small group of critics (those whoknew Polish), and it was addressed principally to specialists.This strand of reception had at best only a very limitedinfluence on the Western response to M±Iosz’s poetry at the timeand did not acquire importance until the late l970s, after Miloszhad been awarded the Neustadt Prize for Literature.Assuming that M±losz’s prose works, and especially his self-presentations, had an impact on the reception of his works in theWest, one may wonder why the poet himself chose to confirm, bythe composition of his Selected Poems, the formulas establishedby earlier criticism based on his prose works. By the time hisfirst collection of poems in English translation appeared, a fewcritics had already published articles dealing with the entiretyof his poetry and its development. The selection of poems andespecially the composition of the book, however, did not providethe reader with the possibility of forming an idea of Milosz’spoetic development. Although in later years Milosz complained39about the formulaic treatment of his oeuvre and the insistentrecalling of his early prose in reviews of his poetry, in 1973 hechose to present himself to the reader by means of mainly thatpart of his poetic oeuvre that could still be described accordingto the already existing formula; although more perceptive criticscould have discerned, had they read the poems included in thevolume carefully, broader ramifications of Milosz’s poetry, or atleast, in the words of Kenneth Rexroth’s introduction, “asubtlety and a profundity” that came “from an intensely humaneliterary sensibility,” as well as a “remarkable understanding ofthe complexity of the human mind and its speech.” (1973, 11).In fact the poet, through his selection and composition ofthe volume, seems to have aimed at two kinds of audience. Thegeneral audience, which was assumed to have little interest inphilosophical and artistic questions of their age but to be opento simplified issues arising from the events of contemporaryhistory, was to be reached by formulaic descriptions of hiswritings. A limited circle of sophisticated, philosophicallyoriented readers was to be reached by readings of poetry,literary and philosophical essays and, of course, the poemsthemselves. Aimed at a very limited number of people, the latterkind of presentation was meant not so much to bring an immediateeffect but rather to develop an awareness and a genuine interest.It was to this latter group of readers or prospectivereaders that the publication of Utwory poetyckie - Poems (1976)was principally addressed. This comprehensive and up-to-date40collection of M±Iosz’s poems published in their original Polishversion was introduced by Alexander Schenker, whose essay was notonly written in English but also clearly addressed to theEnglish-speaking reader. Placing Milosz’s work in the contexts ofPolish history, literature and of the poet’s biography, Schenkercited examples and parallels from non-Polish literary traditionsto explain the phenomenon of Milosz’s poetry. At the same timethe critic devoted a substantial part of his introduction to theformal features of Milosz’s poems (syntax, diction, figurativelanguage and other stylistic devices) to show the character ofhis poetics and its links with the Polish literary tradition. Incharacterizing M±losz’s poetics Schenker noted that one of thetypical characteristics of his poetic language was the prevalenceof metonymy and a very sparing use of metaphor. In general, thecritic distinguished three basic features of Milosz’s poetics:In the first place there is a conscious attempt to fuse alllevels of language, regardless of their social or culturalidentity, into one poetic idiom. These levels of voices,while retaining their distinctive characteristics andfulfilling distinct stylistic functions, are skilfullyharmonized by the poet into one polyphonic whole. Secondly,Milosz proposes to compress the semantic charge of thepoetic line until it achieves the optimal, metal-likedensity.... Finally, Milosz creates a network of stylisticreferences to the past so as to echo earlier periods ofPolish literature. In this way history enters a poem notonly through cultural allusions but also through appropriatelinguistic devices. (p.xxiii)Schenker’s introduction illustrates well the importance ofcritical mediation between Milosz’s poetry and the Englishspeaking reader. Moreover, it showed how significant thelinguistic aspects of Milosz’s poems were for their understanding41and appreciation. Concluding his observations Schenker wrote:Milosz is a difficult poet, and his American reader will nodoubt be helped by consulting some of the Englishtranslations.... A word of caution, however, is in order.Milosz’s verbal restraint tempts the translator to emphasizethe content at the expense of the linguistic means. Theresulting literalness often fails to render the delicatetensions between form and content which are the essence ofhis poetry. (p. xxvi)Schenker’s introduction, however, was not meant to produce animmediate effect on the non-Polish reader, considering that thevolume comprised no translations; the aim of the book was ratherto provide the narrow group of critic-mediators with acomprehensive selection of Milosz’s poems and to enrich theirknowledge and understanding of his poetry and the critical andinterpretive problems it raised.IvSince, until the appearance of the Collected Poems (1988),Milosz’s poetry was known to the English-speaking reader only ina very limited and carefully chosen selection, the critics whoplayed the role of mediators were of special importance to thefurther development of interest in Milosz’s poetry. A carefulreader of Milosz criticism will note that critical textsfollowing the Neustadt Prize were mostly written by criticsbelonging to the two groups described above (that is, critics ofPolish origin and Milosz’s students or former students). Theprize seems to have been of special importance for Milosz’sreception in English-speaking countries and marks a kind of42“watershed.” After 1978 poetry becomes recognized as Milosz’sprimary interest and is no longer presented only to a limitedcircle of readers and specialists. Those who enjoyed it before,and recognized and supported his candidacy for prizes inliterature1,were to become mediators and to present his poetryto the general readership taking into account the horizon ofexpectations of the general public but avoiding the earliersimplifying clichés. In fact, the Neustadt Prize opened a newphase of the reception of Milosz’s writing in English-speakingcountries by reversing the degree of importance of the twoalready existing strands of reception. Since 1978, interest inhis poetry has definitely prevailed over interest in his prose.The latter has been treated to a large extent as an introductionto his poetry not only in the sense typical of the earlierclichés but also in its being viewed as illuminating thephilosophical aspects of his poetry.In his “Encomium for Czeslaw Milosz” read during the awardceremonies of the 1978 Neustadt International Prize forLiterature, Louis Iribarne said:Czeslaw Milosz’s literary debut in the West took place alittle more than a quarter of a century ago. Looking back,one is now tempted to say that he has found his rightfulaudience not because of, but perhaps in spite of The CaptiveMind, whose success only meant a postponement of his Englishdebut as a poet. To a man who began his poetic career morethan forty years ago, who has always considered poetry as1 In addition to several Polish émigré awards, Milosz wasawarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for his poetry and translationsin 1976, an honorary doctorate of the University of Michigan in1977, and his name was brought to the attention of the jury ofthe Neustadt Prize in 1972 and 1976.43his first vocation and whose reputation as a major poet wasalready assured in his native Poland in the yearsimmediately after the war, the word debut in this contextmust bring a smile. It is an even greater irony that duringthe past decade the name of Czeslaw Milosz - - in theEnglish-speaking world, and then largely through histranslations - - has been frequently invoked as the patron ofa younger generation of Polish poets rather than as one ofits masters. Today this silence is being broken, and hisexile on this continent hopefully ended. (1978, 365).Louis Iribarne, a former student of Milosz’s, was thereforeprepared by the poet himself for his role as a mediator betweenMilosz’s poetry and the English-speaking reader. In theIlEncomiumH Iribarne made the distinction between the twodifferent streams of Milosz’s reception as well as identifying athird, that is, the Polish aspect of Milosz’s reception. Openlyopposing the formulaic treatment arising from the publication ofThe Captive Mind, Iribarne claimed that the Neustadt Prize endedthe division and proved that Milosz’s poetry had finallytranscended critical interest based on clichés. However, in histexts Iribarne tried to purvey another cliché of Milosz. Thecliché was based on his poetry and focused on Milosz as thewitness and distiller of the experience of his age. In hischaracterization of Milosz’s poetry, Iribarne made reference tosome of the most important historical events that constituted thechallenges and “breakthroughs” in Milosz’s poetic development,not only experiences undergone by Milosz, but the collectiveexperiences of the entire generation.Milosz’s poetic techniques as well as his thematic interestswere described by Iribarne in terms of the impact that historyhad on them, not only of Milosz’s native Poland but of the44twentieth century in general. In his review of Milosz’s Utworypoetyckie - Poems, Iribarne wrote:Whether it be of the Holocaust, the totalitarian Dark Agesthat followed it, or the circumscribing wreckage of moderncivilization, in Milosz that experience is always named,always held up to the light.... (1978, 951).This actuality and concreteness of experience, according toIribarne, set Milosz’s poetry apart from American poetry that“seemed obsessed much rather with the unnamed darkness at thecentre.” (p. 951) His own as well as the collective experiencesof his age were transformed by M±losz in his poems “in such a waythat each is allowed to contain the other, coupled with thehighly individual way in which tradition is brought to bear onthat experience without sacrificing anything to modernity.” (p.951) The major historical events in the centre of Westerninterest were thus made to serve not merely as a background to,but also as an explanation of Milosz’s poetry.In his review Iribarne placed Milosz in a new context, thatof other Polish émigré writers, and especially alongside WitoldGornbrowicz and Leszek Kolakowski. The reference to Gombrowicz isimportant in view of Gombrowicz’s considerable successes in theWest (especially in France) at this time and of the highrecognition he received as a major novelist and playwright.Kolakowski, on the other hand, had won acclaim not only as aphilosopher and essayist, but also as one of the most profoundcritics of Marxism. The coupling of the names of the three famousPolish expatriates led Iribarne to claim a special distinctionfor Polish émigré writers.45If we were to broaden the terrain somewhat to include thephilosopher Leszek Kolakowski, it could be plausibly arguedthat, by the standard of universality, Polish letters of themid and late twentieth century will be remembered chieflyfor its émigrés. (1978, 951)The comparison with Gombrowicz and Kolakowski, however, was notdeveloped further by Western criticism probably because theincreasing recognition of Milosz concerned primarily his poetry,while his prose over time began to be read largely because of thelight it threw on the poetry. Only in the later stage of thereception process did the name of Witold Gombrowicz sometimesappear in the context of Milosz’s works.What Iribarne proclaimed as the “end of poetic exile” forMilosz was in fact the beginning of a new stage in the receptionof his writings. This beginning of a new stage was marked by aspecial volume of Word Literature Today (1978) devoted entirelyto Czeslaw Milosz and his literary works. In addition to criticaltexts presented to the jury of the Neustadt Prize and the“Encomium” read during the award ceremonies, the volume containedseveral articles devoted to Milosz’s writings, especially to hispoetry. In general, the essays included in World Literature Todayare of considerable critical and interpretive interest. Beforethe Neustadt Prize, the Western reception of Milosz suffered, notonly because of the incompatibility of the two main streams ofthe critical reflection, but also because the prevailing“formulaic” treatment was aimed at a general readership, whileMilosz’s poetry is addressed at an intellectually mature reader.Critics who contributed to the Milosz volume of World Literature46Today reinforced the model of writing about Mi)osz that took thisfact into account, while largely ignoring the horizon ofexpectations of the general public; hence they addressed theircritical essays to what may be termed the “ideal” reader ofMiaosz’s writings. Since in his works Milosz endeavours to“reveal a mystery,” or at least to confront the essentialquestions of human existence, his writings are addressed to thosewho want to understand what, in philosophical terms, is sometimesdescribed as the essence of being. Consequently, in their essaysthe critics touched upon complex questions requiring considerablematurity of thought on the part of their prospective reader. Theydefined elements of Milosz’s philosophical outlook, the ways inwhich he draws on the history of culture and ideas, and how hebrings different cultural perspectives together in his writings.This “new model” may be illustrated by a quotation from JanBloñski:Poetry for him is not a symbolic reaching into the essenceof things; nor does he rely on the traditional relationshipsof logical conclusions. It is understood instead as anunending discussion, a relentless and haughty (because it isnot accessible to everyone) search which is at the same timefull of anxiety because the truth is grim. Equal partners inthis discussion seem to be the mind and the body, individualexperiences and the recurrent patterns of history, fleetingoccurrences and the reflections of philosophers. (1978,388)The introduction of the new model of interpreting Milosz’swork was possible partly because several of the essays weretranslations of texts written by Polish critics living in Poland.The group of mediators between Milosz’s poetry and the Englishspeaking reader was thus joined by critics who looked at his47poetry from a Polish perspective and did not feel compelled totake into account the horizon of expectation of generalreadership in the West. The Neustadt Prize and the publicationsof Milosz’s works that followed it also brought into the processof mediation and reception a ‘new” group of critics, namelyémigrés from other countries of the Soviet Bloc especiallysensitive to the problems faced by a writer in exile.As a matter of fact, the essays published in the Miloszvolume of World Literature Today may be, \to a large extent,classified according to the origin of their authors. In general,essays by Polish critics (Bloñski, Slawiñska, Dybciak and Fiut)are concerned with poetry, while those by Anglo-American criticsare devoted to Milosz’s prose. The East European critics, theHungarian Gyorgi GOmôri and the Lithuanian Thomas Venclova (andone should also mention here Josif Brodsky, who presented Miloszto the jury) paid special attention to Milosz as a poet in exileand emphasized his links with Slavic culture and contemporaryEast European literature. All the critics, however, irrespectiveof their origins, noted the lack of translations of Milosz’sworks into English and constantly referred to poems (and in somecases prose) not yet available to the English-speaking reader.The limited availability of Milosz’s poems in the Englishtranslation was probably one of the reasons why his poetry wasintroduced in this collection of essays almost exclusively byPolish critics. However, perhaps more important was the critics’choice of the poems discussed or mentioned in the essays since,48having access to the entire opus of the poet’s works, they didnot have to limit themselves only to the texts alreadytranslated. By the same token, the Polish critics began toestablish a canon of the most important of Mi]osz’s poems, notall of which were available at that time to the English-speakingreader. As a result they underscored the importance of thecritical mediation between Milosz’s poetry and its non-Polishreaders, while revealing the extent to which his substantialpoetic achievement was still inadequately represented in Englishtranslation.According to the critics contributing to the volume,Milosz’s poetry stood apart from the current trends ofcontemporary poetry, while articulating at the same time the mostimportant issues of the contemporary world. The conclusion of theessay by Krzysztof Dybciak may perhaps be regarded as a goodsummary of the points made by all the other critics about theextraordinary character of Milosz’s poetic achievement:Milosz’s work is something so extraordinary in our epoch,that it seems to be a phenomenon that has appeared on thesurface of contemporary art from the mysterious depths ofreality. At a time when voices of doubt, sadness and despairare the loudest; when writers are outstripping each other innegation of man, his culture and nature.... the world builtby the author of “Daylight” creates a space in which one canbreathe freely, where one can find rescue. (1978, 420)it is characteristic that an essay devoted to poetry ends withremarks which refer to the entirety of Milosz’s writings. All thecritics, while dealing with a great variety of issues and aspectsof Milosz’s work, treated and presented his writing as a unity.In her essay about The Issa Valley Lillian Vallee wrote that49Czeslaw Milosz’s foremost contribution to world literatureis his poetry. Yet anyone who has read his poetry knows thatit is not readily accessible and that it requires a greatdeal of elucidation via other texts, preferably Milosz’sown; his essays or nonfiction prose.... I would like topropose that this essay, a brief analysis of the novel TheValley of Issa.... be considered as another oblique angle ofapproach to Milosz’s poetry - not because the novel isunworthy of individual critical scrutiny, but because bothnovel and poetry gain considerably in a comparativecontext. (1978, 403)Consequently, Milosz’s poetry and prose were to be explainedmutually, the one through the other. The earlier attempts topresent MiIosz the poet according to the image of the role of thepoet, especially as formulated by Milosz in The Captive Mind,were thus overcome and replaced by a deeper model of aphilosophical inter-relationship between his poetry and prose.Essays included in the Milosz’s issue of World LiteratureToday proposed also a new approach in the treatment of Miiosz’sprose. Although three critical works are devoted entirely toworks in prose, only one of them, “The ‘Still Point’ in Milosz’sNative Realm” by Alexander Coleman, analyzes a work that wasalready available in English translation. Two other articles aredevoted to The Issa Valley and to two collections of Milosz’sessays The Land of Ulro and Visions from San Francisco Bay, thatbecame available to the English-speaking reader only in thel980s. In the essays devoted to poetry critics draw extensivelyon Milosz’s prose; yet, in the three critical analyses ofMiosz’s prose works poetry appears only mariginally and theirauthors only seldom draw parallels between Milosz’s prose and hispoems. It is significant, however, that Native Realm and The Issa50Valley are presented to the reader in very similar terms, asbooks about self discovery. Alexander Coleman analysing NativeRealm comes to the conclusion that Milosz, not unlike T.S.Eliot,“is painfully aware of the dangers of dogma in literature.” (1978,403) In the critic’s opinion the book presentsa dialogue within the self that exposes not merely an“artistic” drama of a poet trying to find one Word among somany words, but also that of a constant and implacable urgetoward reconciliation of what may not be reconcilable eitherin poetry or in life. . . . it is an eternal quandary and trialwithin the soul of anyone who seeks the truth. (1978, 403)The Issa Valley, in turn, is described by Lillian Vallee asa seemingly autobiographical novel depicting the Lithuaniancountryside of the author’s childhood as seen through theeyes of the child-protagonist Thomas. It is, ostensibly, thestory of the boy’s initiation into adulthood, his passagefrom a state of innocence to consciousness and the discoveryof his own duality: the disparity between his inner andouter selves. (1978, 404)Concluding her observations, Lillian Vallee states (in terms thatresemble the main point of the Contosky’s earlier article) thatthe novel asMilosz’s own quest for singular perspective, the one pointfrom which all is understood, leads us to the threshold ofvarious contradictions: greed and insatiety, intoxicationand aversion, hope and despair. One must exhaust allpossible perspectives in search for the one that willarrange them in their proper hierarchical order. In order todo this, one must experience much of the world in order toliberate oneself from it. (1978, 407)In fact both essays introduced the tenor of the later opinionsabout Milosz’s works in prose. This is true also of the third ofthe essays devoted to Milosz’s works in prose, Olga Scherer’s “ToUlro Through San Francisco Bay.” In her opinion Milosz’s essays,especially those written after 1969, should be studied together,51since they present consecutive stages of development of the sameideas. Though Olga Scherer focuses on two books, she also touchesupon previously written prose stating thatMilosz was never to acknowledge the alleged priority ofexistence over consciousness, and in his relentless attemptsto give meaning to the course of human history he was tofeel more at home in methods overtly involving metaphysicaloperations than in those which, yielding to contingentprinciples of determination, refuse or simply fail torecognize the fundamentally metaphysical nature of thepresent moral crisis. (1978, 408)It is significant, that although essays in World Literature Todayproposed readings of Milosz’s prose “on its own,” and not only asan introduction to his poetry, his prose works in fact nevergained the same kind of interest as his poetry. When in 1981 aspecial Milosz’s issue of Ironwood (nr 18) was published, onlyone article, strictly speaking, was devoted specifically to hisprose, but critics drew extensively on Mllosz’s essays indiscussing and explaining his poetry.Iribarne was right in proclaiming the Neustadt Prize asopening a new stage in Milosz’s recognition in the West.Actually, no other event (neither any publication of a new workby Milosz nor other literary prizes, including the Nobel Prize)had such an impact on the critical reception of Milosz’s works inthe West as had the Neustadt Prize. However, it would be wrong toconclude that the previously current journalistic and criticalclichés had entirely disappeared from the critical writingsdevoted to Milosz. They were still used by critics, especially inbook reviews addressed to the general public. This co-existenceof two models of critical description of Milosz’s works was52especially striking in the texts published subsequently to theaward in 1980 of the Nobel Prize in literature to Milosz.The next collection of Milosz’s poems published in NorthAmerica (after the poet was awarded the Neustadt Prize but priorto the Nobel Prize), Bells in Winter (1978) also did not providethe English-speaking reader with a fully representative selectionof Milosz’s poetry, as it was comprised mostly of poems writtenin California in the early 1970s. In fact the volume, along withsome of Milosz’s other works, did not become the focus ofcritical attention until much later, after their author had beenawarded the Nobel Prize.The initial reviews of Bells in Winter published immediatelyafter the appearance of the volume (as well as the reviews ofMilosz’s essays) did not present a consistent critical point ofview on Milosz and thus hardly made a difference to thedevelopment of the reception process. Since the collectionconsisted of poems written in exile, the majority of criticsevaluated them in terms of the impact of exile on Milosz. RichardHoward stated that the new collection had “transformed the way”he had looked at Milosz’s earlier poems and that Bells in Winterwas “a good place to begin reading this great European master.”(p. 46) The critic not only discussed the way in which exilethematically influenced Milosz’s poems but also pointed out thatexile had changed the tone of his poetry and that “the specialtonality -- disabused yet passionate, learned yet sensuous,accusatory yet tentative -- we hear everywhere in Milosz.”(p. 48)53Presenting a different point of view, D.M Thomas commencedhis review with the remark that he “found Bells in Winterdisappointing.” Explaining his evaluation Thomas wrote:we feel, even more strongly than with Brodsky, the numbingdeprivation and loneliness of perpetual exile. The poems areabstract, unpeopled. There is little human warmth. But thefinal sequence, From the Rising of the Sun. . . .moves withmore freedom, and is undeniably powerful: the coldness ofMilosz’s style is, here, a stinging, burning cold. Andelsewhere there are moments of beauty which make me wonderhow much more I am missing, through my own blindness or thelimitations of translation. (1981, 49)The difficulties with the critical evaluation of this collectionof MiIosz’s poems were later discussed by Donald Davie in hisCzesaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric. It is also worthnoting that reviews of Bells in Winter included the firstsignificant remarks about the impact of translation on thereception of Milosz’s poetry.After the appearance of the Bells in Winter, Terence DesPres published in The Nation (1978) a very interesting criticalessay in which he presented Milosz’s work against a broadhistorical background and in contrast to contemporary Anglo-American poetry. In his view “[plolitical catastrophe has definedthe nature of our century,” and the result, “the collision ofpersonal and political realms -- has produced a new kind ofwriter,” epitomised by Milosz (p. 742). Referring to “the visionof the cobblestones” from The Captive Mind as to the criterion bywhich Milosz himself judged his own poetry, Des Pres wrote:In sharp contrast to prevailing notions of poetry in America-- for which the self and nature are still the onlyimportant realities -- literary fulfilment for a poet likeMilosz depends on extraliterary consciousness; it depends on54knowing the historical situation to which the poemimplicitly responds, which is a kind of awareness the poemthen incorporates back into itself. (p. 742)Des Pres, however, does not see Milosz’s poetry as merely atestimony of events witnessed by the poet. “I know of no poetmore driven to celebration” -- he writes --to sing of the earth in its plainness and glory, andtherefore no poet more tormented by the terrible detourthrough history which must be taken if, in pursuit of joyoussong, the authority of poetic affirmation is not to remainuntested or open to the charge of ignorance.... To equatelife with happiness and mean it is an astonishing victory inour brute century -- against terror, death, camps, war’sconstant eruption and now too, the threat of nuclearholocaust. (p. 742)Concluding his essay ,Des Pres defines further thedistinctiveness of Milosz’s poetic achievement:To celebrate life at the same time rejecting its perversionsis the basis of all thought and art which deserves -- in thepure, ideal sense -- to be called “political,” and we shouldnot be fooled by literary critics..., who tell us thatpoetry and politics cannot successfully meet. Milosz isproof of the contrary, and his work is exemplary for the wayit stands so firmly in contrast to the kind of poetry(again, mostly American) which proceeds, after Auschwitz,after Hiroshima, as if between self and history there wereno tie or common ground. On the contrary, Milosz’s poetry isenhanced by its fund of historical sense. Rooted directly inpolitical realities..., this kind of poetry yields a newaesthetic, which in Milosz’s case I would call a poetic ofaftermath. (743)The critical interest in East European poetry and thetendency to evaluate contemporary Anglo-American poetry accordingto criteria derived from Milosz (and from other East Europeanpoets), or, in Des Pres’s phrase, in terms of “the vision of thecobblestones,” became a significant element in Anglo-Americancriticism beginning in the 1970s. At the same time, the interestin the poetry of “the oppressed,” or more broadly, of poetry55displaying historical awareness and tested by experience,contributed to the development of the reception of Milosz’sworks, especially in its later stages.1 However, it should benoted that Des Pres did not present Mllosz in terms of one of thecurrent formulas, such as “poetry of the oppressed,” “poetry ofsurvival,” or “poetry of witness.” Instead, he drew quiteextensively on Milosz’s poems as well as his prose in an attemptto come up with appropriate categories of critical description ofMilosz’s poetry. These categories, in fact, came close toMilosz’s own, as defined by him a few years later in his TheWitness of Poetry.The award of the Nobel Prize to Milosz in 1980 -- at a timewhen Poland, because of major political changes, was in thecentre of public interest in the Western countries -- brought toits winner lively critical interest followed by many articles inthe popular press, as well as critical essays in scholarlypublications. In general the press welcomed the award whiledescribing it, somewhat begrudgingly, as a politically motivatedchoice. In his article in The New Statesman, Clive Wilmer opinedthat “The award to Milosz of the Nobel Prize in the aftermath ofthe recent Polish upheaval cannot be regarded as non-political.”(1980, 25)2 Another critic wrote:1 For a fuller discussion of the reception of East Europeanpoetry, see Chapter 5.2 However, as one as one can ascertain, the decision of the NobelPrize Committee had been made already in May, that is, before theAugust strikes and the rise of “Solidarity”. See Espmark 1986.56First, a cardinal from Poland -- a state where religion isdiscouraged -- became pope. Then Party leaders werepresented in 1980 with a Polish language Nobel Laureatewhose works they banned for decades... (Stocker 1982, B7)In Encounter, François Bondy recounted the statement made byone of the great professionals among the Book Fair elite.“What’s his name again? Milos? Milosch? Never heard of him.But obviously, after Wojtyla and Walesa, it was time for aPole, and Stockholm has a nose for these things. All amatter of politics, no doubt about it. . .