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The World


Świat is a collection of poems by Czesław Miłosz. They were written in the author’s native Polish, which I regret not being able to enjoy; they were at least translated by him. Poetry, like narrative story-telling or the contract you signed to get a mortgage, is a form of language, but as far as I’m concerned it’s no more artificial than the notarized legal document which committed you to three hundred and sixty monthly installment until that house is really yours (though it’s likely to be owned by your kids, who will feel vastly different about it than you do).

Portrait of Czesław Miłosz by Jim Dine

I should probably have mentioned that świat derives from the proto-Slavic word for light or world. That pairing offers unexpected comfort, doesn’t it: the association of the world with light, a far cry from our experience lately. I wonder what Miłosz was up to; he translates it as “the world”.

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