Today’s book recommendations are a strike against social isolation. This week I found myself reading my way into community by exploring the new book, Summer Snow, by former Poet Laureate Robert Hass alongside an older collection, Unattainable Earth, by the inimitable Czeslaw Milosz.
Hass worked with Milosz to translate many of the poems in Unattainable Earth, and so that is one way I see community and communion at play in these collections. The long, stunning poem by Hass (from Summer Snow), is an imagining of a conversation between the two poets. I love thinking about how writers think about each other’s lives and minds.
Milosz himself made a point of creating such communion in Unattainable Earth. In the original Polish version of the book, Milosz translated English-language poems into Polish. In the American version of the book, in which Milosz’s own work is what we receive in translation, Milosz’s poems sit alongside English-language masterpieces by poets such as D. H. Lawrence and Walt Whitman.
Just because we’re staying at home doesn’t mean we can’t hang out together. I am grateful to Hass and Milosz for these examples of what happens when poets talk, think, translate, share, and imagine a world together, across continents and centuries and collections.