“ (1980, 37)Although Milosz had already been awarded other major literaryprizes, it turned out that he was still relatively unknown to thereaders in the West. Much more interesting for the general publicwere the contemporary events in Poland which overshadowedMilosz’s writing and its descriptions in the press. Some of thenotices in the press do not mention even a single work ofMilosz’s, quoting instead the political reactions in Warsaw.Nevertheless, one may be surprised to find that several ofthe press items described Milosz principally as a poet, treatinghis prose, including The Captive Mind, as of secondaryimportance. Quite typical in this respect is the item in theweekly Time (“Honoring a Pole Apart”). Its description ofMilosz’s literary achievements begins with the quotation of twolines from his “Mid-Twentieth-Century Portrait,” and it evengives the date of the poem. At the same time the article focusedon Milosz’s war-time poems and then moved to his politicallyoriented prose. The piece concluded with some thoughts concerningthe interest in his poetry in the West and the fate of the poetin exile:It is Milosz the poet, however, who has been suddenly thrust57before the world. Works such as Selected Poems... . and Bellsin Winter. . . . have long attracted glowing attention fromother writers and poets, especially those who share Milosz’sstate of spiritual and political exile. (1980, 105)Assuming that the politically motivated interest in Miloszand his writing in the West still had to be taken into account bycritics, we should note that presumably the events of 1980 inPoland were of much greater interest to the English-speakingreaders in the l980s than M±]osz’s politically oriented prosefrom the 1950s. In the early 1980s, the horizon of expectation ofthe English-speaking reader was clearly influenced by the recentpolitical developments, such as the rise of “Solidarity” and ofother democratic movements in Eastern Europe rather than by the“history” of the l950s.As has been mentioned, the award of the Nobel Prize wasfollowed by numerous publications of Milosz’s works in English.Both new editions of his previously published volumes in Englishand the publication of more recent as well as earlier works madeMilosz’s oeuvre much more accessible to non-Polish readers.However, the critics were aware that a considerable body ofMilosz’s work remained untranslated. The quality of the availabletranslations also became a critical issue.A new factor added to the reception of Milosz in the West byconcurrent appearance and re-appearance of several of his worksin translation was the realization of the need for a thoroughreevaluation of his oeuvre, including taking a fresh criticallook at previously “reviewed” works. This was probably the reasonfor the “reappearance” of essays devoted to specific works by58Milosz and several attempts at “grasping” the message containedin his writings. Moreover, some of the reviews dealt with anumber of Milosz’s works at a time, discussing them bothindividually and jointly. Since several of Milosz’s books werereissued after 1980 and The Issa Valley finally became availablein English in 1981, the critics took the opportunity to “rethink”some of the issues raised by Milosz. In the “Return of theNative” John Bayley wrote:his genius flourishes and finds its subject in the manydegrees of consciousness nationality implies; and to feaston such things and yet remain free of them is in itself agift of genius. Language and nationality are haunts of theirrational. They are also the root of well grown ego. . . .Ournatures grow and flourish by denaturing those who are notplanted in the same bed. (1981, 29)The international recognition encouraged critics to considerMilosz’s literary achievement from the perspective of worldliterature, as well as to explore his ties with his own literarytradition as one of the possible ways (interesting, even if notthe most pertinent) of assessing his importance as a writer.The critical texts from 1980 to 1992 included book reviews,in several cases devoted to books already reviewed before 1980,critical essays published in leading periodicals as well as thefirst two books devoted entirely to Milosz’s writings. Inaddition, the number of critics writing about Milosz, as well asthe number of critical texts devoted to him, increasedsignificantly. The hitherto limited circle of critic-mediatorswas now joined by critics of Anglo-American origin, who were notonly native to their culture but also became better acquainted59with the poet’s native literary background.With the rising number of Anglo-American critics publishingessays devoted to Milosz’s writings (and especially to hispoetry) the Western perspective became more important andincreasingly distinct from the Polish perspective. Anglo-Americancritics in general tried to evaluate Milosz’s poetry according tocategories of their own poetic traditions. In essays published inIronwood 18 (1981) Marisha Chamberlain and Mark Rudman presentedtheir opinionsabout how far, if at all, Milosz’s procedures could bejustified by.. . . Keatsian standard. To Marisha Chamberlain itseemed clear that “he possesses that characteristic thatKeats called ‘negative capability’, which distinguishes thegreat artist: the ability to stand in doubt for a long time,to proceed from failed attempt to failed attempt, keepingalive the appetite for the problem itself”. To Mark Rudmanon the other hand, it seemed that “may be the best way toput it is that M±losz has rejected a concept that has formedthe basis of romantic poetry, ‘negative capability’, towhich poets who might not agree on anything else oftencleave.” (]Davie 1986, 30)In the course of time it became more and more clear that Milosz’spoetry did not fit easily into any of the categories that wereknown to the Western readers from their literary traditions.Critical attempts to present Milosz’s poetry in comparison withwritings of Anglo-American poets, such as H. Sisson (D. Davie)and Ezra Pound (H. Vendler) or the French poet Saint-John Perse(R. Howard), to name a few, proved that Milosz may be betterdescribed by contrasts than by similarities with them. At thesame time East European poetry became known in the West andgradually its categories increasingly influenced at least some ofthe Western critics. As a result of this process, Western critics60attempted to do both: to place Milosz in the Anglo-Americantradition (more often by contrast) and to describe his poemsaccording to the categories applied to East-European poetry.With regard to the American perspective, of special interestis the already mentioned Milosz issue of the American journalIronwood which, although it appeared in 1981, was prepared beforethe award of the Nobel prize to Milosz. Of the thirteen essaysincluded in the issue, nine were written by American poets, asignificant indication of the extent to which Milosz’s poetry hadbecome part of the American poetic scene by 1980. But what is ofparticular interest is the nature of the authors’ response,namely their recognition of the distinctiveness of Mi]osz’spoetry (and of East European poetry in general) and the needseveral of them felt to bring out the contrast between theAmerican poetic tradition and the poetry of Milosz. MarishaChamberlain, for instance, observed how different Milosz’sattitude was towards public life and his assumptions concerningthe role of history in comparison with that of American poets:Czeslaw Milosz assumes in his poetry an intimacy with publicevent and a belonging to the public world. The assumptionthat public life is embraced and controlled by history israre among American poets.... For the American reader it isimportant to know that Milosz sees himself not as anindividual adrift, but as a product of history. History madehim an orphan.... (1981, 28)Similarly, Jean Valentine, noting the differences between Miloszand contemporary American poets, wrote that it was hard, “forwhatever reasons. . . .to imagine such faith in poetry in the UnitedStates” (1981, 10) as seemed to exist in Poland, while Patricia61Hampl found the American concept of “identity” too narrowlypsychological when compared with the historical experience ofEast European poets. “The solution,” she wrote,of the contemporary American imagination in regard toidentityT-- the self seeking to uncover its hiddenpsychology, to “get in touch with the unconscious” -- mustseem thin gruel indeed to such writers [as Milosz, who comefrom threatened nations]. (1981, 57)What set Milosz’s poetry apart from Western poetry, in theview of several of the authors published in Ironwood, was notonly the experience embodied in his writings (a factor oftenstressed by Western critics), but also “a compellingrelation.... established between the subject’s story and thehistory of the nation,” (p.58) as Patricia Hampi put it, as wellas the distinctive “poetic voice” and tone of Milosz’s poetryand, according to Mark Rudman, its “visionary” character. Therole of memory, of memory as “force and memory as something thatmust be regained, like paradise,” was also stressed by a numberof the authors as a distinctive feature of Mllosz’s poetry.Critics also commented upon the role of exile in Milosz’s poetry,and while they disagreed on the precise impact of exile onMilosz’s poetic development, there was a general consensus thatMilosz’s poems written in California differed significantly fromhis earlier work. In Mark Rudman’s view the “strange astringency”which characterized much of Milosz’s poetry “had been tempered byCalifornia,” where he could “recollect horror with tranquility”(p. 11), although he also thought that “exile changes a man’sorder of priorities,” and that Mllosz had to “reopen the wound,62reexperience the pain and horror of his own past and byimplication, that of his country and most of Eastern Europebefore it was razed to rubble.” (1981, 18)Although some of the poet-critics commented upon the losswhich Milosz’s poetry suffered in translation, the depth andsensitivity of their reflection seems to indicate that even intranslation Milosz’s poems had considerable impact on theirreaders. Some of the contributors must have heard Milosz read hispoems both in English and in Polish. Jean Valentine, forinstance, drew a very interesting conclusion from the contrastbetween the Polish version of “A Song on the End of the World” asread by the author and its English rendering:Hearing Milosz read “A Song on the End of the World,” it wasa song.... In English the poem hasn’t got the body of itslullabye; only its imprint. This way there is no seductionof mere language: of the language of genius even, whichsometimes carries immoral substance or no moral substance atall. And in M±losz’s poems in. English we are not givenanother voice, as we sometimes are in translations; otherpoems. The touch of a voice is not there. In a great poet,maybe it is this close, physical voice, not poetry, thatgets lost in translation. (1978, 8)The Polish perspective continued to be the major point ofview on Milosz in essays written by Polish critics. The points ofview of Polish critics who contributed to the special issue ofIronwood devoted to Milosz, differ considerably from those of thenon-Polish critics. The former placed an inordinate stress on thePolish context of Milosz’s writings, although even they took intoaccount Milosz’s broader poetic and philosophical affinities,realizing that an exclusively Polish perspective was clearlyinadequate to the task of understanding and characterizing63Milosz’s work. At the same time, in tracing closely MiIosz’spoetic development, Polish critics were able to show how crucialthe role of the religious aspect in his poetry and thought was.For Anglo-American critics who were not acquainted with theentirety of Mllosz’s poetry, the religious element became easierto grasp after the publication of The Land of Ulro (1984).By the mid-1980s, the increasing knowledge of Milosz’swritings in the West began to make a real difference to thecritical reception and its categories. As a result, the mediationof critics living in Poland became less important, and, with theexception of Aleksander Fiut (whose view of Milosz was largelyinfluenced by the poet himself), their role as mediators betweenMilosz’s writing and the English-speaking reader diminished. Theprocess took place even before the appearance of MiIosz’sCollected Poems (1988).On the other hand, critics of Polish origin living in theWest who were more familiar with the horizon of expectations ofthe English-speaking readers were not only enhancing the criticaldebate with new arguments but were also able to contributedirectly to the discussions concerning the poetry of EasternEurope. These discussions were probably the most significant newelement in the critical reception of Milosz’s works after theNobel Prize. At that point critics wanted both to acquire adeeper knowledge of his writings and to discuss the generalimpact of East European poetry on Anglo-American poetry andcriticism. Bogdan Czaykowski’s essay, “The Idea of Reality in the64Poetry of Czeslaw MiIosz”, is a good example here. It argues forthe centrality in Milosz’s writings and thoughts of theontological theme and emphasizes the poet’s insistent “will toreality” both as a quest for understanding and as an evaluativeprinciple; and it moves freely between Polish and Anglo-Americanaffinities of Milosz’s poetry and reacts polemically to at leastsome Anglo-American reflections on Milosz. These questions whichCzaykowski brought into critical focus would not be knowledgeablydiscussed until ten years later by Leonard Nathan and AnthonyQuinn in their book The Poet’s Work (1991). In fact Czaykowski,as it were, anticipated the thematic concerns of the two majorstudies of Milosz’s poetry that came out in the early 1990s:The theological aspect of Milosz’s idea of reality wouldrequire a more extensive treatment than I can provide inthis short paper. It comprises Milosz’s gnostic andManichean tendencies, his firm belief in the existence ofgood and evil, his conviction that “we walk over hell whilelooking at flowers”, the attempt to find in human history alink between transience and ‘the eternal moment’, theprobing of eschatological and apocalyptic ideas and visions,and the polemic with the limiting character of thescientific outlook. (1988, 108)Another significant attempt to define in a synthetic mannerthe complexity of Milosz’s overall philosophical and poeticstance and the nature of its appeal to readers outside of aparticular national culture is found in Edward Moejko’s essay“Between the Universals of Moral Sensibility and HistoricalConsciousness.” Emphasizing that MUosz’s work is permeated “frombeginning to end” with “a high-minded reflective tone,” Mo±ejkonoted that one could “hardly resist the impression that [thisreflectivenessj is tinged with a certain degree of moralizing”65(1988, 2). Having made this potentially damaging observation (atleast in terms of modern attitudes to literature), he proceededto turn it to good account by pointing out that it all dependedon how one understood the concept of moralist. He mentioned thefact that “the eminent and internationally acclaimed Canadianauthor Margaret Laurence” believed that “a great writer cannotavoid being a moralist,” and then defined his understanding ofhow the term could be used to illuminate the character ofMilosz’s reflective tone:What form of moralizing is meant, then, and what is theessence of its meaning? It seems to spring from a strongdesire to sensitize man’s conscience to the universalexistential problems which are expressed in terms of goodand evil, to problems religious, philosophical, national andsocial alike, which are of concern to those conditioned by aparticular historical experience, but equally of concern toindividuals living at all latitudes. This moralizing springsfrom an incessant anxiety and from hope; its source is thewealth of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the cultural andcivilizing experiences of all mankind. Man is not a one-dimensional being, but a tangle of varying experiences. Fromthis belief springs the polyphonic nature of Milosz’s poetryand its appeal to the reader. (1988, 2)The co-existence of various critical models of describingMilosz’s works, the continuing evolution of his poetry andthought, and the increasing availability of his works in Englishtranslation made the task of those critics who did not knowPolish especially challenging, even more so as they were stillunable to place Milosz’s works in their chronological order.Shortly after the Nobel Prize, several of the previouslyunavailable books of Milosz as well as his new works appeared inEnglish translation. In 1981 The Issa Valley (Polish edition1955), a year later Visions from San Francisco Bay (Polish66edition 1969), in 1984 The Separate Notebooks (volume of poems)and The Land of Ulro (Polish editIon 1977) became available tothe English-speaking reader. At the same time a number of hisworks which had previously appeared in English were reissued innew editions. In 1983 The Witness of Poetry was publishedsimultaneously in English and in Polish (the first time thishappened with a work by Milosz), and Unattainable Earth (a volumeof new poems) appeared in English translation in 1986, only twoyears after its Polish edition.As a result, reviews of new translations as a rule involvedcritical reevaluation of works already available. The Issa Valley(despite the disagreements among critics about the quality of itstranslation) was welcomed by critics as a profoundly personalnovel, “one born out of love and nostalgia for the world whichwas forever destroyed by the World War II.” (Thompson 1981, 18)Treated as a book inspired by the writer’s childhood, The IssaValley provided the critics with the opportunity to reflect onMilosz’s Polish-Lithuanian origins and the impact his childhoodhad on his later development. This novel, as well as the volumesof Milosz’s essays, enabled the critics to trace Milosz’sintellectual development, his philosophy and its religious rootsmore fully than hitherto. Some critics reviewed The Issa Valleyjointly with the simultaneously re-published Native Realm. Bothbooks, despite considerable differences in their literary form,were seen in very similar terms. Such a treatment was possiblebecause The Issa Valley was generally received as an67autobiographical novel in which Milosz portrays himself asThomas. As has already been mentioned, with the exception ofessays published in Milosz’s issue of World Literature Today,Milosz’s prose was often analyzed as a whole, while criticalessays in which their authors move freely from one prose work toanother and include arguments from Milosz’s poems are the mostinteresting. John Bayley in his “Return to the Native”, analyzingNative Realm and The Issa Valley, but also referring to TheEmperor of the Earth and Milosz’s poetry, gives more than areview of Milosz’s works. Bayley touches upon one of the mostimportant aspects of Milosz’s writings -- the poet’s concept ofart being not about words but about reality. Bayley points to onecharacteristic of Miaosz as a writer, “something in his work thatis unique today: the reality of the thing, the return of thething.” (p. 30) This makes Milosz very different in comparisonwith contemporary American literature. Bayley states thatMilosz’s prosemakes us realize the extent to which an American masterpiecetends to be about itself only.... [Wie have forgotten how toread and to recognize a primitive work. All those events andobjects and people... . these are real, with the realityconferred by primary art; they are not the ‘web of symbols’ingeniously discovered by Edmund Wilson... (p. 30)And concerning The Issa Valley he added: “It takes a masterpieceto reveal the sheer unreality of our modern creative modes andposes.” (p. 30)Nevertheless, the general tendency of looking at Milosz’sprose as an introduction to his poetry through the elements ofhis personality and philosophy was present even in reviews of68consecutive volumes of his essays. In his review of The Land ofUlro Norman Davies (not a critic, but a well known historian ofPoland) wrote:One learns much about Milosz himself - his nostalgia, loveof the esoteric, delight in ideas as wonderful playthingsand self-indulgent distress as an “external alien” in a badworld growing worse. (1984, 16)Mikicho Kakutani in her review for The New York Times expressed asimilar opinion.The book’s value, to most American readers anyway, residesmore in the picture it gives of Mr. Milosz’s ownintellectual and spiritual odyssey, and in the handful ofpersonal glimpses it affords of the poet himself. (1984, 21)The critics not only showed an increasing awareness of thefact that there was a close connection between Milosz’s poetryand prose, but began to use his essays as an interpretive tool intheir discussions of his poetry. One may even say that, ingeneral, Milosz’s prose did not become a separate field ofcritical interest. This may be one of the reasons why, in thelater stages of the reception, critical discussion of Milosz’sprose occurs mostly in essays devoted to his poetry. At the sametime, the poet’s self-presentations had clearly influencedcritical discussion in the direction of thematic analysis ofMilosz’s poetry. Moreover, Milosz’s prose did have an impact oncategories used by some Western critics in their evaluations ofdevelopments in postwar culture. In this context, Madeline G.Levine’s contribution to Between Anxiety and Hope, an essaydevoted to Milosz’s political prose of the 1950s, is ofconsiderable interest. Arguing that Milosz’s poetry proves that69the “central insights into the relationships betweenintellectuals and Communism as ideology and as power. . . . hadalready been formulated by Milosz in the late 1940s” (1988, 113)the critic presents Milosz’s political prose through the unity ofits thoughts.Driven by a fervent desire to bear witness to theexpansionist menace of Soviet Communism, and by what appearsto have been an obsessive need to reconstruct his ownpolitical/historical identity, Milosz experimented withdelivering his message to the West in three widely differingprose genres: the hybrid philosophical essay/portrait seriesof The Captive Mind; the kaleidoscopic novel, The Seizure ofPower; and the intelectual/sociological autobiography,Native Realm. (1988, 115)Limiting her reflections to political and ideological aspects,Levine analyzed how Milosz tried to influence Westernintelectuals’ attitude toward “Soviet state and Soviet Marxistvariant.” (1988, 113) In fact, Levine’s essay provides one moreproof that the most valuable critical evaluations of Milosz’sprose did not come directly as reviews after the publication ofspecific works but when his prose works were analyzed jointlywith his poetry. In many respects the reception of MiIosz’s 1981-82 Harvard lectures, published in 1983 as The Witness of Poetry,was also similar. Reviews following its publication were on thewhole very positive, but few in number. Critics reviewing thebook pointed out that “the text of [Milosz’s] Norton Lectures isthe credo of a great poet” (Wieseltier 1983, 32) and that TheWitness of Poetry is a bookof the rarest and most valuable kind of criticism, and anexample of the very best of that kind. It creates aperspective from which to view poems, and while Milosz’spoint of view may have limits or blind spots, or may see70sometimes what is harshly illuminated, he offers a profoundcorrective to many of the current assumptions not so muchof criticism but of poetry itself. (Gibbons 1983, 193)The reviewers described and discussed some of the mostsalient features of Milosz’s concept of poetry, such as his viewof poetry as “the passionate pursuit of the Real,” and generallynoted the philosopical and religious underpinnings of hisargument. However, more important than the immediate response toMilosz’s lectures, was their long-term impact on the categoriesof evaluation of contemporary poetry, the fact that the bookcreated, in Gibbons’s words , a “perspective from which to viewpoems,” and laid the ground for the concept of “poetry aswitness.” That perspective also had an “indirect” influence onthe subsequent reception of Milosz’s own poetry.Quite significant in this respect was the impact of The Landof Ulro which provided the critics with clear evidence of thereligious character of Milosz’s thought. Although the reviewswere generally rather uninteresting, the impact that the book hadon criticism can be seen in critical reflections on the religiousaspects of Milosz’s poetry and his affinity with William Blake.As a result, the English-speaking reader was provided withan increasingly thorough and nuanced introduction to thecomplexity of Milosz’s thought and poetry even before theappearance of the Collected Poems. Despite such advances in thedepth and range of the critical reception of Milosz’s work,critics who could not read Polish still found themselves hamperedby their inability to encompass the entirety of his poetic71development. The consciousness of this limitation constantlycomes to the surface in Donald flavie’s CzeslawMilosz and theInsufficiency of Lyric (1986). This book is a perfect example ofthe nature of the problem faced by English-speaking critics atthat time.Davie’s book consists of several previously publishedarticles which the author tried to integrate around a commontheme. Davie attempts to trace Milosz’s poetic development and toanalyse the evolution of his poetics and his struggle withlanguage while at the same time setting him apart from otherwriters and philosophers preoccupied with similar issues.It is very important to distinguish Milosz’s complaint about“the insufficiency of words” from certain far-reachingcomplaints about language which have exercised philosophersand poets for at least 300 years.. . .For Milosz, language inthe hands of a poet does indeed have access to the real, butnot to the real in all its abundance. It names right enough,it names reliably and accurately, but it names too little.(p. 24-25)Moving between Mllosz’s poetry and prose Davie does notpresent any consistent point of view on Milosz’s works. On theone hand, he recognizes Milosz’s rejection of formal experimentsin poetry and his classical point of view on “the office ofpoetry”; on the other, he disagrees with Milosz’s critique ofwriters and artists for their loss of contact with society andsees society at least partly responsible for the situation. Daviealso recognizes Milosz’s innovative treatment of the lyric, butfinds the fact “that the speaker of those [that is Milosz’slpoems occupies no fixed point for the duration of his poem but onthe contrary is always flitting, moving about” -- irritating and72he would like to trace in detail Milosz’s gradual departure fromlyric: “Milosz characteristically seeks poetic forms morecomprehensive and heterogeneous than any lyric, even the mostsustained and elaborate.” (p. 8) Another characteristic feature ofMilosz’s poetry, according to Davie, is the construction of hispoetic “I.” Trying to come to terms with this feature, Daviewrote:A “me” that is “cleaned.., from time and changed all into apresent without being or end” was not readily nor easilyavailable to a poet, Milosz, who had, in Native Realm andelsewhere, resolved to write a poetry that would always“contain history.” Again the question arises: how was thatattainable by Milosz, except for the price of surrender tothe overweening lyrical “I” that he has always distrusted?And the answer seems to be: by the way of the dithyrambic“I,” which is not overweening because not in any waypersonal. (p. 48)In his view, however, the selection available in translation doesnot provide a critic with a sufficient basis for a comprehensiveanalysis of Milosz’s poetry. The most characteristic feature ofDavie’s approach is the inconsistent mixture of old and new waysof looking at Milosz’s literary achievement. Actually, the bookis quite typical of the various confusions and inconsistenciesnoticeable in the critical reception of Milosz’s works between1980 and 1988 in the English-speaking countries. CriticizingDonald Davie’s Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric,Renata Gorczyñska failed to understand that Western critics wereunable to evaluate the extent to which the already availabletranslations of Milosz’s poems were representative of theentirety of his oeuvre. Only a knowledge of Polish and theability to trace his poetic development in its entirety made it73possible for Gorczyiska to write:Presently, twelve books by Czeslaw Milosz exist inEnglish. . . . Furthermore, his numerous essays, public speechesand new translations of poetry have been published inAmerican and British periodicals. His English-speakingcritics need not worry for lack of material, althoughcritical familiarity with Milosz is far from completeNevertheless, the bibliography mentioned above allowsscholars who have no ability to read Polish to undertake in-depth studies of Milosz’s modes and visions. (1988, 208)Even when the retrospective and fairly comprehensivecollection of Milosz’s poems in English translation, theCollected Poems, finally appeared in 1988, Milosz criticism stillfound itself unable to make the actual texts of the poems thebasis of addressing Milosz’s prospective reader. Criticalmediation still relied, at least to some extent, on theaccumulated critical formulas and opinions and the critics’assumptions about the horizon of expectations of Western readers.Not surprisingly then, when the previous cliché of Milosz -- asprincipally the author of The Captive Mind -- reappeared in A.Alvarez’s review of the Collected Poems, Milosz wrote an irateletter to the editor of The New York Review of Books. The poetcomplained about constantly being viewed through his first proseworks published in the West. In his opinion, politicallydistorted Western interest in Central and Eastern Europe was toblame for this situation.I brought, unfortunately, my share to the body of knowledgeon the subject, by writing, in prose The Captive Mind andNative Realm. I say: unfortunately, because.. . . they distortthe image of their author in the minds of the readers and ofliterary critics, by presenting him as more obsessed withhistorical events than he is.... [i]n fact for a long time myname was connected with my books in prose available intranslation, while the poetry that I have been publishing74since 1931, only slowly made its way to the reading publicabroad thanks to its English versions... .1 am grateful toAmerica and proud of being now one of its poets, reachingyoung audiences who treat me primarily as a poet. You canimagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw Mr.Alvarezcopiously quoting from my old prose book instead of dealingwith my poetic oeuvre sufficiently exemplified by CollectedPoems. (1988, 42)One may note, however, that on the whole the earlier clichésappeared in the reviews directed at the general public. The sameobservation can be made about the reactions to the award of theNobel Prize to Milosz in 1980 in the news’ sections of daily andweekly papers. However, the appearance of a number of newtranslations, as well as the award of the Nobel Prize, did have asignificant influence on the further development of criticalmodels of writing about Milosz in scholarly and criticaljournals. For instance, D.J.Enright, reviewing Milosz’s CollectedPoems suggested that the real difficulty with coming to termswith Milosz’s works was to determine the status and nature of hisliterary achievement.The difficulty with Milosz lies less in understanding himthan in establishing or recognizing what one thinks or feelsabout him: not what the author says, but how the readerresponds. (1988, 956)Some of the confusion (or hesitation) discernible in Westerncriticism actually showed that, although several in-depth studiesof Milosz’s writing had already been published in periodicals oras chapters of books, they were (for various reasons) hardly evertaken into account by the majority of Anglo-American critics. Oneof the possible explanations of the limited (or very slow) impactof these works on the reception process lies in the fact that75essays overviewing MiIosz’s poetry were published primarily inbooks devoted entirely to contemporary Polish literature and wereaddressed to the specialists in the area.In Madeline Levine’s book Contemporary Polish Poetry 1925-1975 an entire chapter is devoted to the poetry of CzeslawMilosz. The critic commenced her observations about Milosz’swritings by stating that Miaosz 11cannot be comprehended apartfrom the context of the chaotic upheavals of East Europeansociety during this century,” and she accordingly tried todescribe Milosz’s poetry in the context of the historical eventsof his nation and of the poet’s biography. Though Levine providesa general characterization of Milosz’s poetry stating thatin his classically restrained poetry Milosz addresses thecrucial problems of the twentieth century: the cataclysms ofworld war, the destruction of cultural values, the crisis ofreligious faith, the erosion of humaneness and individualdignity (1981, 36)-- her main focus is on the poet’s reaction to the historicallychanging reality. By focusing on the themes of his poems, thecritic only mariginally makes observations about their artisticfeatures. Nevertheless a careful reader of the chapter will takenote of Levine’s statement that “commonly, Milosz approachesthemes of ominous import with either the icy quiet of scathingirony or with deceptively placid description.” And despite tilelimitations of the approach chosen by Levine one can also learnthatthe somber discursive mode. . . .became the distinguishingcharacteristic of Milosz’s mature poetry. The “typical”MiIosz poem from the 1940s and 1950s adheres (in a relaxedmodern fashion) to such traditional prosodic structures as76regulated line length, rhyme (even if approximate), stanzaicstructure. Images are rare and are more likely to bemetonymic than metaphoric. Emphasis is always placed on thetheme or message which the neat form and the sonorous linesenhance.The poems from the American period are marked by a decidedrelaxation of formal