This outstanding new translation brings a uniformity of voice to Zbigniew Herbert's entire poetic output, from his first book of poems, String of Light, in 1956, to his final volume, previously unpublished in English, Epilogue Of the Storm. Collected Poems: 1956-1998, as Joseph Brodsky said of Herbert's SSelected Poems, is "bound for a much longer haul than any of us can anticipate." He continues, "For Zbigniew Herbert's poetry adds to the biography of civilization the sensibility of a man not defeated by the century that has been most thorough, most effective in dehumanization of the species. Herbert's irony, his austere reserve and his compassion, the lucidity of his lyricism, the intensity of his sentiment toward classical antiquity, are not just trappings of a modern poet, but the necessary armor--in his case well-tempered and shining indeed--for man not to be crushed by the onslaught of reality. By offering to his readers neither aesthetic nor ethical discount, this poet, in fact, saves them frorn that poverty which every form of human evil finds so congenial. As long as the species exists, this book will be timely."
"Herbert has been fortunate in his translators: Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz, John and Bogdana Carpenter. I know no Polish, but Herbert, in their translations, came to form part of the landscape of my mind."
'Chord of light' originally published in 1956 is so far the weakest collection--though everything by Herbert IMO is very good to great. With his second collection--'Hermes, dog and star'-- from 1957 he seems to have gotten his stride. The third 'Study of the object' is just wonderful--especially some of the prose poems. For those who haven't read anything by Herbert--a quick google on the internet will hopefully be enlightening. One should do a search on the poem 'Report from the besieged city' also the title of a collection or do another search on 'Mr. Cogito' the title of yet another collection and a kind of an alter-ego that Herbert would sometimes use. His poetry tends towards lucidity. They are not hard to understand. I find it very beautiful. He and Nicanor Parra IMO are the greatest poets of the 20th century.