I Wake Up for Poetry’s Sake


One of the book fair guests was the legendary Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. His work has received countless accolades and he is considered a serious contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Friday meeting with this outstanding representative of the world of poetry was attended by many book fair visitors, and Adam Zagajewski's open and communicative style only proved that far from being absentminded dreamers, poets are quite normal flesh-and-bones mortals. "Why do I resort to poetry rather than prose? Because, quite simply, some thoughts and feelings are more easily expressed through verse," he explained his division of labour. "For example, I visited the Gulf of Mexico, which had made a great impression on me and I was missing the words to describe that moment. Perhaps I could express it in music, but not in a multitude of words. Poetry is more internal, it is more on the interior level, it is more readily available to describe feelings. That's why I usually choose poems." When asked why his works often deal with the past, he replied that revisiting exceptional moments of life is like reliving one's childhood. "The past is ever-present in us, it is deep-rooted and sometimes it emerges without us even realising. It is lodged somewhere inside." To the question of how he works, he answered with wit, "As soon as I wake up in the morning I already know whether it's going to be a day for poetry or for prose. As you can see, more often than not I wake up into poetry days." The ensuing discussion also involved questions about the influence of politics on his work. Having signed the Letter of 59, an anti-Soviet petition, he became a banned author in 1975, lived in emigration and only returned to Poland in 2002. "You can't just close your eyes to the world around you," he explained, adding that politics is still an influence on his work today. This wasn't Adam Zagajewski's first visit to Prague - he has a close connection with the city and even wrote a poem about it called September, describing his search for the poet Vladimír Holan's house. His latest book to be published in Czech is entitled Neviditelné věci (Invisible Things).