constraints. In a given poem lines maybe of any length, conforming more to the natural rhythms ofdiscourse than the prescribed rhythms of prosody. Rhyme isbasically dispensed with. The mode is still discursive, butthe tone is quieter, more contemplative than the assertiveargumentation of, especially, the political works from the1950s. The loosening of formal constraints in the poetryparallels the introduction of new themes. The bitterlyironic perspective of the observer of historical process hasyielded to a more meditative posture as Milosz ponders theeternal philosophical questions of the nature of good andevil, of man’s moral responsibility in a universe whichoften appears to be the plaything of demonic forces. (1981,48)So even before the wider attention paid to Milosz’s potry afterthe award of the Nobel Prize, the English-speaking reader as wellas interested critics were provided, in spite of their complaintsexpressed even as late as the 1990s, with fairly detailedobservations about the poetic art of Milosz.Bogdana Carpenter’s study The Poetic Avant-Garde in Poland1918-1939 provided Western readers (and especially the critics,since the study has a scholarly character) with a discussion oftrends in Polish poetry at the beginning of the century. Althoughthe book only marginally deals with Milosz, Carpenter’s studypresents the situation of Polish poetry at the time of Milosz’sdebut and outlines the importance of his poetry for the literaryprocess in Poland. Furthermore, the book shows the Polish contextof some of Milosz’s opinions about poetry and its role that wereoften explained by Western criticism (especially in the 1980s) byMiiosz’s exposure to and the situation of modern Anglo-American77poetry. Referring to MiIosz’s article “The Lie of Today’sPoetry,” published in 1938, Carpenter writes:Opposed to the formalistic approach to poetry that does notgo beyond the poem itself, Milosz shifted the stress fromthe poem to the artist. He opposed aesthetic categories withthe ethical categories of responsibility, inner discipline,and truth to oneself.... For Milosz the poetic act includedthe moral responsibility, responsibility oriented bothoutward - toward others - and inward - toward himself. Ifpoetry was justified by the poet’s certitude that his work“can be helpful to at least one man in his struggle withhimself and with the world”, it was also a means by whichthe poet defined himself and his destiny. Poetry wasimportant not as an aesthetic but as an ethical category, asa means for solving the philosophical and moral dilemmas ofeither the poet or the reader; its ultimate task was tobring the realization of one’s own individuality. (1983,198)In other words, it was not the events of history witnessed by hisgeneration but MiIosz’s general attitude toward poetry that madehim an important literary figure. Milosz’s views were primarilyformed in relation to avant-garde theories and practices and as areaction to the situation of his native poetry in the earlydecades of the century, and only secondarily, as a reaction tohistorical events. Concluding her book Carpenter wrote:The feeling of living in exceptional times, of being bothwitness and victim of an apocalypse, was the source of thepoet’s sense of belonging to a condemned, stigmatizedgeneration. The same awareness would become overwhelmingamong the poets of the post-World War II generation. Withthem, also, Milosz shared the tragic conviction that in thetime of war, death, and hunger, there was no room forpoetry, at least as it had been known before then. Historythat has grown to the dimensions of an apocalypse left noplace for art, just as confusion destroyed harmony andanxiety excluded peace. Milosz’s realization of theobsoleteness of poetry in the face of death and destructionwas totally alien to Avantgarde attitudes, but it wouldbecome the major dilemma of Polish poetry after 1945. In theevolution of Polish poetry, the importance of Milosz is thathe pushed the critical point - what might be called awatershed, or division between post-World War II and prewar78poetry - as far back as 1933, when his first catastrophistpoems were written. (1983, 201)Although focusing on Milosz’s prewar poetry, Carpenter’sstudy emphasizes the unity of the different periods of hisliterary career rather than the differences between them. Thispoint of view on Miosz’s writings became increasingly commonamong critics in the 1980s. Despite the complexity of theproblem, in his contribution to Between Anxiety and Hope EdwardMoejko tried to come to terms with the question of “periods” ofMilosz’s writing.Milosz’s works have a surprising continuity and aconsistency rarely found among writers. It is therefore ahighly risky undertaking to look for some kind of ceasura,for a border separating one period from another in hiscase Despite the above statement, it is difficult toresist the temptation to insert certain delimitations. Eventhe poet himself seems to notice such a ceasura, when in thepreface to zniewolony uniysl he admits that the war haschanged him considerably. .. . It appears that a certain periodof Milosz’s creativity comes to an end at the close of thehalf-century and that a new period begins. The difficultylies in trying to define the difference. (1988, 17)Not surprisingly, the divisions into different periods,emphasized especially by Polish émigré critics in the 1970s,appeared in the later essays devoted to Milosz less frequently.Instead of distinguishing separate periods, critics more oftentried to define the distinctiveness of Milosz’s poetic art. Oneof the most interesting attempts to characterize Milosz’s poeticachievement is Stanislaw Barañczak’s essay “Mi)osz’s PoeticLanguage: A Reconnaissance.” Unlike the majority of the criticalworks discussed so far, Baraczak’s essay focused on Milosz’sconcept of poetic language and the thematic preoccupations of the79poet were touched upon only marginally. Pointing out Milosz’sattempts to describe reality, Barañczak states that “Like manyother poets, Milosz is tormented by a basic shortcoming oflanguage: its being out of proportion to reality.” (1986, 320) InBarai.czak’s opInion Milosz’s way of overcoming this “shortcoming”in his poetry contributes to the uniqueness of his poetics. Sincethe poet believes in the superiority of reality over language he“always tries to find the most concrete among all possiblesynonyms, even at the cost of transgressing the limits of theethnic language”. (1986, 322) However, the “lexical quest” doesnot seem to be enough to define Milosz’s struggle to describereality. As Barañczak points outhis most characteristic stylistic inclinations appear not somuch within the field of lexical options as within the fieldof figures of speech. Compared to most lyrical poets, MiIoszstands out as someone who almost completely rejects figuresnear to the metaphorical pole (especially metaphors as suchand symbols) and who instead strongly favors metonymicalfigures (especially synecdoche and within it especially parspro toto) . MiIosz is a poet of synecdoche.... (1986, 322)This observation leads the critic to the conclusion that the bestdescription of Milosz’s poetry can be given by using “technicalfilm expressions” and especially such terms as “panorama”,“close-up”, “cuts” and “sequence of film shots.” Film terminologygives Barañczak the tool to show that Milosz’s poetry can becharacterized by a “fusion of extremely incompatibleperspectives” as well as by “testimonies belonging to variouspoints of view.”Though Baraiczak does not limit his observations to thePolish background of Milosz’s poetry, he not only quotes some of80the opinions of Polish critics but also refers to differencesbetween Miaosz’s and Julian Przybo’s concepts of poeticlanguage. Stating that Milosz’s “speech is not ‘more accurate’,as Przybo would like it, but rather ‘more complete’, the criticrefers to the opinion of Jan Bioñski:Bloñski’s formula, “more complete speech”, is very exact. Itstresses that Milosz’s use of “someone else’s word” and“someone else’s voice” has not only classicisticprovenances: in other words, it represents not simply aresistance to romantic egocentrism and “confessional”poetry. One must remember in this connection the basicantinomy of Milosz’s poetry - the tension between preeminentreality and imperfect language (which is nonetheless thepoet’s only tool).“Someone else’s word” and “someone else’s voice” certainlyhelp to create a self-ironic distance toward one’s own ego;but more important in Milosz’s case is the fact that thistechnique makes possible the marshaling of various andcomplementary testimonies about reality. (1986, 327)Self-ironic distance and pathos make another of the antinomiescharacteristic, in Barañczak’s view, of Milosz’s poems. In factBarañczak’s analysis of Milosz’s poetic language is a search foroppositions (or antinomies) that help to define his achievementsas a poet. Another opposition noted by the critic is Milosz’sstruggle “between the harmony of the verse and the flexibility ofsyntax”. Referring to another Polish critic, Jerzy Kwiatkowski,Baraiiczak writes:The critic Jerzy Kwiatkowski was right when he indicatedthat what he called “Milosz’s magic” consists, among otherthings, in a specific interplay between more or lesstraditional versification and modern, individual,colloquial, and flexible syntax and vocabulary. (1986, 329)This observation leads Baraficzak to the conclusion thatMilosz’s poems really are “free from the claims of poetry orprose”.... but not for a simple reason that they avoidmetaphorical condensation of meaning and prefer metonymical81presentation of the “accidentals of life”. Another importantreason is Milosz’s ever-present inclination to counterpointpathos with irony, sublimity with coarseness, high stylewith low. (1986, 330)Though Baraf.czak’s study of Milosz’s poetic language wasquoted in essays written by Western critics of non-Polish origin(Helen Vendler, Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn), its impact wasvery limited. As Czaykowski pointed out in his essay about Miloszin The Mature Laurel, much of the attention Milosz’s poetry hasreceived in the English-speaking worldhas been focused on Milosz the East European intellectual,the author of The Captive Mind “the conscience ofPoland”, “the conscience of modern man”, or, at best, “ahistorical poet of bleak illumination”, rather than onMilosz the poetic artist. (1991, 50)Czaykowski’s essay “The Poetry of Boleslaw Lemian, CzeslawMilosz and Aleksander Wat” was devoted in large part to adiscussion of the poetic art of Czeslaw Milosz in comparison withthe poetry of Lemian and Wat. Czaykowski attempted to give ananswer on several levels to the question of “what the pursuit ofa more spacious form meant in Milosz’s case.” He paid specialattention to Milosz’s way of “developing and fusing disparatevoices” and of the “blending of richly modulated yet oftenstrikingly climactic rhythmic flow with near-dramatic speech.”Trying to define distinctive features of Milosz, Czaykowskipointed out not only that “[ajbove everything else, CzeslawMilosz is a master of the full poetic line,” but also emphasized“that Milosz consistently keeps his poetry close to the mode ofreferential speech in contradistinction to the category oflinguistic construct or autonomous language.” Noting that “inner82form” was not the hallmark of Milosz’s poetry, he neverthelessstressed the poet’s mastery over an astonishingly wide andvariegated range of poetic forms, from gnomic maxims and shortlyrics to cycles of poems and long poetic essays.In spite of the above essays devoted to the poetic art ofMilosz rather than to the description of his thematicpreoccupations and philosophy, the latter interest remained aprevailing feature of the majority of studies devoted to Milosz.The award of the Nobel Prize and the enhanced interest in Miloszled to the publication of the first major book-length studiesdealing with the entirety of MiIosz’s oeuvre. The first of these,The Eternal Moment (1987) by Aleksander Fiut, was a translation(with some modifications) of a work which had previously appearedin Polish. Despite its emphasis on Milosz’s Polish literarybackground and affinities, and its involvement in polemics takingplace among Polish critics, the book presented a consistent andwell exemplified point of view on Milosz’s poetic achievement.However, the book is more an exposition and analysis of Milosz’sthought than a study of his poetry. The treatment of Milosz’spoetic language by Fiut is far from adequate and the critic doesnot pay sufficient attention to the formal distinctiveness andcomplexity of Miiosz’s poems. Therefore the value of the booklies primarily in the comprehensive discussion of Milosz’s poetryin terms of its philosophical and religious rather than itspolitical and ideological aspects.Also similar in this respect is the first book-length study83of Milosz written by two American academics, Leonard Nathan andArthur Quinn. In their book, The Poet’s Work: An Introduction toCzeslawMilosz (1991), several aspects of Milosz’s poetry,including the religious aspect, are discussed at some length andin-depth from a Western perspective, whereas before only criticswith the Polish perspective were able to be as comprehensive andself-assured. The Western perspective is also very clear in thepresentation of Milosz’s connections with the most prominentwriters of “world literature,” including his affinities withmodern Anglo-American poets. In his foreword to Nathan andQuinn’s study, Stanislaw Baraiczak remarked that “[tihis book isno doubt just what Milosz’s work needed as the poet reaches hiseightieth year: a way of looking back at his six decades ofwriting to discover the underlying unity.” It may even be saidthat the book marks the critical maturing of the Westernreception of Miaosz’s ouevre. However, the authors focus mostlyon MiIosz’s own explanations of his writings and only seldom takeinto account what has already been said about the poet by othercritics. They emphasize the importance of various aspects ofMiIosz’s self-presentation while paying insufficient attention tothe critical works devoted to him.It remains an open question to what extent the criticalreception of Milosz in English-speaking countries contributed toa better understanding of his works by his English-speakingreaders. In more general terms, however, at least some points ofview presented by critics during the reception process should be84highlighted. Trying to come to terms with Milosz’s poetry,Western critics, for the obvious reason of limitations oftranslation, initially focused primarily on contextual andthematic preoccupations of Milosz’s writings. Apart frompolitically oriented interest, the critics focused on the factthat Milosz in his poetry presents historical experiences of theentire nation in a very personal and unique way. His war-timepoems, and especially “The World”, were analyzed in terms of therole of poetry after World War II and of the poet’s response tothe tragedy of the Nazi occupation. It became clear, however,that the distinctiveness of Milosz’s poetry did not lie in itsthemes. The critical reflections about the poet’s response totragedy and injustice of the war period and to the subsequenthistorical events in Eastern Europe did not result in asatisfactory explanation and interpretation of his writings andfailed as a way of presenting and evaluating his oeuvre.Gradually Western critics began to pay closer attention toideational as well as formal features of his poetry, especiallyto its “cold” tone and to the avoidance by the poet of formalexperimentation.The problems presented by Milosz’s poetics were posed mostsearchingly by Donald Davie in his book Czeslaw Milosz and theInsufficiency of Lyric; however, other critics too (Seamus Heaneyand Helen Vendler among many others) began to pay closerattention to the difficulties of establishing adequate categoriesof description of his writing. Moreover, in general critics85realized that searching for similarities with other poets knownto English-speaking readers was of very limited value in theirattempt to grasp the essential character of Miaosz’s poetry.Even in the early stage of the reception of Milosz in theWest it was clear to at least some critics that studies of Miloszshould not be limited to thematic analyses of his literary worksonly but should take into account questions of poetic form. Thispoint of view, presented initially by critics who knew Polish,gradually (and for a variety of reasons) became more common amongnon-Polish critics.In the l980s, the majority of English-speaking criticstried to come to terms with the formal aspects of Miiosz’spoetry. In fact, the formal elements of his verse and of hispoetic language became important factors in the analysis of hisliterary oeuvre and the best critical works devoted to Milosz didnot ignore the importance of form for the meaning of his poems.Critical essays published in English brought to the fore severalpoints of view and categories of considerable importance for theunderstanding of Milosz’s literary works. Critics analyzingMilosz’s use of language (his diction and syntax) pointed outthat the poet constantly refers to reality and not to thelanguage itself. Similarly pertinent observations were made onthe level of poetic structure and of the poet’s choice of figuresof speech (his preference for metonymy over metaphor). Criticalreflections on various elements of Milosz’s poetics, especiallyon his rejection of formal experimentation, his uses of literary86tradition, the non-personal poetic “I,” the search for “a morespacious form,” the use and fusing of different voices andperspectives, including the voice of affirmation, coldness oftone or the art of the full poetic statement, all contributed toa better understanding of Milosz not only as a thinker but alsoas a master of poetic art.Nathan and Quinn’s book, ignoring the question of Milosz’spoetic form, may be at best treated as a limited introduction tothe thematic aspects of his oeuvre. The Western reader who wouldlike to come to know what makes Milosz’s writing unique wouldstill need to become familiar with several other works devoted toMilosz.87chapter 2THE CRITICAL RECEPTION OF JOSIF BRODSKYIThe unflagging Western interest during the postwar period inthe various aspects of Soviet life and culture was a complex andvariegated phenomenon, which reflected the antinomies of Westernpolitical attitudes to the “leading country of socialism” andworld’s second largest nuclear power. The situation during thepost-Stalinist period obviously differed from that of the latel940s and the early l950s. The changes in the policies (bothinternal and external) of the Soviet Union after the death ofStalin opened up an entirely new era in the relations betweenEast and West. Taking into account the fact that the criticalreception of Josif Brodsky did not begin until the mid 1960s, itis reasonable to focus on the post-Stalinist period of theinternational context only.The combination of curiosity, ideological motivation andfear, characteristic of the post-Stalinist period of the Westerntreatment of the Soviet Bloc, resulted in inconsistent and, attimes, even contradictory attitudes. While Nikita Khrushchev’sreforms were warmly welcomed in the West, and the successes ofSoviet technology helped to enhance the interest in what wasofficially approved by the Soviet authorities, the growing power88of the Soviet state and the unmistakable spread of communismevoked considerable fear and stimulated a Western search forvoices of opposition inside the Soviet empire.This ambivalence in the attitudes to the Soviet Union alsoaffected Western perception of its literature. In general,Western criticism reflected the prevailing attitudes ofacceptance or rejection (often a mixture of both) of the officialself-image of the Soviet Union. At the same time, Westernattitudes toward the Soviet Union were affected by the evolutionof philosophical trends, as well as the political and ideologicalorientations of Western intellectuals.1The multiplicity and the nature of the factors involved inthe development of Western interest in Russian literature in thepost-Stalinist period makes it impossible to present thisdevelopment in a linear fashion, as the result of a fewunderlying causes. The changing political strategies towards theSoviet Bloc (such as the brief period of the policy ofliberation, through coexistence to detente and the Helsinkiprocess), changing Soviet policies, both internal and external,literary and critical developments on both sides of the “ironcurtain,” and the differences in the policies, attitudes and1 The oscillations of Western attitude are well illustrated bythe choice of Soviet writers for the Nobel Prize in Literature: theaward to Boris Pasternak for the novel Doctor Zhivago in 1958 andthe enthusiasm shown by leading critics for his poetic achievementwas followed in 1965 by the award to Sholokhov, one of the pillarsof Soviet communist establishment; this choice was “counterbalanced” five years later by the award to Alexandr Solzhenitsyn,the most prominent of the dissident writers.89cultural dynamics of individual countries (since the term“English—speaking countries” covers several countries thatdiffered in many respects) -- resulted in a process ofconsiderable complexity, which at any given time consisted of amixture of attitudes and trends. What is, nevertheless, clear isthe fact that the USSR and its literature was constantly on thehorizon of the critics’ and readers’ interest in English-speakingcountries -A closer scrutiny of the Western reactions to Russianliterature in the 1950s and 1960s reveals that Western criticswere to some extent influenced by the official line of the Sovietauthorities in the sphere of literature. In the 1940s and 1950sthey seldom wrote about authors “banned” from the literaryexistence in their homeland; only in the 1960s did they begin topay increasing attention to “unofficial” literary works. Alreadyknown and recognized in the West as a major poet, Anna Akhmatovawas almost absent in Western literary criticism during the yearsof her forced silence. However, after the reappearance of herpoetry in official Soviet publications, she was awarded theTaormina Prize for Poetry in Italy in 1964, and a year later anhonorary degree from Oxford University. Shortly before her deathshe published in the West Requiem and the Poem Without a Hero,described by a Western critic as “two masterpieces in verse.”(Terras 1985, 15) -In the l960s Western critics began to show considerableawareness of the inter-relationship between literary and non-90literary factors in the reception of Russian literature. Linkingthe wide interest in contemporary Russian poetry with thepolitical situation, A. Alvarez wrote:[linterest in the new Russian poets grows steadily. TheKremlinologists started it, but Yevtushenko and Voznesenskywere their own best agents. In 1961 their first tour to theWest became a triumphal progress. In their different ways,both are masters of the art of public reading. . . . they havethat film star’s gift of projecting their glamour even overan audience that can’t understand a word they say (1967,21)Not surprisingly, the most translated, especially in themid-l960s, were those poets who, although officially recognizedin the Soviet Union, did not appear to be entirely “trusted” bythe state -- Y. Yevtushenko and A. Voznesensky. Commenting onVoznesensky’s poetic tour of Canada in 1971, a Vancouverjournalist wrote:Voznesensky’s tour of Canada (Toronto, London, Vancouver,Montreal) was arranged by the federal government’s externalaffairs department, and is his first trip abroad after his1967 visit to the United States from which he was summarilyrecalled on the ground that he was “too sick”, an allegationhe later denied publicly. (Hesse 1971, 38)1Despite the statement’s indirectness, it was understood that thepoet was recalled from his visit in the United States in 1967 bythe Soviet authorities. By noting this fact the journalistindicated that the poet was officially recognized, but probablynot fully trusted by the Soviet officials and as a result wasI Considering Canadian foreign policy at the time, whose aimseems to have been to counterbalance U.S. influence by developingcloser relations with the U.S.S.R., it is not surprising that thetour of Voznesensky was organized by the Department of ExternalAffairs which, in this case, almost acted as an agency promotingRussian poets to the Canadian audiences.91even more interesting for the Western reader. By the mid-1960sseveral volumes of contemporary Soviet poetry appeared in Englishtranslation, among them at least four volumes of Yevtushenko andVoznesensky. Their poetry was seen by some critics as acontinuation of the great Russian poetry of the l920s and early1930s. In the eyes of critics there was an interruption in thedevelopment of poetry in the Soviet Union during the Stalinistperiod (roughly from the mid-1930s until mid-1950s); however thenewest wave of Soviet poets was seen as going back to the besttraditions of the first three decades of the century. In 1965George L. Kline wrote in Triquarterly:Since Pasternak’s death in 1960, the greatest living poetwriting in the Russian language is undoubtedly AnnaAkhmatova. But Akhmatova is past seventy, and her best work-- unlike Pasternak’s -- is almost entirely pre-Soviet.Between the aging titan and the youngest generation ofSoviet poets there are a few poets of competence, skill, andminor talent. However, the youngest generation has, in thelast half-dozen years, produced two superbly gifted poets:Andrei Voznesensky (b.1935) and Joseph Brodsky (b.1940). (p.85)Pointing Out the affinities of the newest wave of Soviet poetswith their great predecessors and linking this fact with therenewed availability of the work of the major Russian poets ofthe early 20th century, Simon Karlinsky observed:Since 1956... .there has been a definite poetic revival inthe Soviet Union. Within the country, the most strikingdevelopment of the past decade is the grudging recognitionnow granted to the great Russian poets of the early 20thcentury, and, most important, the partial availability oftheir work. (1966, 549)The critics connected the fluctuations in the development ofpoetry in the Soviet Union with the changes in Soviet policies in92the sphere of literature. Karlinsky in his review of severalvolumes of contemporary Russian poets focused on the impact thatconsecutive political changes had on Russian poetry:By the early 1930s, that great wave was forcibly brought toan end by what in retrospect amounts to a governmental banon all creativity and imagination. While Mayakovsky wasbeing acclaimed the great Soviet poet and his worknationalized; while Pasternak was being decried by theSoviet press for his uniqueness and individuality, noyounger poet was any longer allowed to try to equal thestylistic daring and modernity of either of these two.Victorian-age poetic techniques, themes and styles werebrought back, proclaimed the latest word, andinstitutionalized as the only possible way for Socialist-Realist poetry, whereupon all Russian poetry worthy of thename ceased until after Stalin’s death. (1966, 549)He also aptly emphasized the difference in Western reception ofthe greatest Russian poets of the interwar period and those ofthe newest generation:Outside the Soviet Union, the youngest post-Stalinist poetshave been making the biggest news. The internationalattention now attracted by Yevtushenko and Voznesensky isnothing short of phenomenal. Their poetry is read intranslation and acclaimed by thousands of young Europeansand Americans for whom Akhmatova and Pasternak were merelynames... . (1966, 549)Perhaps the most enthusiastic welcome for the youngestSoviet poets came from such American writers as Ginsberg andFerlinghetti and their counterparts in other Western countries.This enthusiasm was probably due to their involvement in thecreation of a culture for the masses as well as their openlyexpressed rejection of official American culture and of thepolicies of the American government (in which opposition to thewar in Vietnam played a major role).The mixture of attitudes described above is reflected, for93instance, in Michael 1orowitz’s “Afterwords” to the anthologyChildren of Albion: Poetry of the “Underground” in Britain, inwhich the author referred frequently to Voznesensky andYevtushenko. Western ‘underground’ poets found it easy to regardthe young Russian poets as inspired by ideas similar to theirown. Horowitz wrote:And the race which matters most is not white or Russian orAmerican. . . .but that of all mankind, chosen by birth in thisage to shoulder the burdens of world citizenship. By thelegislature of poetry, creeds and charters and patrioticloyalties are no substitute for self-examination; but intheir conviction that the race is still worth running (andrace memory depends on race futurity), nearly all livingpoets are believers, with Yevtushenko -- “My religion is abelief in man.” (1969, 373)The number of Russian writers who visited Western countriesto read their poetry was very limited; the visits of those whowere allowed to travel were treated by the Soviet authorities asinstruments of Soviet propaganda directed at the West. This fact,however, was seldom brought to the attention of the Westernaudiences of the public readings by Voznesensky and Yevtushenko,nor was it prominent in the critical reflection. For example,when Andrei Voznesensky visited Vancouver in 1971, the localnewspaper, The Vancouver Sun, wrote:No wonder Andrei Voznesensky draws tens of thousands oflisteners when he reads his poems in Russia. His voicesounds like a full orchestra. He ranges in expression from apianissimo flute to the mighty forte of the growling tuba,and the pizzicato of the string section softens to theandante of a mellow cello. (Hesse 1971, 38)The article says next to nothing about the poems themselves;instead several paragraphs are devoted to the reading. The soundof Russian (notable for its melodiousness) was at the centre of94interest for both the critics and the audiences:The rich phonetics of Russian language lend themselves wellto poetry read aloud. There is a wide range of colour and ofmodulations in the Russian speech pattern that doesn’t oftenbecome audible when Canadian poets read their verse. (Hesse1971, 38)This general observation may partly explain the large publicinterest in the readings of poetry performedH by contemporaryRussian poets.The wider exchanges in the sphere of information andculture, including literature, between the West and the SovietUnion did not mean, however, that Western attitudes were nowbased on the belief that the Soviet Bloc was really changing, orthat the Soviet policies were taken on trust in the West. Thefactor of dissidence and opposition continued to play animportant role in gaining the Western reader’s interest inRussian writers.Western critics writing about contemporary poetry in theSoviet Union seemed to be inconsistent, often mixing disparatecategories of critical evaluation. One may even get theimpression that they tried to combine literary and politicalpoints of view. While they did not want to reject the poetry thatwas published underground even if it was of doubtful literaryvalue, neither did they want to reject officially approvedcontemporary Russian poets whom they considered the mostinteresting. At any rate, apart from voznesensky and Yevtushenko,few contemporary Russian poets (such as Bella Akhmadulina,Aleksandr Kushner, Naum Korzhavin and Natalya Gorbanevskaya) were95available in translation and they were not as widely translatedand published in the West as the two “representative” Sovietpoets.In the articles published in the late 19605 which dealt withthe youngest generation of Russian poets, Western critics openlyshowed their concern with the impact the Soviet state had on theofficially published poets. In 1966 Karlinsky noted that in thepoems of Yevtushenko and Voznesensky there were still present“the standard themes of official Soviet poetry: the greatness ofRussian people, the tenderness and affection inspired in the poetby Lenin’s name, and the horrors of American militarism, Westerndecadence and FBI.” (p. 550) He added thatwhen Mayakovsky treated similar themes back in the 1920s,there was no doubt that they represented his actualconvictions; in Yevtushenko and Voznesensky, whatever theirfeelings may be, the reader gets the inevitable Sovietclichés which all Soviet writers (and especially thoseallowed to travel abroad) have been required to reiterate adnauseam for the past thirty years. (p. 550)The consciousness that the Soviet State still tried tocontrol literature was present in almost all Western responses toofficially published works. “The concept of literature, includingpoetry, as a lesson or a sermon has always been central to Sovietculture” wrote Karlinsky in the same article. In his analysis ofvoznesensky’s poetry, Kline noted thatVoznesensky is not only a political but also a“philosophical” poet, that is, a poet who discerns andattempts to evoke possible, but non-actual, modes of cosmicreality and human existence...To Soviet critics such evocations smack of ‘formalism’ and‘abstractionism’. But despite their disapproval, Voznesenskyhas managed to publish almost everything he has written,usually with a delay of not more than a year or two,96sometimes with no delay at all... .Apparently the Sovietleadership can tolerate an “experimental” and even“philosophical” poet -- so long as his political commitmentis clear. . . . (1965, 86)Although sharing the belief in the impact of politics onpoetry in the Soviet Union, critics differed in their view of theactual freedom an officially recognized poet could and would bewilling to exercise in his writing. J. Symons was ratherpessimistic when he wrote: “I suppose if you are a public poetlike Yevtushenko, consciously a Russian patriot, you are bound toproduce extravagantly phrased poems on large themes. . ..