Closure of Conference project. Post-Conference Plans

Many many thanks to everyone who participated in the conference, to all those who presented papers, read their poetry or translations, contributed to discussions or just came to listen.

This blog will remain open as a record of the conference proceedings and will continue to include the programme, the abstracts of the presentations and the short biographies of the participants.

We have removed the conference papers from this site because we intend to include revised versions in a post-conference book. This book will not be a representation of the conference proceedings as such, however, but a volume of articles roughly reflecting the structure of the conference. The book will be edited by Ursula Philips, supported by a team of advisers (Urszula Chowaniec, Knut Andreas Grimstad, Kris Van Heuckelom and Elwira Grossman). It is expected that the volume will appear in 2013.

Should anyone wish to contact the authors of papers or read the original papers, please contact the conference organizer.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Cynthia L. Haven

MIŁOSZ: The Moment After Death

In this paper, I will discuss Miłosz, memory, and how we must now offer the kindness the poet so willingly extended to us: retrieving a legacy from oblivion, more specifically in this case, rescuing it from a world which might diminish it.
“It seems to me every poet after death goes through a Purgatory,” Czesław Miłosz told me a decade ago. “So he must go through that moment of revision after death.” Miłosz stands poised at such a moment in his own Purgatory, and, if what he said holds true, he will remain there for several decades to come. 
How do we retrieve him from redefinition, as the world that would contradict and correct such misimpressions vanishes?  I will address how my work (both for the new An Invisible Rope:  Portraits of Czesław Miłosz and Czesław Miłosz: Conversations in 2006) contributes to the scholarship on Miłosz. I will discuss how the effort to reconstruct what Znak publisher Jerzy Illg has called “the Continent Miłosz” complements scholarly interpretations and provides the background for other studies.  In doing so, I would like to discuss also, the very impulse to preserve memory – an effort central to Miłosz’s oeuvre.   
As he once spoke of the need to rescue people, places, and objects from oblivion, now it is our turn to perform the same service for him.  This is more than pennies on his eyes.  I will suggest that the very effort is a small movement from devenir to être. 
In the poet’s words to me at Grizzly Peak: “There was at a given moment a stable world where we could see, hold on to values that were a reflection of the eternal order of things. Now we are in a flux. This is a very peculiar way of life.” Miłosz respected what he called “a sense of hierarchy,” “a sort of piety, I should say, for the past, for some crucial points in our history.” Focusing on my two books on Miłosz, I will address the idea of Miłosz himself as one of those “stable points,” and what “service” to his memory of means for us, and for our relationship today to his legacy.

For those of us in America, where the poet spent four decades, Miłosz’s life, knowledge, and oeuvre are a through-the-looking-glass foray into a vanishing world of art, history, education, values, aesthetics. As I wrote in the introduction to my forthcoming An Invisible Rope, “His sense of hierarchy and values, puts him squarely, if reluctantly, in a select spiritual salon.” 
I would offer Miłosz himself as a cure to our present-day nihilism and spiritual malaise, from a culture self-obliterating in the Age of the Tweet.

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