God Is Hidden. Poetry Is Obvious.

On Adam Zagajewski, Another Beauty

We find comfort only in
Another beauty, in others’
Music, in the poetry of others.
Salvation lies with others,
Though solitude may taste like
Opium. Other people aren’t hell
If you glimpse them at dawn, when
Their brows are clean, rinsed by dreams…

These are the memoirs of a young poet who studied in Krakow. Mostly it is the short aperçus that captured my attention & interest, plus the method of writing a narrative, broken up time-wise here and there, and then he comes in with more short epigrams. He offers extended portraits of women whom he rented from, his teachers (“Professor Leszczynski never removed his green overcoat”) other students and poets, acquaintances (“He was a bachelor, a gallant gentleman, a troubadour ready to serve any lady in the most disinterested and noble fashion”) whereas my portraits [in what became The Book of Mev] are all too brief – I need to flesh these out much more fully. He reviews his time in Paris and the US as well as his love for classical music, such as Mahler’s 9th and the glorious first movement, or Schumann’s third piano concerto. He regrets becoming a poetic ideologue and propagandist. I ordered this book on impulse, thinking his structure would be convergent with my own, but it’s not: mine is bolder! (Or, some would say, more chaotic.)

Some passages of note—

I lost two homelands, but I sought a third: a space for the imagination, a domain that held room for artistic needs that were still not entirely clear to me. 15

[The heretical imperative:] The birth of a writer: a young man raised in the Catholic faith experiences a dazzling revelation. While praying, he suddenly realizes that he doesn’t necessarily have to repeat what’s printed in the missal. He can invent his own prayer. He can make up his own words. 18

The Zeitgeist chisels our thoughts and mocks our dreams. 20

But that boy who discovered that you can make up your own prayers, you don’t always need a prayer book, would also come to understand with time that a church isn’t the only place where you may find divinity. 22

The most absorbing questions are those we can’t answer. 23

A writer who keeps a personal diary uses it to record what he knows. In his poems or stories he sets down what he doesn’t know. 28

Our spiritual life is shaped by alternating currents of exaltation and demysticization. Since we’re now in a period of universal demysticization, we should expect a return to religious dogmatism in the foreseeable future. Which would place me in an awkward situation; I prefer opposing decadence to butting heads with fundamentalists. 30

The young violinist’s artistry even makes me laugh at times; it reminds me yet again that laughter is sometimes the best answer to life’s art’s perfection. 37

It’s not time we lack, but concentration. 140

Introspection isn’t boring when it’s transformed into prayer. It’s directed outward then, toward power. It becomes an arc linking weakness and strength. 175

To tend the world: read a little, listen to a little music. 202

God is hidden. Poetry is obvious. 203

—Thursday 31 May 2001

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