“ (1967,87) In the opinion of Alvarez the pressure exerted on the writerswas considerable, but international fame might allow poets to bemore open and free. The political pressure gave an excuse for andexplained the origin of those poems of Yevtushenko’s thatactually reflected Socialist Realism. “God knows what pressureshe is working under, but they seem to have been too much for thepoetry.” (1967, 21) writing about Voznesensky he added: “Isuspect he and Yevtushenko exploit their fame as cultural Beatlesin order to protect themselves from the party zombies”. (1967,21) western doubts about the possibility of political andartistic freedom of literature in the Soviet Union werereinforced by the words of Anna Akhmatova, who, shortly beforeher death, “stated in several interviews that today’s importantand lasting Russian poetry does not appear in the official pressand is unknown abroad.” (Karlinsky 1966, 550) The name of AnnaAkhmatova was, in fact, often used to introduce unofficial poetrypublished inside the Soviet Union in underground publications.97Commenting on Akhmatova’s opinion Karl±nsky wrote:The underground poetry Akhmatova had in mind has a minisculecirculation in the Soviet Union in mimeographedpublications, the very names of which constitute a challengeto what is officially acceptable: Syntax (an open invitationto a charge of formalism), Sphynxes (an assertion of themystery of poetic creation) and Phoenix (a rebirth of poetryfrom the ashes). In these privately circulated publications(some of which have been reprinted in toto in a West Germanémigré journal), young and unknown poets can achieve a fullmeasure of freedom from the ideological fetters and canwrite in any style about anything they please. Theirstylistic inspiration comes for the most part fromKhlebnikov’s experiments with language of some fifty yearsago; Marina Tsvetaeva (who committed suicide in 1941 afterher voluntary return from exile) and Nikolai Gumilev (shotfor counter-revolutionary activities in 1921) are objects ofa cult. The poetry in these little journals is by no meansgreat, and it is even rarely good, but it is fresh and freein the way Yevtushenko’s is not. (1966, 550-51)Similarly, while praising Yevtushenko and Voznesensky,Michael Horowitz found it necessary to bring to Western attentionpoets persecuted in the Soviet Union. The dream that “more livingart centres, revolutionary seminars, and kibbutzim be set up, toaccommodate the wide potential of energies now being spawned,”(1969, 372) expressed in the poems of the young British poets hadbeen, after all, almost fulfilled in the official image of theSoviet Union. However, such a “poetic heaven” did not, in fact,exist in the Soviet Union, and Horowitz could not ignore thereality of Soviet literary life, noting, for instance, themistreatment of Josif Brodsky and “the vicious banishment” of thegroup of Ginsburg. Nevertheless, and perhaps not surprisingly, hemade almost no distinction between internal exile and banishmentas penalties for dissidence or nonconformity and the practice ofcensorship.98The snag is, of course, that where something like thisarrangement already exists, as in Russia, it’s sometimesthose that do produce who get eaten -- because their milk ofhuman kindness doesn’t meet the policy requirements of themarketing board commissars. Viz. -- the indictment and exileof Joseph Brodsky as a “workshy element” and “dangerousparasite” for working at nothing but his poetry andtranslations; the vicious banishment of Russia’s Ginsburgand his underground friends; and the censorship byKhrushchev of the punchlines of Yevtushenko’s “Babi Yar”.(1969, 372)The young founders of and contributors to the Western“underground” movements treated literature as well as the entirecounter-culture very seriously. In the “Afterwords” Horowitzwrote:But if (like Yevtushenko, after being exported as a wonderboy of post-Stalinism, withdrawn from circulation because --like Voznesensky -- he will not be “directed”) our underdogscan be strangled to heel by frustrated owners (tied to theirown possessiveness) . . .., if festivals like Hughes’s have tobe qualified, in utilizing the facilities of the governingliterary bureaucracy, by restricting themselves to poetry ofwhich that bureaucracy can entirely approve -- and yet beostracized by the Russians; then revolution only comes fullcircle to reassert the triumph of warheads and cryptosatanic mills of power & profit & failure scraping thecharter’d skies. (1969, 375)The critical interest in “unofficial” Russian poetry whichbegan to rise in the West in the mid-1960s and resulted in thepublication of collections of non-official poems written inRussian outside of the Soviet Union or in the underground, mayalso be seen as a counterattack from the “traditionally” orientedcritics. The need for a re-evaluation of the actual freedom ofwriters in the Soviet Union became part of the concern shown forthe Soviet treatment of literature as a model of mass culture inthe West.In 1969 Praeger published Russia’s Underground Poets: a99comprehensive anthology of non-official poets with a thoroughintroduction to their writing, as well as to the undergroundpublications. In the introduction the Soviet State was accused ofpersecuting all independent poets and publishers. The anthologypresented the unofficial poets’ writings, but the introductoryessay focused more on the treatment of the poets by the officialsthan on the literary merits of their poems.One of the few critics who tried to separate the politicalfrom the literary categories and to show that the mixture ofpolitical and literary criteria were imported to the West fromthe Soviet Union, was Pearl K. Bell. In her essay “The Politicsof Russian Poetry,” which assumed that in the West poetrybelonged exclusively to the sphere of literature and had littleto do with politics, the critic wrote:Poetry is a dangerous vocation in Russia, precisely becauseit is taken seriously there. To the rulers of the SovietUnion it is invariably political, not because it sometimesspeaks of politics (or refuses to) but because poetry can beprofoundly unsettling and therefore subversive. (1973, 7)This remark, reinforced by a quotation from Nadezhda Mandelstamto the effect that “[elvery poet is a ‘disturber of sense’ - thatis. . . .he extracts new sense from his own understanding of theworld,” emphasized the very special place of the poet in Sovietsociety.In the view of Bell, anthologies like the one discussed inher essay (Poetry from the Russian Underground) comprised authors(and poems) chosen in accordance with political rather thanliterary criteria.100[hf one judges this anthology, as the editors claim theydid in making their choices, by ‘customary literarycriteria’, all that’s samizdat isn’t gold. Most of the workhere is thin and crude; genuine freshness of perspective andlanguage is in short supply.... Overall, the extraliteraryscaffolding of this volume fails to exonerate the largelymediocre quality of the poetry, and it would becondescending to pretend that it does. (1973, 9)The critic also argued against the attitude, common in theWest, of treating all dissident poets as a single literarymovement or a poetic school. The very fact of their being nottrusted by the State and of being published in the undergrounddid not say anything about the literary affiliations of thepoets. The young Russian poets connected with the samizdat, wroteBell, “by the virtue of their dissent, do not constitute amovement.” “[Tihis seems a dubious linkage, for the omnivorousSoviet censorship encompasses an enormous variety of attitudesand opinions in its Index of the forbidden”. (1973, 9)Nevertherless, political persecution in the Sovjet Unioncontinued to be treated by Western critics and publishers as acriterion for choosing a writer for presentation to the Westernreader.Political motivation characterized Western interest not onlyin the case of writers from the Soviet Union but also withrespect to the literature of the entire Soviet bloc. As AdamCzerniawski, a Polish poet and translator, observed in hisintroduction to the 1991 edition of Tadeusz Ráewicz’s SelectedPoems:An East European poet generates interest when he or she is apolitical dissident and constantly in trouble withauthorities. Dissident East European poetry, which often in101its simple-minded rhetorical stridency is uncomfortablyclose to propaganda, has found favour in the West. It turnsout that readers in liberal democracies prefer the type ofsloganizing which Stalin’s henchmen used to force out ofpoets, so long of course as the slogans are anti-government.This is not to deny that excellent politically motivatedpoetry can be written. Zbigniew Herbert demonstrates this.It nevertherless remains true that Western perceptions havebeen unduly influenced by the overtly political backgroundagainst which East European poetry was written over the pastforty years. (1991, 11)IIThe same interest in the political persecution of writers ofnon-official ideological and literary outlooks brought the nameof Josif Brodsky to Western attention. He was introduced for thefirst time to English-speaking readers in 1964 as a poetpersecuted in the Soviet Union for his independence of thought.(Field 1964, 10) In fact, it was his trial, staged in Leningradin 1964, which brought international attention to his poetry. Thepolitical interest, however, clearly overshadowed everythingelse. In the introduction to Brodsky’s first collection of poemsin English translation, Elegy to John Donne and other poems, thetranslator (Nicholas Bethell) wrote: “The trouble is thatWesterners think of him, if they think about him at all, as avictim of a miscarriage of Soviet justice. His trial has beenpublished -- his poetry hardly at all.” (1967, 7) In fact, thefirst translations of Brodsky’s poems appeared in The New Leaderand in The Russian Review immediately after his trial. In 1965102Inter-Language Literary Associates published in the United Stateshis collection of poems in Russian (the first publishedcollection of Brodsky’s poetry), and in 1967 Longmans (London)published the first collection of Brodsky’s poems in Englishtranslation. In consequence, Brodsky became known to the Westernspecialists in the area even though he was not officiallypublished in his homeland.The politically oriented introduction of Brodsky to the Westwas the result of his treatment at the hands of the Sovietauthorities rather than of his poetry. However, once his poetrywas noticed, its a-political character, treated as a politicalcrime in the Soviet Union, was immediately recognized andstressed in Western criticism and became, in turn, an importantpolitical factor in Western interest in Brodsky and his writing.Another aspect brought to the fore as a result of Brodsky’strial was Anna Akhmatova’s opinion of his poetry. Akhmatova, aswe have seen, was already well known and highly regarded in theWest as a poet and as a “moral authority” of Russian poetry.Andrew Field began the description of the trial of Brodsky bymentioning Anna Akhmatova’s opinion of his poetry. “I first heardhis name when the elderly Anna Akhmatova, Russia’s greatestliving poet, praised his poetry in a conversation on the work ofthe younger generation, adding that ‘That might be because hewrites like me though’.”(p. 10)Critics frequently mentioned the name of Anna Akhmatova inconnection with Brodsky’s poems. Her praise of his poetry and her103remarks about him were frequently cited by critics, and at timeseven replaced their own evaluation of his poems. Once Brodskygained the ability to shape his own image in the West, he reactednegatively to this trend and emphasized his affinities with otherRussian poets, referring to Akhmatova principally as a personalfriend rather than his “poetic master.” In the anthology ModernRussian Poetry (1972), its editor, Olga Andreyev Carlisle,introduced Brodsky as a poet already recognized by NadezhdaMandelstam and Akhmatova and not only genuinely talented but thebest of his generation. She recalled Nadezhda Mandelstam’s wordsabout Brodsky: “He is a poet and needs readers; his haughtinessis a pose. I hold him in great esteem. And of course AnnaAndreyevna [Akhmatova] thought him to be the most talented of allour young poets.” (1972, 25) As the first substantial collectionof Brodsky’s poems in English translation, Selected Poems (1972),was published in the same year as a collection of Akhmatova’spoems in English, they were reviewed and analyzed jointly.Stephen Spender wrote: “[H]is poetry is continuous with the lineof Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova, who befriended him (when she wasin London some years ago she told me that she thought he was themost interesting of the young Soviet poets) .“ (1973, 915) ThusBrodsky was being introduced as heir to the tradition of thegreatest Russian poets of the interwar period, a follower ofAkhmatova, Pasternak and Mandeistam, and references toAkhmatova’s remarks about his poetry were cited as proof of thisfact. Pearl K. Bell wrote: “Like Akhmatova and Mandeistam, he104thinks of language as palpable substance, and material objectsfor him.... are ‘sacramental signs, messengers from theunseen’.” (1973, 9) Akhmatova and Brodsky’s personal experiences,too, were sometimes compared; for example in John Bayley’s reviewof both collections: “Brodsky, like other younger Russian poets,feels the greatest respect for her poetry and her moralauthority, though in some ways -- in labour camps, mental wards,and enforced exile -- he has already suffered even more thanshe.” (1974, 25)When reading critical texts about Russian poets of thetwentieth century, one cannot help noticing the frequency withwhich their sufferings were emphasized by critics. The poets’suffering became a link between the political circumstances andtheir writing, often used to elicit sympathy with and interest inRussian poetry among readers. In effect, the politicalpersecution and a writer’s suffering became one of the majorelements of presenting twentieth-century Russian writers to theWestern reader.When Brodsky’s poetry was initially introduced to the West,not all the critics placed him in a category apart from the othercontemporary Russian poets, nor was he always described as thebest poet of his generation. After reviewing new collections ofpoems by Voznesensky, Yevtushenko, Brodsky, Okudzhava, and avolume of Russian underground poets, Karlinsky wroteThe best present-day Russian poetry is not produced by anyof the four by now internationally famous poets discussed sofar. Since the death of Anna Akhmatova, the finest Russianliving poet is a man whose poetry is known to perhaps a few105hundred people at most. His name is Nikolai Morshen. Inoriginality of content, profundity, literary culture andcraftsmanship, neither Voznesensky nor Brodsky can eventouch his work. Morshen has been publishing for over adecade, yet his name remains virtually unknown in the SovietUnion. It is a question of the peculiar role of geography inmodern Russian literature. St.—John Perse and Thomas Manncould reside in America and maintain their positions intheir respective literatures. But a modern Russian writerwho leaves his country inevitably loses not only his Russianaudience but any claim to international attention. (1966,551)The last sentence reveals one of the most striking truthsabout the actual interest in Russian literature in the West atthat time (and this observation can be extended to all writersfrom the Soviet bloc), namely that a writer from these countrieshad a better chance of becoming known in the West if he hadgained recognition in his country and remained inside. Obviously,the distrust of the officials could be a major point of interestin his writing, but emigration of a totally unknown writerpractically left him without a chance for recognition either inthe West or in his homeland. Because of this fact, the receptionof Brodsky’s poetry in the West prior to his exile seems to be ofconsiderable importance for his full recognition later as a majorpoet.It is also important to note that Western criticism stronglyemphasized the links of Brodsky’s poems with English and Americanpoetry. For instance, his poem “Verses on the Death ofT.S.Eliot,” translated and published by Kline in 1968, providedthe translator with the opportunity of comparing his poetry withthat of W.H. Auden. Kline pointed Out in his introduction that“Brodsky’s poem is modelled on Auden’s ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats,106Cd. Jan.1939)’. The sequence of metrical patterns and rhyme-schemes follows Auden’s closely. ...“ This approach of stressingBrodsky’s poetic connection with Anglo-American poetry was also,at least to some extent, “suggested” to the Western critics bythe Soviet authorities. In an introduction to his translation ofBrodsky’s “Elegy for John Donne” Kline wrote:One witness for the prosecution charged that Brodsky’s ownpoetry was pornographic, unpatriotic, and expressed a senseof withdrawal and alienation from the world. The firstcharge is absurd, the second false, the third largely true,but irrelevant to a judgement of the poetic quality ofBrodsky’s or any other poet’s work. But the truth to whichthis witness was clumsily pointing is that Brodsky is atotally apolitical poet, no more pro-Soviet than anti-Soviet. He is a private, not public, muse. What is perhapseven worse, in official Soviet eyes, he is a metaphysicalpoet, in very much the sense in which Donne is ametaphysical poet. His poetry is intensely personal,meditative, religious, existential, “suffering”. He isobsessed with the mysteries of love, death, communion,solitude, sin and salvation. (1965, 334)There is little doubt that the factors involved in bringingBrodsky and his poetry to the critics’ attention had aconsiderable influence on the initial formulas of his criticalreception. These factors included the lively interest of theyoung generation in the West in “underground” culture, as well asthe need felt by critics for a Russian poet whose personalexperiences and writing could be used (as, in fact, they wereused) to counteract the images bringing popularity andrecognition among Western creators of counterculture to poetslike voznesensky and Yevtushenko. Brodsky was initially perceivedin the West mostly through the arguments used against the poet bythe Soviet authorities during his trial. The political107persecution in his homeland brought his name and poetry to theattention of Anglo-American critics and readers as a result ofthe constant politically motivated Western interest in Sovietliterary life. What was unacceptable in the Soviet Union and thusused against the poet during his trial, was of considerableinterest in Western countries, in which it carried positiverather than negative connotations, and was emphasized as such byAnglo-American critics. In summary, the most frequent factorsmentioned by the critics included: the situation of Brodsky assomeone persecuted because of his independence and writing; hislinks with Anna Akhmatova, and her high opinion of poetrypublished in underground publications (samizdat); and, finally,the comparison with the best known officially published,travelling poets, that is Voznesensky and Yevtushenko.By the early 1970s (when Brodsky was expelled from theSoviet Union), Western interest in Russian émigré writers roseconsiderably. The shift in Soviet foreign policy, known asdétente and the Helsinki process (notably in the sphere ofexchange of information and respect for human rights), involved anew Western strategy of dealing with the Soviet Bloc.Émigré (and dissident) writers became more readily recognized andused as an element of political pressure. Given the extent towhich Western receptivity to Eastern European literatures waspoliticized, it is not surprising that émigré writers were ofteninduced (or chose) to cooperate with such agencies as Radio FreeEurope, Voice of America as well as on the “home front.” From108this point of view interest in Brodsky and his writing wasconstantly at the centre of fluctuating trends of Westernattitude toward the Soviet Bloc.IIIBrodsky’s first collection of poems in English translation,Elegy to John Donne and Other Poems, went almost unnoticed byWestern critics who, as a matter of fact, in their latercriticism counted the volumes of Brodsky’s poetry in translationnot from the Elegy but from the Selected Poems, published in1973. The latter volume, edited and translated by Kline, appearedshortly after the poet was exiled from the Soviet Union and bythis time had a chance of becoming one of the contributors to thediscussions concerning contemporary Russian poetry as well as ofhis own writing. Selected Poems was perceived not through the“initial formulas” which became current prior to Brodsky’s exilebut through their versions modified by the poet himself.Brodsky’s presentation of himself to the Western public wasinitially aimed at reformulating the already existing clichés. Bythe time of the appearance of the Selected Poems, Brodsky hadalready managed to challenge his image as a poetic disciple ofAkhmatova as well as to overcome, at least partially, thedescription of his poetry derived from the statements made at histrial. New elements, such as the fact of his exile and his close109ties with noted Anglo-American poets as well as the widerinterest shown in his poetry (a result of his banishment from theSoviet Union), began to play their role both in the receptivityto and the actual reception of his work.The Selected Poems were published with two introductoryessays: a short “Foreword” by Auden and a more substantial“Introduction” by Kline who, as the translator of the poems, alsowrote “A Note on the Translations”. Both critical essayspresented Brodsky as an extraordinary poet whose poetry wassituated in the tradition of the great Russian poets of the firstdecades of the century and in opposition to “the Mayakovskytradition of ‘public’ poetry.” (Auden 1973, 11).His poetic achievement. . . .bears comparison -- in myconsidered judgement -- with that of the thirty-two-year-oldAnna Akhmatova (as of 1921), the thirty-two-year-old BorisPasternak (as of 1922), and the thirty-two-year-old MarinaTsvetayeva and Osip Mandelstam (both as of 1924). WhetherJoseph Brodsky will one day stand beside these four giantsof twentieth-century Russian poetry it is perhaps still tooearly to say. I myself am confident that he will. (Kline1973, 22)Both Auden and Kline introduced Brodsky not only as thecontinuator of the great tradition of Russian poetry but also, inAuden’s words, as a poet of “an extraordinary capacity toenvision material objects as sacramental signs, messengers fromthe unseen.” (1973, 10) Kline emphasized that Brodsky “to acertain extent continues the elaborate and inventive poetic‘conceits’ of the English Metaphysical poets.” (1973, 15) He wasalso characterized as a poet concerned with religious themes,especially with the “relationship of Christianity to culture.. .“110(Kline 1973, 19)One may only speculate as to what extent the religiouselements of his poetry were highlighted because of the search for“mysticism” evident in the “underground” movements, since in thisway Brodsky’s poetry could be linked with the poetry of the newgeneration of Anglo-American poets and brought to the attentionof the critics connected with the new wave. The more so as,according to Auden, Brodsky wasa traditionalist in the sense that he is interested in whatmost lyric poems in all ages have been interested in, thatis, in personal encounters with nature, human artifacts,persons loved or revered, and in reflections upon the humancondition, death, and the meaning of existence. (1973, 11)Any differences between Auden and Kline’s introductions ofBrodsky’s poetry were probably determined, at least to someextent, by the fact that while Kline read Brodsky’s poetry inRussian, Auden was limited to reading it in translation only.Hence Auden’s statement that “[kinowing no Russian and thereforeforced to base my judgement on English translations, I can dolittle more than guess.” (p. 9) However, toward the end of thepreface he emphasized the advantages of judging Brodsky’s poemsby foreigners:About the uniqueness and, at the same time, universalrelevance of a poet’s vision, it is easier for a foreignerto judge, since this does not primarily depend upon thelanguage in which it is written. (p.10)Kline, who not only translated Brodsky’s poems but also knew hisliterary background much better than Auden, introduced Brodskymostly in terms of his affinities with the poetry of the greatestRussian and Anglo-American poets of the century.111One may be surprised to find that among these masters ofpoetry Kline also included contemporary Polish poets. Obviouslydrawing on information supplied by the poet himself, Klineunderlined the fact that Brodsky had read a fairly large numberof works in English and in Polish unavailable to the Russianreader around the year 1960.He also read such contemporary Polish poets as ZbigniewHerbert and Czes)aw MiIosz both of whom he admiresenormously. He considers Milosz, whom he is currentlytranslating into Russian, one of the major poets of thetwentieth century. (p. 14)Brodsky’s sense of himself significantly influenced thecritics and was reflected in their arguments. His openlyexpressed opinions about the officially recognized Soviet poetsset Brodsky apart from the then prevailing poetic trends in theSoviet Union. In fact, and in accordance with Brodsky’s own viewof himself, Western critics described his poetry as acontinuation of the traditions of great Russian poetry of thepreceding generation rather than in terms of its links with hispoetic contemporaries. Moreover, his poetry differed not onlyfrom Russian but also from contemporary Anglo-American poetry sostrikingly that he could not be considered fully one of themeither. Taking into account that he was mostly seen through hisRussian and Anglo-American literary connections, Brodsky’s poetrycould be best described in terms of differences and evenapartness from the contemporary poets following these traditions.Kline probably mentioned contemporary Polish poetry as the112closest contemporary poetic equivalent of Brodsky’s poetry.1 TheEast European context gave a possibility of treating Brodsky notas an isolated poetic phenomenon but as a poet sharing in thecontemporary poetic developments both East and West.In may be said that almost all arguments used by critics inthe reviews which followed the publication of the Selected Poemshad their roots in the two critical introductions to the volume.Hence Brodsky was also seen in the context of East Europeanpoetry. In his article “Near and Far East,” Roger Garfitt wrote:In the current interest in the work of East European writersone sometimes defects a certain wistfulness, a feeling thatif we really want the conditions for striking work, weshould all move to Moscow. There is nothing peculiar to theSoviet situation in Brodsky’s achievement, and certainly nosimple ratio between persecution and poetic development.What matters, quite as much as the courage of his resistanceto pressure, is the positive nature of his response. (1974,105)The interest of English-speaking critics, especially in the caseof translated poetry, was focused on works that had the potentialof influencing contemporary Anglo-American poetry and one shouldnot be surprised to find that Brodsky was presented in termssuggested by the rising Western interest in the contemporaryliterature of Eastern Europe. In contrast to his fellow-poets inthe Soviet Union, Brodsky was perceived as a poet who brought newand fresh elements to contemporary English poetry. The argumentsused by critics were, in fact, more appropriate with respect tocontemporary Polish than to contemporary Russian poetry, although1 The comparison was somewhat spurious. Not only was Brodskyconsiderably younger than the Polish poets who had by then becomeknown in the West, but also differed from them considerably.113Garfitt mentioned Moscow in the context of Eastern Europe. It mayalso be noted that the terms used by Auden (who, as we have seen,knew Brodsky’s poetry only through translation) to describeBrodsky’s poetic achievement are very similar to those used bycertain critics (especially those who knew the entirety ofMilosz’s poetic oeuvre) in their presentation and discussion ofMilosz’s poetry.In fact Russian poetry of the 1960s and 1970s did notconstitute a distinct poetic trend, nor was it interesting enoughto be considered in terms of its impact on Western poetry, as wasthe case with contemporary Polish poetry. The fairlystraightforward political preoccupations of the majority ofRussian poets as well as a general lack of genuine poetic merit -- which Brodsky stressed on every possible occasion -- definitelycould not be treated as constituting a poetic movement ofimportance for Western literature. Auden and Kline claimed thatBrodsky’s poetry had certain unique characteristics and should beconsidered apart from the other Soviet poets of his generation.As a result most of the critical texts dealing with Brodsky didnot draw any comparisons between his poetry and that of the othercontemporary Soviet poets. Focusing on his great poetic promise,critics preferred to see him as a great contemporary poet ratherthan the greatest Russian poet of his generation. Some of thecritics writing about Brodsky’s Selected Poems used the occasionto distance themselves from the high recognition which Westerncritics had granted Yevtushenko and Voznesensky. The recognition114given to Brodsky challenged the accepted perspective oncontemporary Russian poetry and prompted at least some critics toreconsider their earlier categories and judgments. A. Cohen, forinstance, emphasized that Brodsky “has nothing to do with thespectacles and spectaculars which have become the hallmark of thevagabond poets of the Soviet Union, to whom the United States hasbeen so hospitable in recent years.” (1973, 2) One may note thatas a result of Brodsky’s own opinion about the “official” Sovietpoets, critical reception of Brodsky challenged the prevalentformulas of writing about contemporary Russian poets, especiallyin the essays devoted to his own poetry. In his review ofBrodsky’s collection Victor Erlich wrote:At the launching of his now rapidly fading career, EvgenyEvtushenko had freshness, panache and a measure of civiccourage. Yet even at his peak, he was at best a second-ratepoet and a facile if occasionally effective rhetorician.Andrey Voznesensky’s engaging verve and exuberantinvolvement with his medium earned him plaudits in the Westwhich in retrospect may seem somewhat excessive: seen atclose range, Voznesensky’s “modernism” appears derivativeand a trifle gimmicky. (1974, 617)The high recognition which Brodsky gained as a poet wasbased not only on his poetic achievements but also, as wasstressed by Kline, on the expectations and promise of his furtherdevelopment. Moreover, some Western critics noted what Garfittcalled the “very narrow bands” of Anglo-American poets and werelooking for new poetic impulses to affect the local scene.Considering the need, felt by some Western critics, for a Russianpoet who could be used as a counter to the most prominent Sovietpoets