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Czesław Miłosz translated my poem


Who is the best Polish poet?
Tomas Venclova Poet
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Well, we were sitting there and looking at the cruiser Aurora outside the window, it was docked there like a museum exhibit and it's still there now, and then [Joseph] Brodsky asked me, 'Who in your opinion is the best Polish poet? In my opinion it's Zbigniew Herbert'. I said, 'Zbigniew Herbert is a good poet but there's also Czesław Miłosz'. 'And who is this Czesław Miłosz?' Brodsky asked. 'Well', I said, 'an emigrant, that's why we know so little about him, but I have read some of his work'. 'And what sort of poet is he?' Brodsky asked, 'Who is he similar to?' I said, 'Well, it's hard to say, every great poet is similar to himself but perhaps somewhat resembles [WH] Auden, the English poet, and perhaps you'. 'Ah, if that's so,' said Brodsky, 'then he's a good poet'. And soon after that he went to the West, knowing only that about Miłosz. But in the West they quickly got to know each other, became friends and after that there was this, as it were, the friendship of two men, a Russian and a Pole, who together took part in literary evenings, in various kinds of dialogues and so on.

Na, tai va sėdėjom ir matėm ta kreiserį "Aurora" už lango, jis ten stovi kaip muziejinis objektas, ir dabar dar stovi, ir tada Brodskis mane paklausė: o kas, tavo manymu, geriausias Lenkijos poetas? Mano manymu Zbignevas Herbertas. Aš sakau: Zbignevas Herbertas yra geras poetas, bet yra dar Česlovas Milošas. O kas yra tas Česlovas Milošas? – paklausė Brodskis. Na, sakau, emigrantas, dėl to mes jį mažai žinome, bet aš esu jį šiek tiek skaitęs. Na, o koks tai poetas? – klausia Brodskis – į ką jis panašus? Sakau, nu, sunku pasakyti, kiekvienas didis poetas panašus į save patį, bet gal šiek tiek į Odeną, anglų poetą, gal šiek tiek į tave. A, jeigu šitaip – pasakė Brodskis – reiškia geras poetas. Ir netrukus išvažiavo į Vakarus, tiek žinodamas apie Milošą. Bet Vakaruose jie greitai susipažino, susidraugavo ir paskui jau buvo toks jų tarsi, taip sakant, dviejų vyrų bičiulystė, ruso ir lenko, kurie kartu dalyvavo literatūros vakaruose, skelbė įvairius dialogus ir taip toliau.

Born in 1937, Tomas Venclova is a Lithuanian scholar, poet, author and translator of literature. He was educated at Vilnius University and later at Tartu University. As an active participant in the dissident movement he was deprived of Soviet citizenship in 1977 and had to emigrate. Between 1977 and 1980 he lectured at University of California, Berkeley, where he became friends with the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, who was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the school, as well as the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. He is currently a full professor at Yale University.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Aurora, Joseph Brodsky, Zbigniew Herbert, Czesław Miłosz, WH Auden

Duration: 1 minute, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012