… Unlike many great twentieth-century writers, who saw truth in despair, Milosz’s experiences convinced him that poetry must not darken the world but illuminate it: “Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, / under unbearable duress and only with the hope / that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.” That decision for goodness is what makes Milosz a figure of such rare literary and moral authority. As we enter what looks like our own time of troubles, his poetry and his life offer a reminder of what it meant, and what it took, to survive the twentieth century.(Adam Kirsch, “Czeslaw Milosz’s Battle for Truth,” The New Yorker, 5-29-17)
The stricture on poeticizing comes from a man who wrote prolifically up until dying at age 93. The prescription must mean other and beyond what it purports to say, as poetry will do. And the spirit of either persuasion will choose whom it does, often as not. Surviving such illumination is part of the trick of reading poetry, my evil one tells me.
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