as well as to the Western poetic movements of the time and115the lively interest in the Soviet Union, one may speculate towhat extent all these factors contributed to the high regardshown for Brodsky as a poet when he was only thirty three yearsold. After the publication of only one volume of his poems inEnglish translation, Brodsky was already described as the mostimportant poet of his generation. At the same time at least somecritics made the point of stressing in no uncertain terms thatthe political interest in the Soviet Union and its dissidents didnot influence their opinions and that they judged Brodsky’spoetry solely on its merits. Arthur A. Cohen wrote:How does one know that Joseph Brodsky is, at 33, a majorpoet, not simply a major poet to whom majority is accordedas a complementary addendum to the details of heroicbiography? Nothing needs to be known about Brodsky otherthan the poems.... (1973, 2)The critic called Brodsky’s Selected Poems “a revelation of thepower of the word living in the cracks of silence” and added:Against the vectors of antihumanism Brodsky sets a tensedand tough version of justice, justice within nature andcreation which must be believed and sustained. And to him,sustaining his sense of strangeness in this world (notalienation) . . . . is a vision. . . .which might be described asChrist-bearing or Messianic. (1973, 2)In writing about Brodsky, the critics invariably used verygeneral categories abstracted from actual poems to serve asdescriptions or explanations of his poetry principally in orderto show the importance of his work. Several critics introducedand treated Brodsky as a religious poet; they generally stressedthat his recognition as a major poet reflected the qualities ofhis poetry and not the facts of his biography. Quitecharacteristic for this phase of the critical reception of116Brodsky is a short note on the Selected Poems published in theBooklist:USSR exile Brodsky transcends political complications tovoice a traditional observation of life in a private poetryof distinction. Concerned with death, solitude, and thehealing of broken lives, the poet uses images from Greekmythology, orthodox religion, and world literature toillustrate the interaction of words and ideas. (1974, 712)In longer articles Brodsky’s personal experiences, arisingfrom the highly politicized treatment of him in the Soviet Union,were described in terms of the events of his life and theirinfluence on his poetry. By the same token the politicallyoriented Western interest in his biography gradually acquired adifferent character in as much as the events of his life began tobe viewed in terms of their influence on his poetry. Of crucialimportance to the Western critics in this respect was Brodsky’s“Northern exile” as the beginning of a new phase in his poeticdevelopment. At this stage of the reception a few of Brodsky’spoems appeared to critics as more interesting and important thanthe rest. To the “poems in tribute to T.S.Eliot and John Donne”(Booklist, 1974), introduced to the English reader prior toBrodsky’s exile, were now added “A Halt in the Desert,” “Gorbunovand Gorchakov” and “A Letter in a Bottle” as his mostrepresentative texts.It is interesting to observe that at this stage of Brodsky’sreception critics showed very little interest in the quality andfaithfulness of the translations of Brodsky’s poems. It ispossible that Auden’s introductory essay to the Selected Poemshad something to do with this disinterest. His statement about117the advantages of dealing with what was preserved in translation,combined with the high expectations of Brodsky’s further poeticdevelopment, made critics assume that translations presented onlya marginal problem for Brodsky’s reception. Another possibleexplanation comes from the fact that the interest in Brodsky’spoetry at that time was higly political and all other aspects ofhis writing, including artistic, were pushed out of the picture.The translator, G.L. Kline, was thus generally praised both forhis work and for bringing so important a poet to the attention ofthe West. However, a marginal strand of criticism did raise thequestion of the quality of translations, which proved ofsignificance to the later development of the critical interest inBrodsky’s poetry.An interesting example of this criticism is found in a notepublished in Choice after the appearance of Brodsky’s SelectedPoems:Joseph Brodsky is in the difficult position of being a poetwithout a country. . . . Political facts have given him areputation but obscured his poetry. He himself has skatedbetween the self he would like to be and the image whichpolitics has conjured... .Emblematic is what is lost in theabsence... .of the original texts.... [TI here is not one wordof Brodsky’s in the book... .At poetry recitals by Brodsky,these translations have been read aloud; audiences haveappreciated knowing what Brodsky’s poems say, but they havenot admired the translations. American poets who have readthem have been more critical, hoping that the academicstiffness of lines. . . .belongs to the translator, not to thepoet. (1974, 266)Apart from the main stream of criticism, Brodsky was seen by somecritics in terms that were characteristic of the reception of thepoetry of those contemporary Russian poets who read their poems118in the West, that is through poetry readings. Brodsky’s poetryappeared to lose so much in translation that an author of thecritical note blamed the translator for lowering theattractiveness of Brodsky’s poetry for the English-speakingaudience. Reading the note one gets the impression that whereverBrodsky’s poetry may have resided, it certainly did not reside inthe translated texts. Consequently, the author did not describeor evaluate his poetry, stating in his conclusion that withoutthe pàssibility of dealing with the original poems, he only knewthat what was “left out was the best part” of Brodsky’s poetry.The reviews of Brodsky’s two Russian collections of poems,Chast’ Rechi and Konets Prekrasnoi Epokhi, both of which appearedin 1977, brought out a further aspect for critical consideration,namely, the fact that Brodsky was, after all, a Russian poet.Since both volumes presented Brodsky’s poems in the original,this shift in treating Brodsky as primarily a Russian rather thanan international poet was quite natural. The authors of some ofthe reviews stressed Brodsky’s contribution to contemporaryRussian poetry, and omitted to mention his importance for Westernpoetry. Instead of being called “a major poetic talent” (as wasthe case in earlier criticism), Brodsky was now described as “thefinest living Russian poet,” although one of the reviewersqualified his high evaluation of Brodsky’s poetry by adding:“this collection says that may be so, but in such Olympic gamesclear winners are few and far between.” (Choice 1977, 869). Thereviewers also emphasized the fact that in being presented in the119original Russian, Brodsky’s poetry did not have to be explainedto the reader. One may note in these group of reviews the signsof a transition in the reception of Brodsky’s poetry, along withthe surfacing of questions that would become major points ofinterest in the reviews and articles devoted to the next volumeof his poems in English translation, A Part of Speech, publishedin 1980.This volume consisted primarily of poems written in exile;nevertheless, the poet also decided to include some of hisearlier work, which had previously appeared in English. Accordingto the poet’s introduction this decision was motivated by hisdesire to show his development as a poet. The inclusion of hisearlier “Russian” poems legitimized the general shift towardcritical treatment of Brodsky as a Russian, rather than aninternational poet. His poetry was still described as being underthe influence of English Metaphysical poetry, but critics beganto stress to a greater extent than before the “Russian” elementsof Brodsky’s poetry. Michael Schmidt, for instance, wrote that inBrodsky’s “poetry there are continual daybreaks and sunsets, aRussian sense of immense distances...” (1980, 25); F.D. Reevecalled Brodsky “one of Russia’s outstanding living poets” (1981,36), and Clarence Brown’s review was entitled “The Best RussianPoetry Written Today” (1980, 7)As a Russian poet Brodsky was still clearly distinguishedfrom his officially published colleagues in the Soviet Union.However, the critical treatment of Yevtushenko and Voznesensky120was no longer a simple echo of Brodsky’s opinion of them. Theybegan rather to be classified among poets whose significance layprincipally within the context of a single period and a singlepoetic tradition (Russian), while Brodsky was seen as havingcrossed the borders of his time and of his nation. Perhaps thebest description of the critical status of the major contemporaryRussian poets in the West was given by Michael Schmidt. In hisessay “Time of Cold” the critic wrote:I would risk a generalization here. Poets such asEvtushenko, Voznesensky and others to whom ‘plot’ (in thenarrative sense) has come to replace subtler notions ofform, belong to contemporary history. They will continue tobe read -- even poems such as ‘Babi Yar’ -- for what theytell of general attitudes and sentiments. Brodsky, incontrast, is part of a broad Western tradition. His work, ofless value to the historian or journalist, extends itstradition. (1980, 25)Thus, by 1980, Brodsky began to be viewed as a Russian poetof major interest to the West, rather than as a poet ofexceptional international significance. This meant that,according to the critics, the poet in writing his poems had inmind not so much an international readership as the Russianreader, who not only knew the language but was also acquaintedwith Russian history and the Russian landscape. It is notaccidental that in his essay about the 1980 volume Clarence Brownpointed out the difference between the Russian and the English-speaking reader:an occasional set-piece. . . .can suggest to the English readerone of the limits of Brodsky’s range.... The ideal Russianreader for whom Brodsky writes would immediately detect theechoes. . . .Literary echoes of a somewhat more obvious andless functional sort might possibly offend the ear of theideal English reader. (1980, 16)121The most striking shift in the critical focus that occurredafter the publication of the first two volumes of Brodsky’spoetry in English translation was in the treatment of the problemof translation. Since a separate chapter is devoted to thisproblem, I will deal here only with those elements that seemed tohave had a significant bearing on the development of thereception process at this stage. What should be noted, however,is the almost complete lack of critical discussion of thetranslations published in the Selected Poems and the stronginterest shown in the question of what was lost in translation inarticles devoted to the volume A Part of Speech.The problem of dealing with translated poetry and thus ofnot being certain of the real quality and value of the originalpoems, appeared strikingly in the essays devoted to A Part ofSpeech. The complexity of the problem was highlighted byF.]D.Reeve who wrote that “[i]n a time of inconsistentjudgements. . . .we may overlook skill and celebrate the secondrate. We may be tempted to suppose that Brodsky’s reputation ishis achievement.” (1981, 36) In spite of the initial judgement ofAuden who underlined the advantages of dealing with Brodsky’spoetry in translation and reading it from a non-Russian point ofview, critics writing about his second collection seemed to beuncertain of the extent to which the qualities of his poetry werepreserved in translation. They underlined the importance of thepoet’s playing with language. Those Western critics who knewRussian and were thus able to see the difference between the122original and the translation, seemed to be more certain about themerits of Brodsky’s poetry. Others just tried to readjustprevious clichéd descriptions of his works so they could alsoapply to his newest collection.Poems written after Brodsky had been exiled from the SovietUnion were usually described as “the poems of his exile” (Schmidt1980, 25), and thus the already existing formulas of descriptionof Brodsky’s poetry became now enriched by the new factor ofexile. Dealing with translations, and hence not entirely certainof their ability to penetrate to the core of Brodsky’s poetry,the critics preferred to stay within the safe circle of alreadyexisting critical formulas and clichés. The new poems containedin the volume were simply added to the list of those alreadyknown and discussed as further instances of the intrinsicinterest of Brodsky’s poetry.Quite typical in this respect is the opinion expressed byBrown:Though his attitude toward exile, longing, solitude and theinsulting dilemmas of growing older may waver, we can onlyfeel grateful that the result is the same: a transmutationof this experience into the most powerful, the mosttechnically accomplished, erudite, wide ranging andconsistently astonishing Russian poetry being written today.(1980, 15-16)In another review we find opinions and formulas even closer tothose expressed in the reviews of the Selected Poems:In both short and lengthy poems, the drily witty, if worldweary, speaker draws psychological insights or makesphilosophical (and oblique political) reflections from hisacute observations. Adept in creating dramatic scenes, thepoet tends, however, to overload his poems with denseimagery. (Booklist 1980, 1404)123The difference between the “earlier” and the “new” clichésconsisted in the absence of any emphasis on the religiouselements in Brodsky’s poetry. Some critics (for example, M.Schmidt) actually noted that Brodsky’s treatment of variousthemes became more “secular.”The appearance of A Part of Speech added to the list ofBrodsky’s “essential texts” two new poems, “Lullaby to Cape Cod”and “The Butterfly,” both of which found favour with almost allcritics. Nevertheless, the new collection did not seem to fulfilall the expectations the Western critics had of Brodsky’spotential. Concluding his divagations about the poet, Schmidtwrote:What can be said of Brodsky, now he is 40? Of the recentpoems, “Lullaby to Cape Cod” seems to be a masterpiece; “TheButterfly” proves his lyric and philosophical gifts areintact.. . .Exile and middle age have made him no lessallusive and oblique. And yet, with a substantialachievement behind him, Brodsky paradoxically remains a poetof promise. (1980, 25)It is of interest that the reviews of A Part of Speech, moreoften than before, mentioned Brodsky’s public readings of his ownpoetry, which suggests that either his manner or the sound ofRussian became a factor in the attractiveness of Brodsky’s poemsin the West. Brown, for instance, recalled the impression a poemrecited by Brodsky made on him more than a decade earlier:In 1966 he recited to me (wittily enough, just beneath theKremlin walls) his then-unpublished elegy on the death of T.S. Eliot, and the deliberate echo of an earlier model,Auden’s elegy on Yeats, was immediately perceptible. Theform alone was speaking with its mute but unmistakableeloquence, and the Russian poet’s moving lines extended toinclude two other great poets -- tradition and theindividual talent, as it were. (1980, 16)124The antic drew attention to the importance of form andsound patterns discernible more readily in recitation. However,Brodsky’s public readings in the West (and he gave numerouspublic readings), were usually described as strikingly differentfrom those of Voznesensky’s and Yevtushenko’s. His way of readingpoetry often disappointed his audiences; what they expected wasnot so much poetry as a recitatory performance. As Schmidtobserved:Last year, I heard Joseph Brodsky read at Cambridge. I’dbeen told he was temperamental. If he disliked his audiencehe might read for only a few minutes. I was optimistic --but no, it was not to be. He read on and on, upstaging hispatient translators, as if to say he knew how much weappreciated him. Well, I didn’t. Unlike Voznesensky andYevtüshenko, Brodsky is not, I believe, a particularly goodperformer. He wears his arrogance (a quality endemic in thepublic persona of Russian poets) without grace. But he issomething other than a performer: an excellent poet. (1980,25)It should also be observed that while critics often madereferences to other reviews and articles devoted to the 1980volume, there was little discussion among them. Referring todifferent reviews the critics usually used the formula “as aptlyremarked by.” Also there are almost no references to thecriticism of Brodsky in Russian. One of the few examples of acritic taking note of the Russian critical literature on Brodskyis an essay by Reeve. The critic quoted Efim Etkind (“the mostrespected Russian critic today”) about Brodsky’s poetry primarilyin order to support the view that the mastery of his poems wasnot preserved in English translation, that “[n] emoved from itsnative Russian, this tension [that is “the structural125conflict. . . .between prose erudition and verse poetry”]vanishes. .“ (1981, 36)The 1973 collection occasioned critical reflection about thepredicament of the poet in exile. Various elements of Brodsky’s“political” biography were used at this stage -- not only toexplain his poems -- but also to underscore the fact of hisseparation from his homeland and from his native language. Thequestion of the writer in exile, and thus of belonging to morethan one culture, placed Brodsky in the context of contemporaryémigré literature. This new critical perspective becameespecially significant in the later stages of the criticalinterest in Brodsky’s writing. Initially, critics seemed to becontent with merely taking note of this perspective without beingable to place Brodsky’s poetry in relation to other émigréRussian poets. This observation may be illustrated by a quotationfrom Jo Ann Bailey:One question which invariably comes up these days inconnection with the oeuvre of émigré writers is whether itis possible to maintain a certain level of intensity inone’s work once the irritant which generated the pearl hasbeen removed. (1981, 341)While recognizing the importance of the phenomenon, criticsseemed unable to define the category and thus to identify writersbelonging to this group. Brodsky’s poetry written in exile (likehis entire attitude to exile itself) was so strikingly differentfrom the writing of other Russian émigré writers (who formed akind of Russian diaspora in the United States), that it was notpossible to place him among them. Even at this stage, a careful126reader could see that the new category of “poet in exile” was toembrace those writers who managed to adjust themselves to a newcountry and culture while at the same time retaining ties withtheir native culture and language. However, that such adefinition of the “poet in exile” was not yet clearly formulated,can be deduced from several articles on Brodsky and from thecritical confusion connected with the fact that as a Russian poethe actually did not belong to any of the known groups of writers.In his review of A Part of Speech, Anthony Astrachan noted:Brodsky is not one of those emigrants who confine themselvesto the narrow horizons of the exile archipelago. He lives inan American world whose language and literature he loves,and must let his work feed and be fed by that language andliterature. Whether or not he can be called great. . . .he isthe finest poet writing in Russian, in or out of the SovietUnion. (1980, 323)Those critics, who made an effort to place Brodsky’s poetrywritten in exile in the context of works by other non-Russianémigré poets whose poetry displayed a similar attitude towardexile as his, seemed less confused and thus better able to gobeyond the existing clichés and to formulate independent opinionsabout his poetry. For instance, Henry Gif ford, who continued toview Brodsky in the wider context of Eastern Europe poetry, reclassified him as belonging to the group of dissident poets ofthe region whose writings were not only influenced by theliterature of the country of exile but also brought new elementsto this literature. John Bayley went further; he not onlyevaluated the influence that Anglo-American literature had onBrodsky’s poetry but also compared him with another exile poet,127Czeslaw Mi)osz. Focusing on poems written in exile, significantlyinfluenced by the culture and literature of his adopted country,and taking note of the fact that Brodsky not only began totranslate his own poems into English but also to write poetry inEnglish, the critic wrote:The paradox about him is that his own language has thelocality that goes with the anecdotes and increments, thedense familiarity of a true poetic landscape, but at thesame time he exists in another dimension, half aphasic, halffashionable, in which poetic language is merely another formof public medium.Something has no doubt been gained from the vogue forLowell-type imitations of “world poetry”... .and the kinds ofimpersonality involved seem to please readers who are not athome with true idiosyncrasy, and dislike the effort ofmeeting a poet as his true self. (1981, 88-89)Bayley compared Brodsky to other poets who, although influencedby another culture, were able to preserve their poeticpersonality. Comparing Brodsky’s poems with the poetry written inexile by other poets, the critic chose Milosz as an example ofthe opposite attitude. Mi]osz, wrote Bayley,whom Brodsky regards as the greatest poet of our time[always remains himself] . Though he has had to become asAmericanized as Brodsky, and like him has translated his ownpoems into English with help from his friends, Miloszremains even in translation an unmistakable and marvellouslyauthentic Polish poet. It is worth comparing his collection,Bells in Winter with A Part of Speech. The comparison is notto the advantage, not of Brodsky himself, but of the kind ofidiom into which his native poetry has become increasinglyassimilated. (1981, 89-90)Bayley showed himself interested not only in Brodsky’spoetry but also in the process of assimilation that a poet inexile must inevitably undergo and in the effect of the influenceof a new culture on his poetry.It was, one may argue, only the appearance of a new critical128interest in the influence of the non-native culture and languageon the poetry written by poets in exile that made it possible tocompare the poetry of Miaosz and Brodsky. It is then worth notingthat Milosz and Brodsky’s first volumes in English translation(both entitled Selected Poems) appeared almost at the same time.Two later collections of Brodsky and Milosz, A Part ofSpeech and Bells in Winter included poetry written during roughlythe same time by poets whose situations were by then remarkablysimilar. In time, the quest for a critical perspective onBrodsky’s poetry met with the rising recognition and knowledge ofMilosz’s poetic oeuvre. As a result both poets began to be seenas belonging to the same category, which the critics laterdefined as that of the “poet in exile” or of the “nationless”poet.The next two volumes of Brodsky’s poetry, Rimskie Elegii(1982) and Novye Stansy k Avguste (1983), had a very limited --if any -- immediate impact on the reception of his poetry in theWest. More important is the fact that by the mid-1980s Brodskybecame the subject of scholarly research and that his poetry cameto be analyzed in terms of its formal features. In general, thescholarly-oriented research had initially a strictly limitedimpact on the categories of description used in critical textswhich aimed at a more general audience rather than at the limitedcircle of specialists in Russian poetry. It should be noted thatscholarly studies of Brodsky’s poetry were initiated by criticsand scholars of Russian origin (L.Loseff and V.Polukhina being129the most important ones), who for the most part had hitherto madealmost no contribution to the critical discussion of Brodsky’spoetry. The first book-length study of Brodsky’s poetry wasMikhail Kreps’s study 0 Poezii Josifa Brodskogo published in1984. In 1986 there appeared Poetika Brodskogo, a collection ofscholarly articles, edited by Lev Loseff and written by criticsof various origins all of whom, however, were able to deal withBrodsky’s poetry in the original. Both works confirmed the highevaluation of Brodsky’s poetic achievement in terms of his“technical” mastery in playing with the conventions andstructures of Russian poetry. Published in Russian, however, thetwo books could not have any major impact on the receptionprocess in English, a fact confirmed by a virtually complete lackof references to either of them in the critical writings aimed atthe non-specialist; it was rather the fact of Brodsky’s becomingthe subject of scholarly studies that was their most importantimmediate effect on the process of critical reception.Brodsky’s next book to appear in English was Less Than One,a volume of essays written in English which had previously beenpublished in different magazines. Since the author was alreadyknown to the English reader as a major poet, all the reviewers ofthe book constantly referred to his poetry. In view of the topicsand themes of his essays, the critics treated them to a largeextent in terms of the additional light they shed on his poetry,his literary affinities, taste and biography. Most of the criticswho reviewed the book limited themselves to describing and130developing topics and themes of Brodsky’s essays without reactingto the author’s points of view. In addition to showing interestin his biography and literary ties, critics focused especially onBrodsky’s affinities with Auden and on his ideas about languageand its importance. The comparison with Auden was usually made inthe context of Brodsky’s decision to write in English. HenryGif ford wrote:Brodsky’s motive for deciding in 1977 that he would “write(essays, translations, occasionally a poem) in English” was“to please a shadow”, that of Auden, who had befriended himat the start of his exile....The engagement with Auden’s poetry is another thing; andeven if his estimate should seem quite out of scale, here asno doubt in America, what led Brodsky to declare it soemphatically is important to see and should be viewed withrespect. He says that by writing in English he could “workon his [Auden’s] terms, to be judged, if not by his code ofconscience, then by whatever it is in the English languagethat made this code of conscience possible”. (1986, 1019)From this point of view, Brodsky’s remarks about the Russianlanguage and the impact communist ideology had on language provedof considerable interest. The poet’s view of language as a victimof political and social change in the Soviet Union and theimportance he attached to language in general served as anexplanation of his insistence to preserve formal elements of hispoems in translation. Critics also emphasized the importance ofpoetry for the preservation of the Russian language. Bayley notedthat Brodsky saw the effect of the Revolution on the Russianlanguage asan unprecedented anthropological tragedy, a geneticbackslide whose net result is a drastic reduction of humanpotential. Poetry may have survived, in inner or outerexile, but Russian prose could not escape in that way, orsurvive the embrace of the state. (1986, 4)131The question of language helped the critics to find Brodsky’splace among other contemporary Russian poets. At the same time,Brodsky’s collection of essays written in English made possible ashift in the critical treatment of Brodsky’s works. Less Than Oneplaced him among American writers and from this point on he beganto be considered both a Russian poet and an American essayist.The reviews of Brodsky’s essays continued also the line ofclassifying him as a writer “in exile” rather than as an émigréwriter. R.Z. Sheppart pointed out the striking difference betweenBrodsky and other dissident writers expelled from the SovietUnion by observing that “Brodsky is much more than another exileexpected to tell ghost stories about Soviet oppression. He is amajor literary figure linked directly to a great tradition, andhe never forgets it.” (1986, 70) He noted that the risingcritical interest in cross-cultural poetry might be perceived byAmerican poets with envy.Such success by an outsider is cause for envy andresentment: American-born poets must struggle not only withthe uncertainties of their craft but against indifference totheir art. (1986, 70)The interest aroused by Brodsky’s collection of essays was solively that criticism began to stress his links with poets ofdifferent origins and literary backgrounds. The political reasonsof his exile began to lose their interpretive value once he wasincluded among writers whose works (in spite of the biography oftheir authors) could be described in terms of cross-culturalexperiences and literary affiliations. In the Poetry Review thisgroup is called “fortunate travellers” and the name is used for132the distinctive group of cosmopolitan poets....Brodsky, Hecht, and Walcott are not a school, but theyshare obvious similarities in style and subject-matter.... All three writers often use subject-matterremote, both geographically and historically, fromtheir roots.... What all three poets show is that aworld poetry is possible, through the medium of theEnglish language. (1986, 3)Unlike Milosz’s critical reception in the West, Brodsky’swas very much related to the appearance of his books. Bycontrast, literary honours gained by the poet seemed not to havehad any serious impact on the development of the criticalinterest in his work. The Nobel Prize in Literature awarded toBrodsky in 1987 did not actually bring any immediate significantnew elements to this interest, nor did it produce any newcritical perspectives or insights. However, it did encourageacademic criticism. The articles and critical notes that appearedin the press underlined the possibility of giving Brodsky’spoetry back to its Russian readers, especially in connection withGorbachev’s policies of “glasnost’” and “perestroika.” On theother hand the prize provided an opportunity to develop thecriteria of interest in “nationless” poets.It is also worth noting that none of Brodsky’s works whichappeared in English subsequent to the Nobel Prize changed or evenchallenged significantly the earlier elements of the criticalreception. To Urania (1987) was reviewed in critical terms andcategories already established after the appearance of A Part ofSpeech. The problem of translation of his poems into Englishstill seemed to be in the centre of interest of almost allcritical texts. Brodsky’s treatment of language and the133importance he attached to language, which he emphasized in hisessays, gave a new lease on life to this discussion. Also, thestructural elements of his poetry, especially those consideredimpossible to preserve in translation, became a topic of furthercritical reflection.By the late 1980s, Western reception of Brodsky, howeverlaudatory, was challenged, at least indirectly, by threeconsecutive scholarly studies of his literary works written bycritics of Russian origin. In 1989 appeared ValentinaPolukhina’s: Joseph Brodsky: A Poet for Our Time, the first book-length study of his poetry written in English. Stating that“Brodsky’s use of language conveys the poet’s perception ofcertain values through his language” Polukhina ventures thestatement that Brodsky’s “ultimate importance as a poet willundoubtedly rest on this treatment of language and his wholeattitude towards language” (1989, xiii). This emphasis onBrodsky’s poetic language allows Polukhina to reclaim Brodsky asan essentially Russian poet.Although Polukhina’s study reveals several importantfeatures of Brodsky’s poetry, its impact on the reception processin English-speaking countries has been rather limited given thescholarly character and terminology of the study and the factthat it requires a fairly good knowledge of Russian poetry andversification. Moreover, her study draws on criticism written inRussian and thus not readily accessible to the majority ofWestern critics. Finally, the critic’s focus on the connections134of Brodsky’s poetics with the poetics of major Russian poets notalways well known to English-speaking readers, limited the impactof her book to the circle of specialists. In short, Polukhina’streatment of Brodsky was somewhat removed from the predominantinterests of Western critics; at the same time it hasconsiderable value in showing the mastery of Brodsky’s play withRussian poetic tradition and the Russian language.The critic focuses on Brodsky’s use of metaphor and on theformal features of his poems, including the figurative means bywhich Brodsky’s poetic “I” is constituted. The analysis ofBrodsky’s metaphors by comparison to major Russian poets,especially those of the first quarter of the twentieth century,allows the critic to examine Brodsky’s ties with the tradition ofRussian poetry as well as his departures from it. Brodsky’s linkswith Anglo-American poetry are also examined from the point ofview of how they influenced a poetics that was profoundly rootedin the traditions of Russian verse. Discussing “The Great Elegyto John Donne” (written in 1963, many years before the poet’sexile from his homeland) the critic points out that in this poem“Brodsky forces the Russian language to surpass itself” (p.74)and concludes, in agreement with an earlier observation by YuryIvask, that in this poem Brodsky “brings the Russian close to theEnglish.” Similarly, the poet’s exile and its impact on hispoetry, a question that, as we have seen, evoked considerableinterest among Western critics, is examined by Polukhina in termsof what she calls estrangement or alienation characteristic of135his poetry. The critic is concerned primarily with the variousstylistic resources used by Brodsky to create “the effect ofestrangement.’ In her view, “Brodsky has, more profoundly andmore consistently than other contemporary Russian poets,developed the idea of alienation,” again treating this aspect ofBrodsky’s poetry primarily in the context of Russian literarytraditions.A similar task of examining the close link between languageand values in Brodsky’s poetry was undertaken by severalspecialists in Russian poetry in the collection of essaysBrodsky’s Poetics and Aesthetics edited by Lev Loseff andValentina Polukhina and published in 1990. Though the book wasmeant to be a sequel to Poetika Brodskogo (the 1986 collection ofessays written in Russian), its impact on the Western receptionof Brodsky’s poetry was considerably greater because the essayswere published in English and because they touched upon severalissues central to the interest of Western criticism. While someof the essays, especially those narrowly focused or of a fairlytechnical character, primarily reinforced the high evaluation ofBrodsky as the master of poetic form, there were other essaysdevoted to more topical questions concerning Brodsky’s writings,such as the impact of exile on his poetry and the problem posedby his authorial translations. Moreover, critics tried toestablish categories of writing about Brodsky’s poetry that wouldbe accessible not only to specialists in Russian literature butto readers of poetry in general; they also paid close attention136to the poet’s own views on contemporary poetry. This approachresulted in analyses of Brodsky’s works in the context of hisother literary writings and in the treatment of his literaryoeuvre as a whole in its intertextual complexity. In his fairlytechnical close reading of “Polden’ v komnate” Gerald S. Smithnoted that some of the details of the poem,enigmatic and capricious in isolation, may be found inclosely contextualized detail in Brodsky’s essay ‘In a Roomand a Half’, his memoir... .of a coddled upbringing as theonly child of cultured middle-class Jewish parents, and ofthe psychological torture of not being permitted to meetthem again after the poet emigrated in 1972 (1990, 127).Though the critic did not think that “these parts of the poemneed the prose parallels in order to be understood,” he concludedwith the observation that “[tihe parallels interestingly confirmand amplify the poem’s text, which as always in Brodsky ismaximally taut and economical, and they convert the general intothe specific in a uniquely authoritative way” (1990, 127). Ingeneral, critics were moving between Brodsky’s poetry and proseexemplifying their observations about Brodsky’s poetic oeuvrewith quotations from the poet’s essays, treating them as aspectsof Brodsky’s self-presentation, hence relevant to his own poetry.For example, tracing the affinities between Brodsky andMandelstam in his essay, Leon Burnett not only compared texts oftheir poems but also drew extensively on Brodsky’s essay “TheChild of Civilization!! devoted to Mandelstam. By discussingBrodsky’s poems critics took into account the entirety of hiswritings, including his play Marble and even his opinionsexpressed in various interviews.137Though the majority of the essays are devoted to reflectionsabout Brodsky’s affinities with the Russian literary tradition --even his metaphysical poetry is discussed in the context of “the‘metaphysical’ strain in his own native Russian literature”(Burnett 1990, 12) - there are other critical essays which touchupon questions raised in criticism oriented toward a more generalreadership. Kline in his “Variations on the theme of Exile”presents Brodsky’s poetry through the prism of exile as “thepoet’s natural condition.” The critic points out that inBrodsky’s work one may distinguish “three different groups of‘poems of exile’” since long before the poet had left Russia “theworld around him was one of alienation” (1990, 56). Incorporatinginto his analysis biographical, textual and intertextualelements, the critic argues that exile had an impact both on thethemes and the form of Brodsky’s poems. The consecutive groups ofpoems show, according to Kline, a growing “historical,mythological, and political dimension of Brodsky’s reflections onthe fate of the exiled poet.” (1990, 62) According to Kline, inhis “exile poems,” especially the most recent ones, Brodskyexpressed his identification, or close association,with three major historical figures, who have in common thefact that they were mistreated - disgraced, exiled, orexecuted - by the country or city which they loved andserved with devotion and effectiveness. The three are Dante,Mary Queen of Scots, and the Soviet Second World War heroMarshal G. Zhukov. (1990, 59)In this way Brodsky incorporated in his poems differenttraditions (only one of the “historical figures” is a Russian)and wrote of a general condition of disgrace and exile. Brodsky’s138identification with a historical figure is “most complete in thecase of Dante” and is reflected not only in the themes but alsoin the formal aspects of several of the most important ofBrodsky’s “exile poems.” The poems’ triple rhymes are “a clearecho of Dante’s ‘terza rima’.” According to Kline, Brodsky “playsmany changes on triplicity, none of them identical with ‘terzarima’, but all of them reminiscent of it” (1990, 81). Concludinghis article, the critic observes that Brodsky, who should be seennot as a Russian writer, but rather as a writer in exile “likethe Polish-born Joseph Conrad, living in England and writing inEnglish,” has thrown “himself with notable energy and imaginationinto the literature and culture not just of America and Englandbut of the West more generally” (1990, 83).Another question, already posed by criticism oriented towarda more general readership, was that of the differences betweenBrodsky’s texts written in Russian and in English. In his article“A Journey from Petersburg to Istambul,” which deals withBrodsky’s essay “A Journey to Istambul,” Thomas Venclova makessome interesting observations by comparing its Russian andEnglish versions, noting that they did not “fully coincide.”Since Brodsky was also a co-translator of the essay (and thus wasresponsible for the changes to the text) and given the fact thatthe differences between the Russian and the English versions aresignificant (“ [tihe jokes, hints and intertextual commentary alldiffer”), Venclova believes each of the texts should be taken onits own terms. The critic makes the point that the question is139not marginal since “this is characteristic of many of Brodsky’srecent works, perhaps the majority of them” (1990, 135)Venclova begins his observations by stating that Brodsky’s“A Journey to Istarnbul” “exists in two versions... .and thereforeenters into two different textual spaces... .What is particularlyremarkable is that the two versions are oriented towardsdifferent literary subtexts” (1990, 135). While in the Englishtext “there are . . . .noticeable echoes of Yeats,” the Russianversion “points to a different tradition - the tradition ofRussian philosophical travel sketches.” Commenting on theaffinities of the English text with W. B. Yeats’s “Sailing toByzantium” Venclova states that “Brodsky, as the title indicates,constructs his entire essay as a rebuttal to Yeats.” In additionto the title of Brodsky’s essay (an obvious paraphrase of Yeats’swork), “echoes of Yeats” are present in the entire text“beginning with concrete details (the mechanical nightingale) andending with more general motifs threaded through the entire text(the theme of old age)” (1990, 136). As Venclova aptly notices,the two texts are oriented towards different subtexts anddirected at different groups of readers. Examining the Englishsubtext, the critic points out that the play with Yeats’s workis lost on the Russian reader who is usually, alas,unacquainted with Yeats’s poetry. (Just as the Englishspeaking reader will not detect the Pasternak quote “what’sthe millennium outside?” which in the Russian version isreplaced by the neutral “millennium”). (1990, 136)However, the most essential difference between the twotexts, according to Venclova, lies in language. “Although the140English text is colloquial and even slangy, a sharp stylisticrelief of the Russian text is undoubtedly lost.” The criticcharacterizes the language of the Russian text as “stumbling,scattered, crippled by cliché bureaucratese and pseudo-scientificexpressions,” whichsometimes degenerates into idle chat and often intoabuse. . . Sometimes it is Mandelstam, rephrased in thelanguage of a contemporary resident of LiteynyAvenue... .Sometimes it is a history discussion reminiscentof Zoshchenko’s or even Averchenko’s parodic histories...(1990, 136)This language is connected with a specific narrative modewhich “involves constantly checking with the reader..constantly provoking him, aiming at dialogue that ends withouthaving time to begin.” At any rate, Venclova concludes hisobservations, “translating such speech into English is eitherdifficult or impossible” (1990, 137)It is roughly at this time that Brodsky’s use of the Englishlanguage became a topic of discussion of non-academic criticism,with the quality of his literary English strongly questioned bysome critics, especially after the appearance in 1992 ofWatermark, a book on Venice written by the author in English.In 1992 Polukhina published a collection of interviews with 18poets (14 of them Russian) on the subject of Brodsky and hispoetic achievement, thus adding a new aspect to Western criticismof looking at Brodsky’s poetry from the point of view ofBrodsky’s poetic contemporaries. The appearance of the volume byPolukhina may be viewed as an attempt to establish a moreimmediate literary context in which to present Brodeky’s poetry141to the reader and also as a way of searching for a “fresh andchallenging look at the work of the youngest of the Nobel Prizewinning poets” (Polukhina 1992, vii)Finally, in 1994 David M. Bethea published Joseph Brodskyand the Creation of Exile, a major study of Brodsky’s writings.The author set himself the task of describing “the tone and thevoice of this poet” and defining “the secret essence of the‘Brodskian’ within Brodsky” by taking into account the literarytradition he comes from as well as his non-Russian literaryaffinities. The author re-examines various literary contexts inwhich Brodsky has usually been described by critics, but in theend decides that all of them are of limited value. “Countlessanalogies, therefore, can and presumably should, be made betweenBrodsky and his cherished predecessors, but they, in the end, areonly that -- analogies that point to certain paradigmaticaffinities,” (p. 9) concludes Bethea.Noting the impact East European poetry has had on the poetsand critics in the West, especially Czeslaw Milosz, Bethea beginshis study with the observation that “Yeats imagines the Black Outthrough which these poets have lived and out of which they havewritten. This is where Brodsky’s discourse has its provenance”(p. 8). Underlining the importance of “the act of faith in artwhich becomes manifest as the artist copes with tyrannicalconditions,” (p. 8) the critic proposes to view and analyzeBrodsky’s poetry in connection with his biography. Bethea arguesthat the notion of “the death of the author” may work only for142poets “without a biography” (p. 11) and does not apply to themajority of modern East European and Russian poets.Bethea asserts that not many contemporary poets can writewith “such moral authority supreme control of the medium, soto speak (raspy) full-throatedness” (p. 13) as do the EastEuropean poets, including Brodsky. Among Anglo-American poets thecritic finds the closest parallel in “poets who write in Englishyet operate existentially at the edges of our culture and who areconstantly fed by different, non-native originary myths” (p. 13).Referring to Czeslaw Milosz (as a Polish poet of Lithuanianorigin), Bethea stresses that the fact of detachement from one’sown culture gives a poet a special passion for ideas. He alsobelieves that exile is a condition that makes writers more awareof differences between cultures and languages and that it hasmetaphysical implications.Though in the course of his study Bethea defines Brodsky asa Russian poet, in the introduction he states that Brodskydid not become a leading poet by defining himselfexclusively within the value system of his parents’ culture,but rather against it, and by trying to write the kind ofRussian poetry that is both mindful of its nativeinheritance and committed to invigorating that inheritancethrough repeated inoculations of the foreign. (p. 10)Brodsky’s Jewish origin, along with his openness to influences ofAnglo-American traditions of poetry, allows Bethea to treatBrodsky as a poet operating on the edges of his own nativeculture. This, in turn, allows him to see Brodsky through hisaffinities with the poets of several, quite disparate literarytraditions.143Yet, we should also recall that he has never soughtsolidarity with any group or “interpretive community” otherthan his own private “dead poets’ society”. Homer, Virgil,Ovid, Martial, Catullus, Horace, Dante, Donne, Mandelstam,Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Auden, Frost, Lowell - these are hisjury of peers, his writing must meet their standards. (p. 6)Consequently, Bethea sees serious limitations in describingBrodsky in the context of other contemporary Russian poets, eventhose who had not been officially promoted in the Soviet Union.It is not perhaps fair, for example, to compare someone likeAlexander Kushner, a fine academic poet and contemporaryLeningradian, to Brodsky.... Despite moments of splendiderudition and technical brilliance, Kushner’s efforts havenot eventuated in poetry of the magnitude, grandeur, andnearly Promethean vitality of that written by Brodsky.... Inthis regard, Brodsky is a unique phenomenon on the culturallandscape of contemporary Russia. (p. 9)Bethea is also very careful when he makes comparisonsbetween Brodsky and modern Anglo-American poets who write in thetradition of metaphysical poetry -- especially in the traditionof John Donne; yet the reason does not lie exclusively in thefact that he treats Brodsky primarily as a Russian poetcontributing to the development of his native poetry. While heobserves and analyzes a number of similarities between Brodskyand Donne, he also notes that Brodsky is the first “metaphysical”Russian poet. Having a rich philosophic and meditative tradition,Russian poetry did not have a major writer who would “rediscover”metaphysical elements of Russian “imported baroque” and mediatethem to the modern writers. In consequence, “Russian baroque,which does indeed suggest certain paralells with Donne andEnglish metaphysicals.... made its way to the wings but not, inthe end, to the center stage of modern Russian letters.” (p.76)144In contrast to those modern Anglo-American poets who write withintheir own tradition of metaphysical poetry, Brodsky writes in thetradition of Russian “poetry of thought.” Paying specialattention to metaphysical elements of Russian poetry andrecalling traditions of Russian literature of the eighteenthcentury, Brodsky is, at the same time “the first to recognizethat, while the potential was there, the “take” did not happen”(p. 77). In this sense, Brodsky is the first Russian metaphysicalpoet as well as a mediator of English literary tradition toRussian poetry.His mediation, however, is not limited to “metaphysical”poetry but also includes Brodsky’s affinities with modern Anglo-American poets, especially Eliot and Auden, both of whominfluenced Brodsky significantly. The two poets, in the critic’sview, played a special role in Brodsky’s case because theirpoetry mediated traditions of Anglo-American poetry to him.“Brodsky learned a great deal by tracking his elegiac sentimentsat the time of Eliot’s death through the filter of Auden’s poemon Yeats” (p. 136). Analyzing the role of Auden for thedevelopment of Brodsky’s poetry, Bethea states that “Auden playedthe role... .of Virgil in Brodsky’s passage into the world ofAnglo-American poetry.” (p. 137) From Auden Brodsky adopted hisattitude toward language and a notion of “language being prior tohistory.” Not without importance was the fact that Auden himselfwas a poet in exile.Since Bethea sees Brodsky as a poet in exile he tries to145show Brodsky’s affinities with other poets in exile, includingEnglish poets who emigrated to America, East European poets inexile, and other Russian writers belonging to different “waves”of Russian emigrants (especially Nabokov and Khodasevich). Butexile is understood by the critic in much broader and moreprofound terms as an alienation from society and the fact ofbeing different, and this allows Bethea to view Brodsky incomparison with other Russian poets of Jewish origin. Betheaanalyzes several features of Brodsky’s poetry in terms of itsaffiliations with poets of various literary traditions, showingthat, in fact, a number of different cultures were mediated toBrodsky by his predecessors in his native Russian literature, as,for instance, Dante was mediated to him by Mandelstam. This,according to Bethea, gives Brodsky’s poetry a unique “triangular”vision of Western culture and sets him apart from other modernRussian poets.The uniqueness of Brodsky’s vision comes also from hisbelief in the “ethical” nature of language, in every languagehaving a different “personality,” that “underlines anything thatis said through the language.” Paraphrasing Brodsky’s own words,Bethea states that “in Englishit is more difficult to lie or, ingeneral, to be ethically ambiguous” (p. 121) . Thus the criticexplains Brodsky’s decision to write in English as arising from“reasons that were simultaneously ethical and aesthetic”. (p.122)This does not mean, however, that Brodsky’s insistence onpreserving in his English poems formal features that work in146Russian poetry always results in good English poetry. Pointing toBrodsky’s “History of the Twentieth Century” the critic has toadmit thatbalance, perhaps intrinsic to Brodsky’s “layered” Russian,deserts him.... The triple rhymes, the “gay/clay/okay” ofthe opening tercet, are not specific and prosaic. . . . in theway that “fortochku/koftochku/kostochku” are. The Englishlanguage’s lack of inflected endings has made these rhymespredictable, so that “gay” cannot be used in its originalmeaning. . . .and “okay” is clownishly seif-parodying. (p. 233)Though the critic points out that some of the elements ofBrodsky’s poetic style work in his English poems, the fact thatthe entire study is written from the point of view of Brodsky’scontribution to Russian poetry may suggest that Bethea seesBrodsky as a poet more important for the development of Russianthan of Anglo-American poetry. Reminding his readers that“Brodsky is an American poet laureate whose primary audience isin another language and culture ...“ (p.6) Bethea neverthelessstates that Brodsky’s poetry is of special importance for theAnglo-American audience because of the fact that “we may bewitnessing the death of poetic language in our own [that isAnglo-American] culture and that the least that can be said isthat many of us have grown indifferent, at times profoundly so,to how poetic language works and lives from the inside” (p. 10).147chapter 3METHODS OF SELF-PRESENTATIONThe strategies which Milosz and Brodsky employed to maketheir work available, as well as their efforts to stimulate andfacilitate its reception, are. important components of thecritical reception of their works. Both writers took considerablecare in making their works available to English-speaking readersand in providing them with appropriately chosen literary contextsand backgrounds. Moreover, they did their utmost to control thequality of the translations of their works. The analysis of thestrategies they pursued will be based principally on their prosewritings and interviews, but their activities as translators (orco-translators), critics, anthologists and academics will also betaken into account, as will their comments on each other’s poetryin so far as they reflect their poetic personalities and ideas.It is not my intention, however, to provide an exhaustiveanalysis of all of their writings that performed the function ofself-presentation, nor do I intend to describe all the images ofthemselves which they created, whether in prose or in poetry.During the period of over 40 years in the case of Milosz and of20 years in the case of Brodsky, both poets underwent aconsiderable evolution. At the same time both the political148situation and Western attitudes toward the Soviet Bloc countrieshave been undergoing continuous change. In effect, Milosz andBrodsky’s interpretations of events from their lives orstatements of motivations varied according to the changingcircumstances. Following such shifts and modulations would be aseparate task only partly relevant to the major issues of myinterest in the reception of their writings in English-speakingcountries. Therefore, their self-presentation will be discussedmostly in terms of the methods which they employed and mainlywith respect to the impact these had on the reception of theirwritings.It is quite easy to detect inconsistencies in the opinionsexpressed by both poets at various times or to find them givingdifferent answers to the same question, depending on thesituation or the interlocutor. It will not be necessary, however,to deal with such inconsistencies as they did not appear to havehad any serious impact on the reception process. Most suchinconsistencies occur in the interviews conducted byinterlocutors of different nationalities; they simply demonstrateMilosz’s and Brodsky’s awareness of, or assumptions about, thedifferences in readers’ horizons of expectations which wereshaped by different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, it isimportant to note that both vary their answers significantlydepending on the interviewer’s nationality or the nationality ofthe expected reader. For example, Brodsky, who told an Americaninterviewer: “I was translating all kinds of nonsense. I was149translating Poles, Czechs, brother Slays... .,“(Birkerts 1982, 90-91) said to a Polish interviewer: “I was a great admirer ofPolish poetry. ..“ (Husarska 1987, 9) Similar examples can beeasily found in Milosz’s responses: Milosz told a Western criticthat The Captive Mind was written with the Western reader inmind, but in a statement given for the benefit of Polish readers,Milosz described his motivation in writing the book as a desireto explain to his compatriots the reasons for his decision to“defect” from his homeland.Such discrepancies, or apparent contradictions, are quiteconsistent with those voiced by other emigré writers. This may beillustrated by a quotation from another Polish poet in the West,Adam Czerniawski. In the introduction to his book Scenes from aDisturbed Childhood Czerniawski writes: “in addressing myself tothese two readerships [i.e. Polish and English speakers] I wouldhave to put on slightly different voices, contract some accountsand expand others, place the emphasis differently here and there,explain to one group what would be all too obvious to the other.”(1991, xvii) Since an author’s writings usually addressthemselves to a specific category of readers, by the same tokenhe takes into account the group’s horizon of expectations,however putative that might be. It is clear that in writing poemsin their native tongues (though not exclusively so in the case ofBrodsky), both Milosz and Brodsky had primarily the speakers ofthese languages in mind as their addressees. Their interviews, onthe other hand, have been directed at the readers of different150nationalities; thus they take into account various horizons ofexpectations. As their literary works remain to a large extentthe same, even in translations, the poets use directconversation to present themselves in terms suitable for aspecific group of readers. Consequently, the interviews by bothMilosz and Brodsky were meant to act, at least to some extent, asa mediation between their literary texts and the reader. Thewriter’s candour and the arguments he uses in order to stimulatethe reader’s interest seem to be two different questions, ofwhich the first is of little interest for the purposes of thisstudy.Milosz made his prose writings and interviews a majorplatform for his opinions and for his self-presentation to alarger extent than Brodsky. Reading the interviews with him, onemay get the impression that Milosz seldom goes beyond summarizingopinions and points of view already formulated in his literaryworks and that he constantly tries to explain their meanings. In1955, in a letter to a London group of young Polish poets (laterknown as the Kontynenty group), Milosz wrote:The times are such that one cannot state publicly in writingwhat one really thinks about poetry. Personally I try toavoid doing so. [...1 Sometimes I even blame myself for“wearing a mask” or several masks. But for all I know thismay sometimes be a necessary condition of effective action.The ketman which I described in my book [i.e. in The CaptiveMind] is not confined to one political system only. It is anartistic method par excellence. (9 Nov.1955)11 This letter, as well as the letter quoted in chapter 4(dated 27 May 1975), are in the private collection of ProfessorBogdan Czaykowski.151In one of his essays Milosz writes: “Living for nearlythirty years in exile, I had to learn how to keep my mouthshut. ..“ (1979, 60). Interviewed by Victor Sokolov for KontinentMilosz said:I cannot express anything that is really important in a formthat is suitable for reporters, for TV broadcasters, becauseeverything I say would be distorted, infected. And as awriter I know that one has to be very careful with words,when talking or writing. When I write I know that I controlmy words, I know that I say what I mean. But when I talk andthey are listening I do not know at all what meaning mywords can turn into. (1980, 439-440)Don Stanley noted the following remarks of Milosz after aninterview in 1982 (that is at a time when public interest in the1980 Nobel Prize winner had already forced Milosz to give severalinterviews to the mass media): “Milosz is still upset about theCKVU interview: ‘It is not a problem of self-esteem,’ saysMilosz, ‘You should not be too tolerant in this respect’.” (1982)He definitely preferred to talk “through” literary texts. Askedby Victor Sokolov about his desire to tell the Western world thetruth about the Soviet Bloc MiJosz said: “I was talking, I toldthe truth. I wrote a book with the title The Captive Mind. I saida lot there, and I said a lot in my books that were written andpublished quite a long time ago, in the 1950s.” (1980, 442).For Milosz, the principal means of expressing his views andof self-presentation were his writings. Michal Pawel Markowski inhis article “Milosz: dylematy autoprezentacji” [Milosz: Dilemmasof self-presentation] writes:None of the essayistic books of Milosz is free of gesturesof self-presentation. Not only is the Native Realm anautobiographical account -- we can in fact regard as152something constant Milosz’s “desire to present others with atrue image of oneself.” [...J Between the pole ofautobiography (Native Realm) and the pole of self-portrait(Visions from San Francisco Bay) Milosz has created agenerically heterogenous space of self-presentation. (1991,25)In fact, one may say that in the case of Milosz his entireliterary oeuvre is a form of self-presentation. His politicalbeliefs, literary views, his philosophy and religious thought --all these are directly and indirectly present in his poems andprose. Even his novels (Seizure of Power and The Issa Valley) areto a large extent autobiographical. In effect, one gains littlenew knowledge from interviews with M±Iosz. He seldom gives hisopinions directly, preferring to refer readers to his essays orpoems. Instead of occasional short interviews, he prefersextensive conversations devoted almost entirely to his writings.Similarly, the choice of the interviewer seems to be ofimportance to Miosz. For books of conversations he chosespecialists familiar with his entire oeuvre as well as itshistorical and literary backgrounds (R. Gorczyi5ska, A. Fiut).For a long time Brodsky, who belongs to a generation muchmore in tune with the mass media, treated his literary writingsas somehow separate from his conversations with interviewers.Anna-Marie Brumm notes:He seemed eager to talk and volunteered informationwillingly at all times. The poet spoke freely, especiallywhen the questions concentrated on general topics or ondealing with poetry as a genre. However, he was somewhatmore hesitant when asked to comment on his own poemsspecifically. (1974, 229)The interview by Anna-Marie Brumm is long (17 pages) and touches153upon a wide range of topics, from Brodsky’s life and writings tohis opinions on feminism and the use of drugs by youth. But whatis especially interesting and characteristic is that Brodskyseldom uses his poems as an exemplification or explanation of histhoughts. In contrast to Milosz, Brodsky the poet and Brodsky theinterviewee are generally separate. The latter can talk about theformer, however often “tentatively” and with a consciousness thathe has more to say on various topics than he does about hispoetry and would not necessarily like to comment on what “thepoet” has said. Many of Brodsky’s answers to questions concerninghim as a poet begin with “1 don’t remember” or “I guess”, “1would say” or similar expressions. In contrast, whenever heanswers other questions he seems to be sure of his opinions. Hisexplanations of his own poems seem to be made from the point ofview of a critic focusing on the meaning and structure ratherthan on recalling a specific atmosphere of the text or thecircumstances of its writing (an approach typical of Milosz). Onemay even get the impression that Brodsky the human being does notwant to limit himself to Brodsky the poet. Obviously his reallife is present in his poetry, but only indirectly. Asked abouthis internal exile in Arkhangel he confesses: “it was part of mylife but if I put it into my poetry, it was in a rather indirectway.” (Brumm 1974, 245)The difference in the attitude of the two poets toward themass media does not entirely explain the already indicateddifferences between MiIosz’s and Brodsky’s responses in154conversations. In many respects it is more important to note thatthis contrast arises from the difference in their treatment ofpoetry and their understanding of the role of the poet. WheneverBrodsky talks about his poems he almost always analyzes theirformal features, while Milosz constantly interprets his poetry.In the already quoted letter of 9 November 1955, Milosz wrote:A poem or a prose-work is a bit like an iceberg -- only itspeak is visible above the waterline, and what’s more one isaware to a greater or lesser extent of its hidden layers. Acertain esoteric doctrine of poetry (to call it that way) isthe opposite of so-called committed poetry. It differs fromthe latter in as much as some of the “functions” which thepoet takes upon himself.... are not treated by him tooseriously.... It all comes down to the fact that as a youngman I met a certain old man, a great (non-Polish) poet whohad a considerable influence on me and taught me manythings. And it is this fact that lies at the bottom of mylong-standing conflict with the literary “milieu,” whichaccused me of arrogance and disdain, because its memberssensed that I did not reveal some secrets.Since Brodsky does not have a “hidden” knowledge to transmitas Milosz does, he does not “reveal” it in his conversations.Whatever he wanted to say in his poem he did without treatingpoetry as a veil for more important messages. Milosz had reachedhis “hidden” knowledge through the initiation into the mysteriesof “an esoteric lore” thanks to his uncle, Oscar de Milosz, aLithuanian-French mystical poet and then through his experiencesof the Nazi occupation. Consequently Milosz, in his interviewsand conversations, usually interprets his writings and partlydecodes their message, while Brodsky has a tendency to talk in astraightforward manner about the questions that interest him as ahuman being.With time the attitudes (or more precisely: the techniques155of self-presentation) of both poets became more similar. In thelate l980s Brodsky published his first collection of essays, Lessthan One. If we compare the topics covered in the interview byAnna-Marie Brumm (recorded mainly in 1973) with the topics ofthese essays, they turn out to be (not surprisingly) mostly thesame. Gradually Brodsky started to treat his writing as animportant platform for his opinions and beliefs.One of the important elements of Milosz and Brodsky’s self-presentation to the Western reader was their treatment of othercontemporary writers of the same language. Since both of thembecame exiles as a consequence of the situation of intellectualsand literature in the Soviet Bloc, both of them expressed theiropinions about those who remained inside. Milosz’s The CaptiveMind became widely known in the West. Obviously, Polish readersdid not have any difficulties in recognizing the writersdescribed there. However, from the point of view of the Westernreader, who was at that time not familiar with Polish literature,their names were not important. For them, the book was not apersonal attack on specific writers; it was a description and ananalysis of the communist system and its impact on theintellectuals, literature and literary life in an East Europeancountry. In fact Milosz did not try to attack anybody directly,nor did he try to lower the value of any writer from hishomeland. Later he tried to promote contemporary Polish poetry inthe English-speaking countries partly in order to provide theWestern reader with a literary background to his work. Instead of156promoting Polish poets in his interviews and discussions, Miloszundertook the task of translating them into English. ContemporaryPolish poets were presented by Milosz selectively, yet theselection gave a picture of the most interesting poets from theEnglish-speaking reader’s point of view.Brodsky, who was much more outspoken and directly expressedhis opinions in interviews and conversations, from the verybeginning tried to separate himself from the officially approvedpoetry in the Soviet Union. In 1972 during a reading inVancouver, one of his first in the West, he openly attacked poetsofficially recognized in his homeland. Two Vancouver newspapersquoted his words in their articles about Brodsky’s visit.In the Soviet Union, according to Brodsky, it is impossibleto perform as a honest writer under the restrictions imposedby government. Writers who form the favoured Union ofWriters find their works published immediately and there’sno problem finding work. Brodsky says he is notrepresentative of Soviet writers because those who publishregularly must sacrifice their art to a politicalimposition. He claims, although without universal agreement,that there are no good writers within the Union of Writers.