milosz New York, March 4, 2010 — The Polish Cultural Institute in New York and the Unterberg Center of the 92nd Street Y will kick off the US contribution to the worldwide festivities for the centennial of the birth of Nobel Prize-winning poet and author of The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz, with “A Celebration of Czeslaw Milosz,” featuring Milosz’s Berkeley colleague and friend, acclaimed poet Robert Hass; celebrated Polish poet Adam Zagajewski; and translator, scholar, and Milosz biographer Clare Cavanagh in an evening of readings, reminiscences, and reflections on the life and work of Czeslaw Milosz. This tribute extends a long history between the Unterberg Poetry Center and Milosz, who appeared six times at the 92nd Street Y from 1968 through 1993.


The Polish parliament has declared 2011 the “Milosz Year” in honor of one of Poland’s greatest cultural figures, with the patronage of the European Parliament, Lithuanian Parliament, UNESCO, and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which has made approximately $2.42 million USD available in grants this year for projects related to Czeslaw Milosz in Poland and throughout the world..


One hundred years after his birth, fifty-seven years after the publication of his seminal essay [The Captive Mind], Milosz’s indictment of the servile intellectual rings truer than ever: “his chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself.”Tony Judt, New York Review of Books, 2010


Czeslaw Milosz spent over 40 years in the United States, and many of the Milosz Year events in the United States, including major conferences at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Yale University (home to the Milosz archive), will focus on Milosz’s time in America and his American legacy. There will also be symposia, readings, exhibitions, and additional conferences at Columbia University, the University of Michigan, UCLA, Milosz’s home institution – UC Berkeley, and the Czeslaw Milosz Institute at Claremont-McKenna College, among others, and a grand Milosz Festival will take place in Krakow, Poland, from May 9-11.


For a full calendar of Milosz events in the US and a link to the worldwide Milosz Year site, visit

www.PolishCulture-NYC.org. and click on the Milosz Year banner.


Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004), poet, essayist, translator, and literary historian, won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature as a writer „who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts.” His work has been accurately characterized as „one of the monumental splendors of poetry in our age,” (Edward Hirsch, The New York Times Book Review). Milosz was born of Polish parents in the multi-ethnic world of Lithuania, and was raised and educated in Vilnius. While studying for his law degree, as early as 1930 he already began to garner recognition for his poems.  In 1931 he and a his university associates formed the literary circle, “Zagary,” or “Brushweed,” advancing a vision that critics called “catastrophist.”  He traveled between Wilno and Paris in the early 1930s, meeting frequently with his relative, Oskar Milosz, also a poet of metaphysical concerns, returning in 1935.  He was working for Polish Radio in Warsaw when the Germans invaded, then wrote and edited resistance publications, including an underground poetry anthology that proliferated in defiance of the occupation.


After the war Milosz entered the diplomatic service, first as cultural attaché in New York and Washington, and then in Paris, where, following the suppression of Poland’s coalition government in 1951, he requested asylum. In Paris he was vilified by most French intellectuals (who saw Communism and Stalin as the hope of the future) for breaking with the Communist regime, and was regarded coolly by many earlier Polish émigrés for having served it. In part to keep his sanity he wrote The Captive Mind (1953), his brilliant study of the „mental acrobatics” of Polish writers who chose to conform to Stalinist dogmas. In 1960 Milosz accepted a position as a visiting lecturer at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley, and became a full professor in 1961, and for the next twenty years combined his writing with teaching on subjects ranging from Dostoevsky to Manicheanism. Yet in Cold-War America The Captive Mind remained his only well-known work until 1973, when a volume of Milosz’s poetry was first published in English, finally sparking his renown in the English-speaking world as a poet and not just a political essayist.


As a Nobel Laureate Milosz returned to Poland in the summer of 1981 for the first time in 30 years – to a country spiritually liberated by the Solidarity movement – and he was welcomed as a national hero. Publication of his banned books resumed, but was again forbidden with the imposition of martial law that December.  Until 1989 he mainly published in the Paris émigré journal Kultura and in the Polish underground press. After 1989 he lived in Berkeley and Krakow until his death in 2004.


Clare Cavanagh is a specialist in modern Russian, Polish, and Anglo-American poetry.  Her books, Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West and Osip Mandelstam and the Modernist Creation of Tradition have won numerous prizes.  She is also an acclaimed translator of contemporary Polish poets such as Adam Zagajewski and Wislawa Szymborska and is currently working on an authorized biography of Czeslaw Milosz, entitled Czeslaw Milosz and His Age: A Critical Life (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux).  She is a Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Northwestern University.


Robert Hass was born in San Francisco in 1941. His books of poetry include Sun Under Wood, Human Wishes, Praise, and Field Guide, which was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series. He has co-translated several volumes of poetry with Czeslaw Milosz, most recently Facing the River. Hass served as Poet Laureate of the  United States from 1995 to 1997 and is currently a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in California and teaches at the University of California-Berkeley.


Adam Zagajewski was born in Poland in 1945 and became widely known in the US when his poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” appeared on the back page of the 9/11 issue of The New Yorker with its black-on-black cover. Zagajewski moved to Paris in 1982, he began teaching in the University of Houston Creative Writing program in 1988.  Since 2002 he has been splitting his time between Krakow and the US, in recent years teaching at the University of Chicago, where he serves as a visiting professor on the Committee on Social Thought. Volumes of his poetry published in English include: Tremor, Canvas, Mysticism for Beginners, and Without End. Four collections of essays have also been published: Solidarity, Solitude,  Two  Cities, Another Beauty, and A Defense of Ardor. In 2004, he was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.


WHAT:            A CELEBRATION OF CZESLAW MILOSZ featuring Robert Hass,
Adam Zagajewski, and Clare Cavanagh

WHEN:            March 21, 2011, 8 pm

WHERE:          Unterberg Poetry Center

92nd Street Y

1395 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY 10128

TICKETS:       $19/$10 age 35 and under, tel. 212.415.5550,  www.92Y.org/Poetry

The POLISH CULTURAL INSTITUTE IN NEW YORK (www.PolishCulture-NYC.org), established in 2000, is a diplomatic mission dedicated to nurturing and promoting cultural ties between the United States and Poland, both through American exposure to Poland’s cultural achievements, and through exposure of Polish artists and scholars to American trends, institutions, and professional counterparts.

The Institute initiates, organizes, promotes, and produces a broad range of cultural events in theater, music, film, literature, and the fine arts. It has collaborated with such cultural institutions as Lincoln Center Festival (Kalkwerk in 2009); BAM (Krum by TR Warszawa in BAM’s 2007 Next Wave Festival, which received a Village Voice Obie Award); Art at St. Ann’s (TR Warszawa’s Macbeth, 2008); Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center; La MaMa E.T.C.; Film Society of Lincoln Center (Kieslowski and Wajda retrospective, among others); The Museum of Modern Art; Jewish Museum; PEN World Voices Festival; Poetry Society of America; Yale University; and many more. PCI co-produced the off-Broadway run of Irena’s Vow, with Tovah Feldshuh, which ran on Broadway in 2009, as well as the widely acclaimed New York Unsound Festival in 2010.

THE UNTERBERG POETRY CENTER of the 92nd Street Y presents this country’s most comprehensive annual series of readings by writers in every literary genre (poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama), as well as special programs featuring the spoken word. The center also offers a wide range of courses, from literary seminars and lectures to writing workshops and tutorials, designed to provide writers the opportunity to receive detailed criticism from an experienced teacher who is also a practicing author.