Uncategorized | September 01, 2004

Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for literature and one of the greatest poets of the twentieth-century, died at his home in Krakow on August 14. When asked for a cause of death, Milosz’s assistant Agnieszka Kosinska replied, “It’s death, simply death. It was his time–he was 93.” Still, Milosz’s death came as somewhat of a surprise to many in the literary world due to the astonishing productivity of his recent years; his New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001 featured more than fifty new poems that are among the strongest in his body of work. Vitality was one of the hallmarks of Milosz’s career, a career which spanned more than seventy years and several different countries and political regimes. Born in what is now Lithuania in 1911, Milosz was raised as a child in Russia during WWI, participated in the Resistance in occupied Warsaw during WWII (publishing anti-Nazi poetry in underground journals), broke with the communist Polish government in 1951 and took political asylum in France, then, in 1960, landed a position as professor of literature at the University of California at Berkeley. He only returned to Poland in 1989 after the overthrow of Communist rule.

To learn more about Milosz and his work, visit the Academy of American Poets website. The site includes a brief bio and recordings of his work. To read more articles about his death, go to the Washington Post website or the CNN.com. The NPR website features an audio tribute to Milosz by his long-time friend and translater, Robert Hass. Finally, Desmond O’Grady has written an interesting piece about meeting Milosz in Rome.