“The works of these favoured poets are on my ---- list,” hesays. (Chatelin 1972)It is worth recalling here that a year before Brodsky’s visit toVancouver, Andrei Voznesensky was there on a visit arranged bythe federal government’s external affairs department; he wasenthusiastically welcomed by a huge English-speaking audience.In writing The Captive Mind Milosz showed his opposition toa system known to the West largely through its ideology andpropaganda, which considerably distorted the reality of thesystem, including its impact on the life of intellectuals. Unlike157Milosz, Brodsky did not have to argue against a generally falseperception of the communist system, but he felt that he had toseparate himself clearly from officialy published Soviet poetswho had gained recognition in the West. The initial situations ofMilosz and Brodsky as exiles were different; hence, theirtechniques of self-presentation in opposition to official clichésof literary life in their homelands were also significantlydifferent.In addition to separating himself from officially recognized“Soviet poets,” from the very beginning Brodsky tried to revisehis image as “one of Akhmatova’s orphans,” stressing personalrelations with Akhmatova rather than her influence on his poetry.In the beginning he did not talk about his Russian literaryaffinities, pointing out instead his admiration for certainEnglish and American poets. When asked about Akhmatova, he simplydescribed her as a great person and a great poet; however he didnot include her among those who had influenced his poetry.Interviewed by Anna-Marie Brumm in 1973 Brodsky did not mentionAkhmatova’s name on his own initiative. He only answered a fewquestions about her:Brumm: What is your opinion of Anna Akhmatova?Brodsky: Oh, she’s a great poet and a very dear friend. ButI don’t think there was any influence from her. I would say,she’s a great human being.Brumm: She came to your aid, didn’t she?Brodsky: Yes, she helped me a lot.Brumm: When you were in prison?158Brodsky: I would say I’ve been released because of her. Sheinitiated all the activity and moved all the people. (Brumm1974, 245)With time, Brodsky became less reticent in talking aboutAkhmatova and in the 1979 interview by Sven Birkerts he mentionedAkhmatova’s name constantly, although never in respect of herpoetic influence on him. She was to remain his friend and a greatperson but not a poet who influenced him or had any specialimpact on his writing. At one point he said:One summer, Rein said: “Would you like to meet Akhmatova?” Isaid: “Well, why not?” without thinking much. At that time Ididn’t care much about Akhmatova. I got a book and I readthrough it, but at that time I was pretty much in my ownidiotic world, wrapped up in my own kind of things. Sowe went there, actually two or three times. I liked her verymuch. We talked about this and that, and I showed her someof my poems without really caring what she would say. (1982,96)On a number of occasions Brodsky pointed out that Akhmatovaadvised young poets not to write long poems, but that he did notfollow this advice. Her high opinion of his poetry did not thenmean that she influenced his writing. As a person she had animpact on his life but as poets they had very little in common.Instead he recalls names of other Russian poets who influencedhis writing. Among them the most important are ]Jerzhavin,Boratynsky, Tsvetaeva and Mandeistam. In the interview with SvenBirkerts Brodsky said:I don’t know really quite whom I react to most. I rememberthe great impact Mandelstam’s poetry had on me when I wasnineteen or twenty. . . .Another poet who really changed notonly my idea of poetry, but also my perception of the world-- which is what it’s all about, ya? -- is Tsvetaeva. Ipersonally feel closer to Tsvetaeva -- to her poetics, toher techniques.. . . (1982, 104)159When Anna-Marie Brumm asked him which of the Russian poets hadinfluenced his work or which he particularly admired, heanswered: “Two or three. The first one is an eighteenth centurypoet, Derzhavin; another is from the nineteenth century,Baradynsky [sic!] and the third from this century, Tsvetaeva.’(1974, 244-45)Over the years Brodsky became less concerned with theclichés that welcomed him and his writing in the West. Althoughin 1987 he still did not want to talk about the influence ofAkhmatova on his poetry, he openly praised her as a great poet.Asked by Anna Husarska about his “literary masters”, AnnaAkhmatova and Wystan H. Auden, Brodsky said about the former:“Akhmatova was the best human being I have ever met. Some thingsinfluence you - better people, terrific landscapes, I don’t know.I have never seen a more accomplished human being.” (1987, 11)When in an interview in 1986 David Montenegro asked Brodsky aboutthe problems faced by modern writers he answered:Now one of the main problems that a poet today faces --modern or not modern -- is that the body of poetry prior tohim -- the heritage, that is -- is larger, which makes yousimply wonder whether you have anything to add to thatbody.... But it’s precisely because you have such a greatpeople before yesterday who breathe on your neck.... Tothink that you can say something qualitatively new afterpeople like Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Auden, Pasternak,Mandeistam, Frost, Eliot.... -- reveals either a veryenterprising fellow or a very ignorant one.... ( 1987, 528)It is hardly surprising to see in Brodsky’s answer a mixtureof Russian, English and American poets as the greatestpredecessors of his poetry. From the very beginning Brodsky triedto emphasize his poetic affinities with the greatest contemporary160Anglo-American poets. In 1972, during his public readings inVancouver, he “named a few of his favorite English and Americanpoets, but it’s obvious that in his work and thought he is stillRussian and feels a bit out of place.” (Chatelin 1972) When askedin an interview in 1973 about his favourite poets, Brodsky talkedalmost exclusively about poets of the English language. The samegeneral observation can be made about his other interviews. Alarge part of his interview for the Paris Review is devoted tohis friendship with American and English poets. Sven Birkertsnotes: “The walls and free surfaces of his apartment were almostentirely obscured by books, post cards, and photographs. Therewere a number of pictures of a younger Brodsky, with Auden andSpender, with Octavio Paz, with various friends.” (1982, 83)Brodsky thoroughly analyses the impact English and Americanpoetry had on him and shows examples of this influence in his ownpoems. “I decided to write a poem, largely aped from Auden’sstructure in ‘Memory of Yeats’,” (1982, 92) said Brodsky whoduring the same interview hesitated to talk about the impactAkhmatova’s poetry (as well as poetry by other Russian poets) hadon him. Significant in this text is also the story of hisdeparture from the Soviet Union. “I never even believed thatthey’d allow me to go. I never believed they would put me on theplane, and when they did I didn’t know whether the plane would goeast or west,” Brodsky told Sven Birkerts. “All I took out ofRussia was my typewriter. . .., a small Modern Library volume ofDonne’s poems, and a bottle of vodka, which I thought that if I161got to Austria I’d give to Auden.” (1982, 102-3) Then Brodskytold how with the help of Carl Proffer he managed to find Audenin Austria and “stayed two weeks in London, with Wystan atStephen Spender’s place.” (1982, 103) In another interviewBrodsky says:Normally an attachment to this or that poet wears of f aftera year or so. Well, many years have passed since I read hisfirst lines and exactly the opposite has been the case: Myattachment just grows and grows and grows, until sometimes Ithink I am him. (Husarska 1987, 11)Comparing Auden’s influence on him with Akhmatova’s he said that“the interplay was less substantial and my feelings about himderive from the printed word rather than personal recollections.”(Husarska 1987, 11)As a result, with time Brodsky was seen increasingly throughhis poetic links with English and American poetry rather than inthe context of other Russian poets; this made it easier for himto acknowledge his Russian affinities without fear of beingmisunderstood or pigeon-holed. He not only prepared a collectionof Tsvetaeva’s prose for the English-speaking reader, but alsostarted to write introductory notes to English editions of otherRussian works, such as Platonov’s The Foundation Pit andintroduced Ratushinskaya’s poems to the West.In the late 1980s, after being awarded the Nobel Prize forLiterature, Brodsky treated this as an award for the entirecircle of poets. Many years after the initial separation from hisnative traditions and official contemporary poetry, Brodskyrecalled his poetic friends in Russia and presented himself as a162member of a poetic school. Talking to Sally Laird in 1988 Brodskysaid:What I would claim for our school was that our poetry wasmore restrained, more mature, more forceful in a sense --while at the same time we kept this terrific elegance instyle. So I think this whole business -- you know le prixNobel - is a sort of indication that our team has won. (p.7)Sally Laird continues:I asked who else was in the team, and Brodsky mentionedthose who, he hoped, would now ‘come to the fore as aresult, so to speak, of my humble self’. Aleksander Kushner,Yevgeny Rein, Vladimir Uflyand, Anatoly Naiman... (p. 7)Milosz’s manner of self-presentation has been completelydifferent from Brodsky’s, for rather obvious reasons. Miloszcould not place himself in an already known tradition; he had toproject an image of himself as well as to familiarize the readerwith Polish literary traditions. Completely unknown in the Westat the time of his break with the Communist government, Miloszwas not welcomed upon his defection by the Western public; he wasneither interviewed nor asked to give public readings. In fact,as we have seen, he stayed hidden in the Kultura house near Parisfor about six months before venturing out. As the initial placeof his exile in the West was France, his first Western booksappeared in French translation prior to their English versions.To be recognized, Milosz had to make himself become part ofWestern literary life. Commenting on this process, Stanis)awBarañczak pointed out thatafter he became an émigré, Milosz sacrificed a considerablepart of his time and creative energy to capturing theattention of western audiences by writing essays and worksof fiction (The Captive Mind and The Seizure of Power are163two examples) addressed directly to them and dealing withthe most burning political issues of the day, such as thefate of Central Europe under Communist rule and the ominousspread of what was later called the “totalitariantemptation” among western intellectuals. Thus his literarycareer and reception in the west suffered for many yearsfrom a sort of optical distortion: his fame as a politicalessayist grew disproportionately, while his achievement as apoet was recognized almost exclusively by his Polishreaders. (1991, ix)This description of the beginnings of Milosz’s reception inthe West does not, however, explain the entire situation. It doesnot, for instance, make it clear that a completely unknown Polishpoet had little chance of recognition in the West at that time.In pointing out the inconveniences and distortions of thereception of Miosz’s poetry caused by his political essays andpolitically oriented fiction, one should not forget that thesewritings brought Milosz the critical attention he otherwise wouldnot have had in the years following his defection. And withoutthis attention, a full recognition of Milosz the poet in the Westwould probably have been even more difficult. It can be safelyassumed that Milosz was fully aware of this aspect of hissituation. One of his first critical texts published in Englishwas an essay about Adam Mickiewicz. In fact, Milosz started tofamiliarize Western readers with the traditions of Polishliterature (especially poetry) almost immediately after arrivingin the West. Both his recognition as a political essayist and hiscritical works devoted to Polish literature led to a betterknowledge of the background of his own poetry among Westernreaders.Milosz was aware that Western readers had difficulties with164understanding the situation in the Soviet Bloc; he alsorecognized the role that literature could play in conveying amore realistic picture of the Soviet system. In his essay “TheReal and the Paradigms” he writes: “It is significant that somany people learned about the existence of Soviet concentrationcamps only after having read Solzhenitsyn’s GulagArchipelago.. . .“ (1979, 60) About his novel Zdobycie wJ.adzy (TheSeizure of Power), Milosz told Aleksander Fiut: “The choice ofthe subject was ‘utilitarian” in the sense that at the time theworld had no knowledge of the tragedy of Poland, and that was notfair.” (Fiut 1988, 120) He added: “Then one had to continue onthe same lines, keep on publishing, so that the name would notdisappear from the public view.” (Fiut 1988, 120) He recognizedthat not all of his writings would be of equal interest to theWestern reader: The “Poetic Treatise” (Traktat Poetycki) is ofno use to the Western readers’ market,” he said to A.Fiut. (Fiut1988, 121) On the other hand, he did not intend and did not wantto be recognized primarily as a political essayist.They wanted me very much to write on political topics, butthat is not my metier. The reviews of The Captive Mind,which after all is a very difficult book, were very positivein sociological journals. In sociological journals, inpolitical science journals etc. But that was not whatinterested me. (Fiut 1988, 121)As a result, in addition to his writings intended to reach Polishreaders, Milosz managed to publish in English translation NativeRealm (recognized in the West as his autobiography) as well asseveral other essays, using prose as his major medium forspeaking to the West.165At the same time he had also undertaken the task offamiliarizing Western readers with Polish literature, especiallywith contemporary Polish poetry. His translations of MironBialoszewski began to appear in Encounter in the late 1950s. Inthe early l960s the Observer and Encounter published severalpoems by Zbigniew Herbert in Milosz’s translation. Thepublication of a volume of Herbert’s poems in 1968 was alsoarranged by Milosz who was a co-translator of most of the poems.In 1965 Milosz published his pioneering anthology of contemporaryPolish poetry in English translation: Postwar Polish Poetry, inwhich he provided Western readers with a panoramic view not onlyof postwar Polish poetry but also of his native poetic context.The inclusion of a relatively large number of poems by Wat,Ráewicz and Herbert clearly showed his preferences. In addition,the anthology gave Milosz an opportunity to introduce himself tothe West as a poet. A selection of his own poems (mostly so-called wartime poems) was accompanied by a bio-critical noteabout his poetry. There are, in fact, two notes about Miiosz inthis book -- one about Milosz the editor and translator andanother one about Milosz the poet, both of them written by thepoet himself. The second one is of greater interest as theearliest attempt at a synthetic characterization of Milosz’spoetry in English, and as an example of self-presentation which,judging by the composition and tone of the note (for example, itstentativeness) must have caused Milosz a certain degree ofunease. The poet refers to himself in the note in the third166person and, to underline further the desire for maximalobjectivity, mentions the opinion of “some critics,” which heneither rejects nor endorses entirely but juxtaposes with his ownview of his poetry.The landscape of his native Lithuania has always been at thecore of Milosz’s imagery [...] The term “classicism” appliedto his poetry probably means that his experimentation ismitigated by an attachment to old Polish verse. His poeticwork presents a great variety of forms ranging from mockodes and treatises in the spirit of the eighteenth centuryto notebooks of dreams. Some critics see in him a symbolistin reverse: in symbolism a poet proceeds from externalreality towards the ineffable veiled by it, while MiIoszcircumvents with his symbols the essential being of things,which seems to be his main concern. He himself says his bestpoems are childishly naive descriptions of things. Yetbecause of his civic passions he has always been the victimof a dichotomy. In 1948 he published a “Treatise on Morals”in iambic verse deriding the rule of terror. [...1 (p. 57)MiIosz’s note provided Western critics and readers with anauthorial description of his poetry that could serve as astarting point for their own evaluations once there becameavailable a sufficiently representative selection of his poems.Milosz’s anthology had more than one edition and wasreceived with considerable interest by critics and readers ofpoetry. One may even say that the anthology constituted a realbreakthrough in the reception of contemporary Polish poetry inEnglish-speaking countries, generating not only a widespreadinterest but genuine acclaim. At the same time, it placedMilosz’s own poems in a fairly wide context of postwar Polishpoetry hitherto largely unknown to Western readers.Milosz also introduced his own poetry in his The History ofPolish Literature, which appeared four years prior to the167publication of the first volume of his poems in Englishtranslation.From the point of view of Milosz’s self-presentation thiswork is of considerable interest. The short notes included in the1965 anthology did not give Milosz sufficient scope fordescribing his own poetry in the context of modern Polish poetry.However, in the textbook, Milosz was able to characterize thevarious stages of his poetic development and to place his poetryin the context of the most important literary trends and eventsof contemporary Polish literature. The passages devoted by Miloszto his own poetry are well worth quoting in sequence, as takentogether (in the book they appear at different chronologicalpoints) they constitute a fairly comprehensive presentation ofthe poet by himself.Milosz introduces himself initially as a member of the±agary group, which came together in Vilnius in 1931, and thengives a brief characterization of his early poetry that relatesthe opinions of Polish critics with less than complete approvalof some of them:The youngest of the founders, Czeslaw Milosz (1911- ) isthe author of this book, and he feels embarrassed tocharacterize his contribution.... His first slim volume ofpoetry, A Poem of a Time Frozen.... (1933), was spoiled bysocial ratiocinations; but the next, Three Winters.(1936), is considered by literary historian and criticKazimierz wyka the most representative work of“catastrophism”. Its rush of symbols, set unexpectedly intolines with a classicist ring, alludes to calamities ofcosmic amplitude. Critics have tended to see a myth of theearth, a protective deity ever renewing herself, as the coreof Milosz’s poetry, or have been calling him the only truepantheist in Polish poetry. It is not certain whether thisis true, since Christian elements are also strong. There is168no doubt, however, that his poetry is permeated with thenature of his native Lithuania. During the war, Milosz livedin Warsaw, where he edited a clandestine anthology of anti-Nazi poems. His poetic work, collected in the volume calledRescue.... (1945), and published as one of the first booksin postwar Poland, marked a new approach to historicaltragedy and, together with the volumes of Wayk, Jastrun andPrzybo, left its stamp upon the development of Polishpoetry in the next two decades. (1969, 413)In the sections of the book devoted to Polish literatureunder the Nazi occupation Milosz refers to himself twice:Poetry was .... the mainstay of the literary Resistance.Seven clandestinely printed anthologies testify to itspopularity. The first was a slim pamphlet.... The otherswere of more conspicuous size: The Independent Song.(1942), edited by Cz. Milosz, which included some poemssmuggled from abroad. . .., an anthology of the Jewish tragedywhich included, among other works, poems by J. Kott...., M.Jastrun and Cz.Milosz. (1969, 446)And a few pages later:As for poetry, the most talented young beginners hadperished. Their heroic deaths gave rise to a legend thatstill surrounds their poetry; but the protest againstinhumanity, as critics agree today, was better expressed bypoets already mature at the outset of the war. Not the“Skamander” poets (all were absent from Poland except forIwaszkiewicz) had the greatest impact upon young readers,but the poets of the First and Second Vanguards -- Przybo,Wayk, Jastrun and Milosz. (1969, 456)In the chapter devoted to the postwar period Milosz describes hispoetic development in a section subtitled “Poetry andinhumanity,” emphasizing the impact of the Nazi occupation on hiswriting and placing his poetry alongside that of the mostprominent poets then writing in Poland. It is significant that hequotes two of his “wartime” poems: “A Poor Christian Looks at theGhetto” (1943) and “The Poor Poet” and describes in detailanother poem written during the occupation, “Song of the End ofthe World.”169In the final section devoted to his own writing the authordiscusses his work in the context of the most prominent writersof so called “émigré” literature, while at the same time settinghimself apart from the Polish émigrés.Different mentalities engendered different sensibilities -writes Miaosz - the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz, for example,was alien to émigré readers, and the problems thatpreoccupied him, repellent. Milosz left Poland in 1951,lived for almost ten years in Paris as a free-lance writer,and in 1960 went to United States, where he has beenteaching Polish literature at the University of Californiain Berkeley. He has always considered himself primarily apoet, although he wrote several books in prose, some ofwhich were translated into many languages. The CaptiveMind.... (1953) is an analysis of the mental acrobaticsEastern European intellectuals had to perform in order togive assent to Stalinist dogmas. It preceded similardenouncements in Poland by a few years, but was attacked inthe émigré press as tainted with Hegelianism and Marxism.The Valley of Issa.... (1955) is a novel close to the verycore of Milosz’s poetry. It has been called “pagan” becauseof its childish amazement with the world; but this story ofchildhood in Lithuania, with its simple images of nature, issomewhat deceptive, as underneath lurks a Manichean vision.Native realm.... (1959) is written as the autobiography ofan Eastern European, conducting him through his nativeLithuania, Russia, Poland, and France. An appraisal ofMilosz’s evolution as a poet and translator of poetry doesnot belong here for obvious reasons. In Poland he was astrictly forbidden author from 1951 to 1956, extolled duringthe years 1956-1958, and again forbidden in the period1958-1966; despite these fluctuations, his intimate tieswith the Polish writers’ community have not been destroyed.(1969, 529-530)The History of Polish Literature, in addition to itsobviously major role as a textbook, gave its author theopportunity to introduce and describe his own literary career interms of its connections with the most important historicalevents as well as literary movements in Poland. The emphasis onthe history of Poland and its importance for understanding Polishliterature, evident in the entire book, was also an important170element in Milosz’s self-introduction. Actually the major part ofhis self-characterization is devoted to the historical context ofhis poetry -- the impact of the Nazi occupation, politicaltreatment of his writings in the postwar period, differencesbetween his and the émigrés’ mentalities, and so on.The focus on history in his textbook provided Milosz with anopportunity to present the tradition of the seer (wieszcz) inPolish literature which at a later stage enabled Western criticsto see Milosz as a continuator of this tradition, i.e. as someonewho understands more than others and shows new ways. In thealready quoted letter to the members of the Kontynenty group(1955) Milosz underlined his affinities with the outstandingPolish Romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) . Referring towhat he called “ezoteryczna doktryna poezji” [the esotericdoctrine of poetry] Milosz wrote: “Mickiewicz knew the esotericdoctrine of poetry, and that is why he is so dear to me.” ForMilosz a seer was a poet whose poetry was based on deepunderstanding and a hidden knowledge. The selection of the poemsfor the first collection of his poems to appear in English,Selected Poems published in 1973, is an excellent example of howMilosz attempted to establish his image as a seer in the Westerncontext.Although the poems are introduced as translated by “severalhands” these several hands are mostly Milosz himself, sometimesas co-translator with P.D. Scott or R. Lourie. Only 13 Out of the54 poems in this collection are translated by other translators:171J. Darowski, J. Carpenter and A. M. (Anthony Milosz, the poet’sson)The selection of the poems in the volume -- along with theway in which they are grouped in separate sections -- are ofsignificance. The poems included in the first two sections werewritten in various periods, but all of them show Milosz’s concernwith his role as a poet who is in possession (as a result of hisexperiences and initiations) of a hidden knowledge. The thirdsection consists mostly of poems written during the Nazioccupation or shortly afterwards and almost all of the poemsincluded in this section are clearly dated; the section issubtitled significantly: “What did he learn.” The last sectionentitled “Shore,” includes Mllosz’s “American” poems. This“carefully constructed book” was clearly composed with an eye tothe Western reader. For instance, it does not include a number ofpoems of great importance from the point of view of Polishreaders. Nor does it show the development of Milosz’s poetry overtime,- since the arrangement is not chronological and no dates aregiven for most of the poems. Instead, the selection andcomposition of the volume perfectly fit the terms of Milosz’sself-presentation in The History of Polish Literature; the volumeprojects an image of “wieszcz” (seer) who is preoccupied withhistory, culture and philosophical ideas of his time.In his introduction to The Poet’s Work, Barañczak points outthatIt was not until Milosz took the promotion of his poetry inthe West into his own hands and began to translate it into172English himself (helped by numerous Americancollaborators).... that it started making its way tointernational recognition. The publication of his SelectedPoems in 1973 marks the beginning of what can be called hiscareer as a poet in America, if not an American poet. (1991,ix)Until 1988 the Western reader was only provided withselections of Milosz’s poetry: the sequence of the fourcollections (Selected Poems, Bells in Winter, The SeparateNotebooks and Unattainable Earth) did not fully reflect thepattern of his poetic and intellectual evolution. Knowing howcareful Milosz was with translations of his poems one mayspeculate about the reasons for this situation. It seems thatMilosz preferred to present an image of himself and of his poetrythat he thought ought to draw attention of Western readers to thesignificant aspects of his work rather than to let the readersand critics discover the “interesting” elements for themselves.Only the international recognition and the lively interest in hispoetry that ensued, combined with the already current descriptivecategories and formulas (which owed a great deal to Miloszhimself), made it possible and challenging to introduce theWestern reader to a comprehensive collection of his poetrypresented in chronological order. “After all -- Barañczak pointsout -- Milosz’s English output is not just another example of thetypical situation in which an exotic author’s work is presentedto the audience in some accidentally selected fragments by anaccidentally appointed translator who is not necessarily anexpert on this particular author’s work. “(1991, x).173A sine qua non condition of the recognition of a foreign(“exotic”) poet are, of course, translations of his poetry. Thequestion of the translations and of their impact on the receptionprocess is so crucial that a separate chapter is devoted to it.However, since both Milosz and Brodsky were fully aware of theimportance of translation, and since both of them reacted to allkinds of problems connected with translating, some of thequestions (especially those connected with their self-presentation) will be briefly discussed in this chapter.Both poets tried to take control of the translations oftheir poems by working actively with translators or undertakingthe task of translation themselves. Although, as we have seen,Brodsky emphasized the influence that English and American poetryhad on him and set himself apart from contemporary Russianpoetry, he nevertheless always put great stress on the importanceof Russian language for his poetry. It may even be said that hetreated his native language as his homeland. Although thisquestion is seldom a major point of his interviews, a carefulreader will note that for Brodsky poetry is more a matter ofplaying with forms and language than a presentation of ideas. Incontrast to Miaosz, Brodsky has never made a claim to be inpossession of some hidden knowledge, or even of seeking tounderstand reality in the Miloszian sense, and he does not seehimself as carrying out a poetic mission in the West. Instead, heis preoccupied with the formal problems of poetry; on manyoccasions he emphasizes the impact the poetics of other poets had174on him (e.g. Auden’s or Tsvetaeva’s). In the conversation withAnna-Marie Brumm he said that “poetry is not a question of self-expression. It’s something else. It’s some kind of craft....”