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Reflections of a working writer and reader



A Poem by Czeslaw Milosz

A Confession (1985)

My Lord, I loved strawberry jam
And the dark sweetness of a woman’s body.
Also well-chilled vodka, herring in olive oil,
Scents, of cinnamon, of cloves.
So what kind of prophet am I? Why should the spirit
Have visited such a man? Many others
Were justly called, and trustworthy.
Who would have trusted me? For they saw
How I empty glasses, throw myself on food,
And glance greedily at the waitress’s neck.
Flawed and aware of it. Desiring greatness,
Able to recognise greatness wherever it is,
And yet not quite, only in part, clairvoyant,
I knew what was left for smaller men like me:
A feast of brief hopes, a rally of the proud,
A tournament of hunchbacks, literature.

14 Responses to “A Poem by Czeslaw Milosz”

  1. Pearl says:

    That’s an awesome poem in sound and content. I’ll have to look for more by him.

    Do you have some sort of plugin John? Do you hold all comment for moderation and get it to recognize your logged in appending or do you hand-change the font for your response?

    jb says: I don’t use a plugin. I do hold all comments for moderation, though. Then, whenever I log in I get rid of the rubbish and reply to comments that strike me as needing a reply. I don’t change the font, but I do make the beginning of my answer ‘bold’ to differentiate it from the comment.

  2. Robert says:

    I just discovered this, John, as I am just discovering the remarkable man that was Milosz – alas, too late.

    jb says: Can’t be too late, Robert. It’s all there for us.

  3. Lukasz says:

    Thank you for that poem in English. I was looking for it since a while. Is it your translation? Milosz was a great poet. I have studied his early works in school (compulsory), but now enjoy his later works much more – so deep and ironic to himself. I remember, I saw him ones when he gave a speech at my university. Then, I was ashamed when he died and the ‘discussion’ in the media started on whether engrave him with another important Polish poets in Skalka-church in Krakow or not. The argument of the opponents was… he was not 100% Polish, he was a communist, his work is ambiguous… Finally his grave is there and one can visit it. But what he has left us as poet, speaks for himself.

    jb says: Hi Lukasz, good to hear from you, and thanks for the story around Milosz’ death. I don’t know who translated the poem.

  4. daibhid says:

    Hi there,
    Actually, Milosz had most of his work translated by Robert Pinsky, and a few others he hand-picked. He was very authoritarian in his translations, and was heavily involved in the process itself. Some have described him as a ‘control freak’.
    All in all, a beautiful poem. hits you in the pit of the core. What a man.

    jb says: Hi Daibhid. Thanks for your comment and the info about his translators.
    Yes, a wonderful poem. Keeps drawing me back.

  5. Wow definitely my favorite author/poet of all time. Glad to know other people are still aware of his works. His book The Captive Mind is said to be still used as reference material by different governments to better understand communist culture… his works will live on forever, great post jb.


  6. Pearl Earrings says:

    I would say it is nice, but I read other poems by Czeslaw, and trust me if you are into poems – you need to read his other works. Some are very deep.

  7. Gas Fires Liverpool says:

    For me, more than his poetry, his book The Captive Mind is considered one of the finest studies of the condition of intellectuals, he said that the intellectuals who became dissidents were not necessarily the ones with the strongest minds, but those with the weakest stomachs. The mind can rationalize anything, he said, but the stomach can only take so much. A very inspiring book! I recommend you read it!

  8. Great Poem. I’m personally a big fan of poems. This is the first time i found a poem by Czeslaw Milosz. So i’m really looking forward to see some more Poems of Czeslaw Milosz! Thank you john for posting this! This is indeed a Superb poem! I loved it!

  9. Flueless says:

    Milosz was definitely a poet who spanned his century. Born in a Lithuanian-Polish province of tsarist Russia, Czeslaw Milosz died having seen the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian empires rise and fall, while his two native lands finally escaped their miserable history to end up safe and free. He wrote about it all, mostly in exile in America, in essays, novels and volumes of poems.

  10. muffins says:

    This poem sounds fantastic! Could you please tell me where can I learn more about the author?

  11. Lawn care Murfreesboro says:

    I love that first one. The one entitled “A Confession (1985)”; Simply because, I also love strawberry jam.

  12. […] only to those rather unfairly maligned ‘sophomore girls’. Miłosz writes in another poem (‘A Confession’) of literature as ‘a tournament of hunchbacks’, the preserve of ‘smaller men, like […]

  13. […] only to those rather unfairly maligned ‘sophomore girls’. Miłosz writes in another poem (‘A Confession’) of literature as ‘a tournament of hunchbacks’, the preserve of ‘smaller men, like […]