The Collected Poems 1956-1998
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Every great poet lives between two worlds. One of these is the real, tangible world of history, private for some and public for others. The other world is a dense layer of dreams, imagination, fantasms. It sometimes happens...that this second wor Continue
Every great poet lives between two worlds. One of these is the real, tangible world of history, private for some and public for others. The other world is a dense layer of dreams, imagination, fantasms. It sometimes happens...that this second world takes on gigantic proportions, that it becomes inhabited by numerous spirits, that it is haunted by leo Africanus and other ancient magi.
These two territories conduct complex negotiations, the result of which are poems. Poets strive for the first world, the real one, conscientiously trying to reach it, to reach the place where the minds of many people meet; but their efforts are hindered by the second world, just as the dreams and hallucinations of certain sick people prevent them from understanding and experiencing events in their waking hours. except that in great poets these hindrances are rather a symptom of mental health, since the world is by nature dual, and poets pay tribute with their own duality to the true structure of reality, which is composed of day and night, sober intelligence and fleeting fantasies, desire and gratification.
There is no poetry without this duality....
And this is the common vector of all Herbert's poetry; let us not be misled by its adornments, its nymphs and satyrs, its columns and quotations. this poetry is about the pain of the twentieth century, about accepting the cruelty of an inhuman age, about an extraordinary sense of reality. And the fact that at the same time the poet loses none of his lyricism or his sense of humorthis is the unfathomable secret of a great artist.
from the introduction by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Bill Johnston)