(1974, 240-41) In the same interview he described also hisfavourite verse structure -- the iambic pentameter. He appears totalk more readily about the “technicalities” of poetry than aboutits meaning.I would say that the poet worships perhaps only one thing inthe final analysis, and that has no embodiment except inwords, that is ... language.... Perhaps I am modern in thatI am living in my own time and to some extent I reflect --what I write reflects - - the sensibility of the people whospeak my language toward their reality, (p.529)said Brodsky to David Montenegro in 1986. This interest in poeticstructure is highly significant for the way in which Brodsky tookcare of the translations of his poetry.Milosz’s interest in the formal aspects of poetry has been -- not so much less than Brodsky’s, but -- different. Stressingthe mimetic function of literature, describing himself as someonewho “worships reality,” and insisting that “the poet should bealso a thinking creature” (for example, in his essay onPasternak), Milosz was especially concerned that the translationsof his poems should reflect his search for what he called “a morespacious form,” onethat would be free from the claims of poetry and proseand would let us understand each other without exposingthe author or reader to sublime agonies.(1988, 211)He wanted to make sure that the balance between the poetic andprosaic, as well as his distinctive voice, would be optimally175preserved in translations.The question of poetic form was one of the major topics ofMilosz’s The Witness of Poetry, a series of lectures delivered byMilosz as the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in theacademic year 1981-82, and published as a book a year later. Inthese lectures Milosz makes clear his somewhat critical attitudetoward formal experimentation and in general toward “playing withwords” in poetry. This does not mean, of course, that poetsshould be careless about poetic language and form, but that theyshould also recognize that -- as he puts it -- “a quarrel existsbetween classicism and realism.” In fact, he asserts, the processof writing a poem consists of “constant clashes” between twoprinciples, namely, between the “dictates of the poetic languageand... .fidelity to the real,” and “every poet is making a choice”between them. During this process “a poet discovers a secret,namely that he can be faithful to real things only by arrangingthem hierarchically.” (1983, 71) Contemporary poets are aware ofthe existence “of an internal tension between [these]imperatives.” Moreover, Milosz believes that “[s]uch tension doesnot invalidate [his] definition of poetry as ‘a passionatepursuit of the Real.’ On the contrary, it gives it more weight.”It is significant that in emphasizing the crucial role ofthe tension between the dictates of poetic language and offidelity to reality, Milosz refers contemporary poets to “theprose writers of the past,” especially to Dostoevsky and his kindof realism. Dostoevsky’s realism176consisted in the reading of signs: an item in a newspaper,an overheard conversation, a popular book, a slogan, gavehim access to a zone hidden from the eyes of hiscontemporaries. For him reality was multilayered, but notall of its layers provided clues. (1983, 71)Milosz argues that twentieth century poets can learn alot from Dostoevsky’s creative effort, especially from his“hierarchization” of reality. In characterizing this creativeeffort, Milosz points out that Dostoevskywas helped... by his strong conviction that a purelyhistorical dimension does not exist because it is at thesame time a metaphysical dimension. For him, there was ametaphysical warp and woof in the very fabric of history.(1983, 71)At the same time, while stressing that poets can learn from prosewriters, Milosz emphasizes that poets should also be aware of thefact that poetry is more condensed than prose and hence “thehierarchization.... must be much more condensed” too. Thereforepoets face the tension between the imperative of language and theimperative of reality to a greater degree than prose writers do.In describing the objective world, “the poet is left with thebitter realization of the inadequacy of language.” Stating thatthe objective world can be seen “with perfect impartiality onlyby God,” and that “to desire ardently to possess an object cannotbe called anything but love,” Milosz describes the poet “as a manin love with the world,” who is at the same time “condemned toeternal insatiability because he wants his words to penetrate tothe very core of reality.” Referring to Plato’s Symposium, Miloszconcludes his disquisition on poetic form by stating that everypoet is a servant of Eros, that is someone who, in Plato’s words177interprets between gods and men, conveying and talkingacross to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and tomen the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediatorwho spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in himall is bound together, and through him the arts of theprophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries andcharms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way.1(1983, 74)The Norton Lectures gave Milosz an opportunity to fullyreveal his attitude toward modern poetry and to present his viewsabout the importance and role of poetry in society. While in hisother prose writings Milosz focused mainly on his own poetry andtried to explain it, in the Norton lectures he presents hiscriteria for evaluating poetry in general and illustrates hisopinions with examples taken from a range of twentieth-centurypoets. Believing that poetry “is a more reliable witness thanjournalism” and that “if something cannot be verified on a deeperlevel, that of poetry, it is not .... authentic,” (1983, 16)Milosz expresses his concern with “what sort of testimony aboutour century is being established by poetry.” (1983, 11) Since,according to MiIosz, “we do not seem to commit an error if wehear a minor mode in the poetry of our century,” (1983, 17) thepoet tries to answer the question “[hiow did it happen that to bea poet of the twentieth century means to receive a training inevery kind of pessimism, sarcasm, bitterness, doubt?” (1983, 14)And why does contemporary poetry express “despair at theimprisonment of man in an evil civilisation” (1983, 15). Toconvey his own idea of poetry, MiIosz quotes with approval from1 The quotation is taken from Benjamin Jowett’s translation inThe Portable Plato (New York, 1961).178Oskar de Milosz’s A Few Words on Poetry, stressing the poet’sviews on the importance of poetry for the development of mankind.At the beginning of the text under discussion we read anenigmatic sentence: poetry “appears to us as bound, morerigorously than any other mode of expression, to thespiritual and physical Movement of which it is a generatorand a guide” By its nature poetry engenders Movement,change, and may even be found at the origin of scientificdiscoveries, if not directly then through osmosis. It alsofunctions as a “guide” to Movement.... (1983, 35)Milosz believes that even in our civilization it is not possiblefor poetry to alienate itself from Movement, since “a linkbetween poetry and Movement is probably inevitable, and hope,conscious or unconscious, is what sustains the poet.” (1983, 37)The eschatological function of poetry lies in the fact that itcan preserve the world of imagination and save “man from imagesof a totally ‘objective,’ cold, indifferent world, from which theDivine Imagination has been alienated.” (1983, 47) In contrast tothe scientifically oriented civilization, poetry preserves asystem of values and the notion of truth. Thus Milosz diagnosesthe reason for the sombre tone of modern poetry as a general lackof belief in a “true world.” “When poets discover that theirwords refer only to words and not to a reality which must bedescribed as faithfully as possible, they despair” (1983, 49).Another reason for “the gloom of the twentieth-centurypoetry” Milosz sees in the alienation of poets from “the humanfamily” -- their practising of art that is self-sufficient,ignores the needs of readers, and does not relate itself toReality (“true world”). Blaming the artistic boheme from the endof the nineteenth century for ignoring the needs of readers,179Milosz gives as an example of poetry united with the “humanfamily” contemporary Polish poetry with its concern for the mostimportant questions posed by the contemporary world for “ordinarypeople.”What can poetry be in the twentieth century? It seems to methat there is a search for the line beyond which only a zoneof silence exists, and that on the borderline we encounterPolish poetry. In it a peculiar fusion of the individual andthe historical took place, which means that events burdeninga whole community are perceived by a poet as touching him ina most personal manner. Then poetry is no longer alienated.(1983, 94-95)Consistently with his need for affirmation, Milosz devotedhis concluding lecture to hope. Observing that contemporaryreaders as products of mass culture “are unprepared to receivenourishment of a higher intellectual order,” he neverthelessexpresses the hope that in the future a new society with a newscience would be “better adapted to the complexity of the worldand of individuals.” (1983, 109) Recalling Simone Well’sconviction that renewal would come “from the past, if we loveit,” Milosz too, places his hope in the healing power of time, inhumanity’s contemplation of its past through the medium ofpoetry. According to him, “[piremonitions of this can be found inthe poetry of the twentieth century.” (1983, 110)Roughly a year before Milosz delivered his Norton Lecturesat Harvard, he published a fairly extensive article on Brodsky’sA Part of Speech. The article is of interest not onlyintrinsically, as a characterization of Brodsky, but for at leasttwo other reasons, both of which concern Milosz’s selfpresentation, even if only indirectly. First, it clearly reflects180Milosz’s own poetic personality and views; second, it uses someof the categories which found their formulation in The Witness ofPoetry as criteria for evaluating a contemporary poet. It is, infact, difficult to avoid the impression that Brodsky not onlyfitted Milosz’s own poetic criteria but that his poems helpedMilosz to formulate his opinions expressed in the NortonLectures.Milosz begins his observations on Brodsky’s poetry bystating that “behind Brodsky’s poetry is the experience ofpolitical terror, the experience of the debasement of man and thegrowth of the totalitarian empire.” (1980, 23) He further pointsout that Brodsky not only moved from “one continent to another”but also “from one empire to another” (and “empire,” Milosznotes, is “one of Brodsky’s prankish words”). “The twentieth-century witnesses a struggle between a few centres of control”and Brodsky’s personal experiences have made him especiallysensitive to this struggle and to the phenomenon of the quest forpower. Nevertheless, despite his exile, Brodsky is not tornbetween two cultures and two empires (the Soviet and theAmerican) . “He accomplishes what previous generations of émigréwriters were unable to do: to make the lands of exile, howeverreluctantly, their own, to take the possession through the poeticword.” (1980, 23)Commenting on the way in which Brodsky understands the roleof the poet, Milosz reveals his own point of view when he writes:I find it fascinating to read his poems as part of hislarger enterprise, which is no less than an attempt to181fortify the place of man in a threatening world. Contrary tothe tendency prevailing today, he believes that the poet,before he is ready to confront ultimate questions, mustobserve a certain code. He should be God-fearing, love hiscountry and his native tongue, rely upon his conscience,avoid alliances with evil, and be attached to tradition.These elementary rules cannot be forgotten or ridiculed by apoet, since absorbing them is part of his initiation, moreexactly ordination, into a sacred craft... (1980, 23)It is also significant that concluding these observations, Miloszstates that “[t]he poet’s task as Brodsky conceives it is to tryto preserve continuity in a world more and more afflicted with aloss of memory.”Explaining his particular interest in the poem that gave thetitle to the entire collection, Milosz once more refers to theexperience of the poet which meets in this poem with “the historyof the twentieth century” and notes the poem’s “terse, manly, andvibrant tone.” Though Milosz discusses some of the features ofBrodsky’s poetics (calling him “a true descendant of the Englishmetaphysical poets”), he is clearly much more interested in thephilosophical and ethical aspects of Brodsky’s writings. Statingthat “this is philosophical poetry,” which possesses “anintensity that deserves to be called religious,” Milosz sees adeep affinity between Brodsky and Shestov (a thinker he himselffound profoundly interesting). Like Shestov’s, Brodsky’s work isimbued with respect “for the Sacred”; it is similarly “haughty,scornful, austere,” and there is “a strange convergence in thetactics chosen by these two defenders of the Holy in the age ofdisbelief.” (1980, 25) Comparing both of them, Milosz states thatShestov, being a philosopher, was less lucky than Brodsky who, as182a poet, is attached to cultural traditions through language. Heconcludes thatas a defence against despair, we have the oeuvre of a manwholly concentrated on his poetry. Here poems ofcircumstance, including descriptions of visited cities andcountries, have a definite presence and purpose. In hisstruggle against the Necessity of space and time, Shestovwas less lucky [than Brodsky], since he was merely aphilosopher. (1980, 25)Published in 1986, Brodsky’s collection of essays Less thanOne may be in many respects treated, similarly to Milosz’s TheWitness of Poetry, as an expression of its author’s point of viewon poetry. However, Brodsky is less direct than Milosz; heexpresses his thoughts in essays devoted to disparate topics andauthors. Generally, he is mostly concerned with language andprosody. Unlike Milosz, Brodsky does not relate poetry to theworld of imagination and he does not connect the state ofcontemporary poetry with the general situation of humanity in thetwentieth century. While both poets link the role of poetry withreality, their understanding of the term “reality” is strikinglydifferent. Milosz’s point of view is clearly philosophical andfor him reality has metaphysical connotations, whereas Brodskyuses the term in a more loose fashion. For Brodsky poetry is themost meaningful protest against reality imposed by politics andthe best way of describing this reality. Recalling the politicalsituation since 1917 in which his native literature has beenwritten, Brodsky expresses the view that “[a] t certain periods ofhistory it is only poetry that is capable of dealing with realityby condensing it into something graspable, something that183otherwise couldn’t be retained by the mind.” (1986, 52) writingabout Akhmatova he points out that only poetry can show realityTfirst through the prism of the individual heart, then throughthe prism of history, such as it was. These two perspectives werebrought into sharp focus through prosody, which is simply arepository of time within language.”(l986, 52) Art of literarylanguage and style (prosody in the case of poetry) is, accordingto Brodsky, more important than the thematic interest of a workof literature. Judging twentieth-century Russian prose, the poetbelieves that the reason for its weaknesses lies in its purelythematic response to the political reality of the Soviet Union.“Hypnotized by the scope of the tragedy that befell the nation,it keeps scratching its wounds, unable to transcend theexperience either philosophically or stylistically.” (1986, 273)In another essay Brodsky states that “[ii f a poet has anyobligation toward society, it is to write well.” (1986, 359)Deeply concerned with the devastation of the Russian language andconsequently of literature by the Soviet regime Brodsky believesthat “the surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism,originality of thinking, whimsicality, even - if you will -eccentricity.” (1986, 385) Superiority of a poet (or writer) tosociety lies in his individualism, in his individual way of usinglanguage. “A poet gets into trouble because of his linguistic,and, by implication, his psychological superiority, rather thanbecause of his politics.” Such a point of view on literaturebrings into, focus the way in which a poet organizes his poems,184that is prosody. Prosody makes poems eternal, as Brodskyunderlined writing about Akhmatova:her verses are to survive whether published or not: becauseof her prosody, ,because they are charged with time in boththose [mundane and metaphysical] senses. They will survivebecause language is older than state and because prosodyalways survives history. (1986, 52)It does not mean, however, that the formal features of apoem are just a play with language. Brodsky clarified his pointof view on the importance of prosody in his essay aboutMandelstam.It should be remembered that verse meters in themselves arekinds of spiritual magnitudes for which nothing can besubstituted. They cannot be replaced even by each other, letalone by free verse. Differences in meters are differencesin breath and in heart-beats. Differences in rhyming patternare those of brain function. (1986, 141)Not surprisingly then, especially if we take into accountproblems faced by Brodsky with translations of his own poems, thepoet is deeply concerned with translation. He comparestranslation to censorship since they ‘both operate on the basisof the “what’s possible” principle, and it must be noted thatlinguistic barriers can be as high as those erected by thestate.’ (1986, 48) Brodsky is also doubtful about thepossibility of translating the memory of one nation into thememory of another nation. Consequently, the work of translator isnot an easy one. “Translation is a search for an equivalent, notfor a substitute. It requires stylistic, if not psychological,congeniality.” (1986, 140) Brodsky does not expect a translatorto perform miracles. “It would be futile and unreasonable toexpect a translator to follow suit: the voice one works from and185by is bound to be unique. Yet the timbre, pitch, and pacereflected in the verse’s meter are approachable.” (1986, 141)Important changes in MLlosz and Brodsky’s ways of self-presentation occurred in the 1980s, partly because of therecognition both poets had gained by this time, and partly as aresult of the growing interest in East European poetry (of whichthey were the most prominent representatives) and the criticaldiscussion concerning its impact on the poetic process inEnglish-speaking countries. Milosz’s The Witness of Poetry andBrodsky’s collection of essays Less Than One had provided readersboth with their points of view on poetry in general and with thecriteria according to which they evaluated contemporary poetictrends. The award of the Nobel Prize added to the stature of thetwo poets and made their opinions both sought and moreinfluential than before. Interest in their views was alsoenhanced by the far-reaching changes in Eastern Europe. Bothpoets took advantage of their international reputation tocontribute to discussions concerning East European poetry, and tothe debate regarding the distinctiveness of Central Europeanculture; and they continued to present other Polish and Russianpoets to Western readers. They also employed their position toinfluence public opinion in the West concerning political changesin their homelands. It is also worth noting that Brodsky’sgreater readiness to identify more closely with his “poeticschool” in Russia may have been connected with the trend oftreating Eastern Europe as a unity that suffered for years under186the Soviet Union and now definitely separates itself from Russia.It is difficult to predict the consequences this development mayfurther bring to the reception of Brodsky’s poetry, but there islittle doubt that the new situation will be reflected in Westerncriticism.187Chapter 4TRANSLATION AND THE RECEPTION PROCESSMuch of the critical discussion concerning the poetry ofMiIosz and Brodsky has focused on the question of translations.Since most Western critics had no knowledge of Polish or ofRussian, their ability to discuss and evaluate Milosz’s andBrodsky’s poetry was naturally limited by this fact. The critics,conscious of the fact that they were dealing with texts whichcould have undergone significant distortion in the process oftranslation, often felt compelled to make clear the tentativenessof their opinions.The problems facing the translators of Milosz’s andBrodsky’s poetry were quite daunting. In the first place they hadto cope with the considerable differences in the structures ofthe respective languages (Russian and Polish being inflectedlanguages, and English being a positional language). Second,there was the question of what Jur±j Lotman called “the commonmemory” involved in every type of communication, includingliterary:Communication with another person is only possible if thereis some degree of common memory.... [Tihe memory-capacity ofthe addressee is presumed to be common to any person whospeaks the same language and belongs to the sameculture. . . .Naturally the poorer the memory the longer andmore detailed the message must be, and the lesscomprehensible will be its ellipses and silences, itsrhetorics of hints and complex pragmatic-referentialassociations. (1990, 63)188Third, there was the problem of the poetic form: highlytraditional and at the same time employed with the skill of avirtuoso in Brodsky’s case, and, except for his early poems,consciously anti-modernist in that of Milosz. Finally, there wasthe question of the proficiency of the various translators andtheir ability to render justice to the original poems.The two poets also showed considerable concern for thequality and faithfulness of the translations; both expressedtheir views on translation of poetry in general and of their ownpoems in particular; and both eventually took almost completecontrol of the process. Unlike most critics, both Milosz andBrodsky were able to compare the translations with the originals,as both had acquired a good knowledge of English. This fact notonly enabled them to make their opinions known about the work oftheir translators, but to co-author translations and to translatetheir own work. In the end both poets exercised such control overthe publication of their work in English that almost nounauthorized versions appeared in print, and most earliertranslations prepared by others were excluded from later volumes,with new translations, sometimes done by the poets themselves,taking their place. This situation, in turn, did not go unnoticedamong the critics, raising new issues which influenced theprocess of reception.Another question concerned the role that translators playedin the literary process which came to the fore especially in thecontext of the widespread interest in contemporary East European189poetry in the West. As Jerzy Jarniewicz noted in his essay“Translators and the Destruction of Eastern Europe”:[ut is a dangerous fallacy to assume that translatorsquietly working in their book-stuffed studies are doingnothing more than rendering literary texts from one languageinto another. No matter whether they are aware of it or not,they are involved in much more: they perform the manifoldroles of literary critics, historian, promoter, marketresearcher. (1994, 52)The article deals primarily with translations of contemporaryPolish poetry, but the author expresses the view that his remarksare “especially true in the case of translating contemporarypoetry from the less known languages,” and thus have a moregeneral import. According to Jarniewicz, in the case of suchlanguages as Polish, translators also perform the additional roleof literary historians:[ut has to be stressed that translators working on acontemporary Polish poem are also writing, or helping towrite, a history of contemporary Polish literature forEnglish readers, since the idea the latter have of Polishwriting depends almost entirely on the decisions andrevisions made by the translator.... (1994, 52)In the past critics seldom paid attention to the roles oftranslators described by Jarniewicz, but limited their remarks tothe question of the renderings themselves. Beginning with the1980s, however, other roles of translators have become part ofthe discussions concerning the success of contemporary EastEuropean poetry in the West. Given Mllosz and Brodsky’s commentson translations of other poets, their literary essays, as well asMilosz’s translations of contemporary Polish poets, and theextent to which both Mllosz and Brodsky have participated in thetranslation of their own poetry, it is clear that they, too,190performed the broader role of literary historians and critics.II.The first few translations of Mi3osz’s poems were publishedin periodicals in the early 1960s. It is significant that thetranslators were mostly of Polish origin. In addition to a fewtranslations done by the poet himself, a number of Milosz’s poemswere translated by Adam Czerniawski, Jan Darowski, Andrzej Busza,Bogdan Czaykowski and John Carpenter. The first four were notedPolish poets who also translated other contemporary Polish poetsinto English.Unlike Milosz’s poetry and despite the well-known difficultyof translating Russian poetry into English, Brodsky’s poems fromthe very beginning gained the interest of quite a few English andAmerican translators. They included George L. Kline, CarlProffer, George Reavey and Nicholas Bethell. Their translationsappeared when the poet was still in the Soviet Union; thereforehe was unable to have any influence on the translations.Beginning in 1964, Brodsky’s poems were published in variousperiodicals and anthologies, and in 1967 Longmans (London)published his first collection of poems in English translation,Elegy to John Donne and Other Poems. The volume, edited andtranslated by Bethell, however, was hardly noticed by thecritics. By 1973, Kline (who published his translations ofBrodsky in the Russian Review as early as 1965) not only became191the principal translator of Brodsky but may also be said to haveestablished a “standard” for translating his poetry, which heldits place until Brodsky himself took control of the translationprocess. Two of Kline’s translations, “Elegy to John Donne” and“Verses on the Death of T.S. Eliot,” met with general criticalacclaim and acquired a “canonical” status in Brodsky’s translatedoeuvre.In general, Kline’s method of translating Brodsky was to tryto preserve the formal features of a poem while recognizing thatsome of its elements, especially the play on words and soundorchestration, could not be fully reproduced in English. Featureslost in translation that were important for the meaning and styleof the poem were indicated in notes appended to translations, andsome poems (for example “Elegy to John Donne”) were prefaced bycritical mini-essays which included information on the choicesthe translator had to make between different solutions ofparticularly troublesome problems.Brodsky’s first noted collection of poems in English, theSelected Poems, was translated exclusively by Kline, who thusconsolidated his position as the chief mediator between Brodsky’spoetry and the reading public, Subsequent to the publication ofthe Selected Poems, Brodsky took increasing control over thetranslation process, abandoning Kline’s “model” of translation.Instead, he adopted the practice of moving from one group oftranslators to another, as if searching for the best way ofrendering his poetry into English, while at the same time192exercising increasing supervision over the translators’ work.Each new group of translators introduced a somewhat different wayof translating Brodsky’s poems, none of which, however, seemed tohave fully satisfied the author, who showed an increasingtendency not only to co-author translations but to be his owntranslator. In the end Brodsky did not establish a new model fortranslating his poetry, and his chief influence on thetranslation process consisted in the choice of translators.As previously mentioned, Brodsky’s first poems appeared inEnglish before he was exiled from his homeland and he naturallydid not have any influence on their translation. Even many yearslater Brodsky pointed to such translations with disapproval. “Itwas kind of nice, that piece” - he told Sven Birkerts about one“unapproved” translation - “except that I never got proofs toread and quite a lot of mistakes crept in, misspellings and allthose things. It matters to me.” (1982, 87) One of his firsttranslators, Kline, wrote at least three times about his own workwith Brodsky, pointing out the difficulties of translating fromRussian into English and stressing Brodsky’s strictness regardingthe translation of his poems.Brodsky and I are in full agreement on the principle thattranslations of formal poetry, such as the Russian, mustconvey as much as possible of its form -- its meter,assonance, alliteration, etc., and, where this is possiblewithout recourse to padding or other artificialities, itsrhymes and slant-rhymes as well. (1983, 159)In several cases Brodsky made revisions to earlierversions, and Kline, in Modern Poetry in Translation describes indetail how he worked with Brodsky on such revisions:193Brodsky had, of course, approved the earlier versions. . . .ofall these translations before their first publications.But in coming years his command of literary English haddeepened and become richer and more subtle. Furthermore,when the proofs of A Part of Speech began to cross his deskhe took the fresh critical look, in some cases with thecounsel of English and American poets or critics, attranslations which he had last scrutinized several yearsearlier. (1983, 159)Brodsky paid a great deal of attention to the translation ofRussian poetry in general, and of his own poems in particular,explaining his involvement at times by his “love affair withEnglish language” and at other times by his desire to givereaders the best and most faithful renderings of the Russianoriginals.My main argument with translators is that I care foraccuracy and they’re often inaccurate.... It’s awfully hardto get these people to render the accuracy as you would wantthem to.... Some translators espouse certain poetics oftheir own. In many cases their understanding of modernism isextremely simple. Their idea, if I reduce it to the basics,is “staying loose.” I, for one, would rather sound tritethan slack or loose. I would prefer to sound like acliche..., an ordered cliché, rather than a cleverslackness. (1982, 87)On a number of occasions Brodsky pointed out the importance ofmeter for his own poems as well as for twentieth century Russianpoetry and expressed his desire to preserve it in Englishtranslation. This attachment to the more traditional forms wasprobably one of the reasons why Brodsky did not really want to betranslated by recognized English poets whose poetics reflectedthe poetics of modern English poetry and who, in addition,imposed their own individual styles on his poems. In fact, as waspointed out by critics, the translations done by English andAmerican poets at times read like variations in verse on the194themes of a Brodsky poem. Asked by Sven Birkerts about the mostfamous among his translators, Brodsky said:I was q