Poetry and politics

November 6, 2017.   Downtown Warsaw.  

A bikers' club pays its respect as about 2000 people march in silence 
to honor Piotr Szczesny who, in a political protest
set himself on fire.
The phrase on the placards - “I the common, gray man” 
comes from the letter Szczesny left behind.    

Fast forward to a poetry meeting in early December:

The meeting is with Adam Zagajewski a poet of a strong stature.  For years his name is spoken around the time of the Nobel For Literature announcement.  Although Zagajewski does not hide his political sympathies his poetry does not deal with politics.  

In one of his poems  called “Mysticism for beginners” Adam Zagajewski describes his epiphany that everything we see in our daily life is just preparation for …..  He does not spell it out but it’s clear he means death or moving into the unknown. 

The poem - after the list of daily images of wonder - ends with a phrase:

“are only mysticism for beginners, 
the introductory course, 
prelude to an exam,  that's been postponed
for later.”

At the beginning of 2017 the publication of the latest poetry book by Zagajewski lost state financial support.  (The new regime tries to marginalize its critics and create “a new elite”).  The publisher called for help and announced subscriptions for the upcoming title.  Among the citizens who chipped in was Piotr Szczesny who later in the year chose to take "the postponed exam" into his hands. 

Szczesny, in a public place, spread copies of a well written, measured letter protesting the current changes in Poland.  Then he set himself on fire and days later died in a hospital.    

Zagajewski says he is in debt to Piotr Szczesny.

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