Czeslaw Milosz Poet

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Welcome, I want to celebrate Polish-American month with you which is in October. To help celebrate, I have decided to focus on writers. I want to share some of their success. So, this month, I will be writing a blog post about different Polish-American writers.

Early Life in Europe

The first writer I have selected is Czeslaw Milosz, born on June 30, 1911. As a young boy, he endured several wars to include World War I, Polish-Soviet War, World War II. Even with all this going on, he proved to be an extraordinary student. He learned several languages Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English, French, and Hebrew.

While he attended college, Czeslaw joined a student poetry group called Zagary. His first published poems appeared in the university’s student magazine in 1930. During a break, he visited a cousin in Paris, Oscar Milosz, a French Poet. He became Czeslaw’s mentor. Upon his return to school, Czeslaw noticed the difference between the class of people. He felt sympathy for those less fortunate than himself. He took up action for the defense of Jewish students. His first volume of Poetry, “A Poem on Frozen Time,” was published in 1933. This year, he read an anti-racist poem at the “Poetry of Protest” event in Wilno. After his graduation in 1934, he left with his law degree. The poetry group Zagary disbands.

Relocated to Paris on a scholarship to study for a year. He also wrote articles for the newspaper in Wilno. During his stay in Paris, he frequently visited his cousin Oscar.

Back in Wilno, he worked on literary programs for Radio Wilno. Czeslaw’s second poetry collection, “Three Winters,” was published in 1936. After a year with Radio Wilno, he had been let go due to an accusation of being a left-wing sympathizer.

In the summer of 1937, Czeslaw moved to Warsaw to work at the Polish Radio. Here he met his wife, Janina 1909-1986(Death).

Life in the United States

Czeslaw was offered a position as a visiting lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley, California. This offer allowed him to move to the United States. Doing his job so well, by being an adept and popular teacher, he got offered tenure in a short period of two months. Despite his successful transition to the United States, his early years at Berkeley were frustrated for him by being is located from friends plus viewed as a political figure instead of a great poet. Wanting to get his poetry as well as other Polish poet’s work into the hands of the American people, he conceived and edited the anthology “Postwar Polish Poetry” written in English published in 1965.

His colleagues were unaware of Czeslaw creative writing until he won the Noble Prize, this took place on October 9, 1980, mainly due to this poetry was not available in English, and it couldn’t be published in Poland. The Swedish Academy announced that he had won the Noble Prize, which gave him global fame. As the news spread of his win of the Nobel Prize. After 30-years of not being able to publish his work in Poland. His writing was finally able to be published in limited selections. He also was allowed to visit Poland since he had to flee in 1951, greeted by crowds, a hero’s welcome.

Appointed the Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University in 1981, he delivered Charles Elio Norton Lectures. This allowed him the opportunity to draw attention to writers who had been unjustly imprisoned or persecuted. These lectures were published in 1983.

He published his work in Polish through a publisher in Paris. Czeslaw also had his poems appeared in English, to put them in a single volume. After the fall of communism in Poland, he split his time between Berkeley and Krakow.

When Lithuania broke free from the Soviet Union, Czeslaw visited for the first time since 1939.

Fortunate to meet another wonderful woman. Czeslaw married to Carol Thigpen, an academic at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia 1992-2002(Her death).

Czeslaw wrote poetry up until his death on August 14, 2004, at his home in Krakow. He died at the age of 93, given a state funeral at the historic Mariacki Church in Krakow. Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka attended, as did the former President of Poland, Lech Walesa. He had a military escort as his coffin was moved through the thousands of witnesses that had lined the streets. His final resting place is at Kalka Roman Catholic Church, where he was one of the last to be commemorated.

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