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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Mediterranean Poems

Aleksander Wat

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Title: Mediterranean Poems
Author: Aleksander Wat
Genre: Poetry
Written: (Eng. 1977)
Length: 53 pages
Original in: Polish
Availability: Mediterranean Poems - US
  • Edited, Translated, and with a Foreword by Czeslaw Milosz
  • Includes poems written between 1949 and 1963

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Our Assessment:

A- : impressive collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Mediterranean Poems is a short volume containing a selection of Wat's poems; not all are dated (and the Foreword doesn't provide much background), but they seem to all come from Wat's post-World War II writings.
       The book has two parts: the first contains shorter poems, generally a page or two in length, while the second half consists of two longer poem-cycles.
       The poems impress from the first. Dark but lively, many are poems of absolutism and of possible escape, illusions and hopes to cling to against the completely overwhelming:

How, if not for work, could we live in the paradise of social hygienists
who never soak their hands in blood without aseptic gloves ?
Horror !
How else could we cope with death ?
       It's the painter Breughel Wat identifies with in the poem, and that same bright, almost playful approach to horror is found throughout: a shouting skull, a flamingo's dream in which there is only water ("If only a speck of land ! / There is no salvation."), a girl comforted by her father's executioner, and a brilliant turning of tables on a torturer, by a man who refuses to acknowledge his foe's objective existence.
       There's a narrative or story to most of the poems, and among the best is the longer "A Turtle from Oxford", relating an encounter with an ancient talking turtle.
       The longer sequences, "Songs of a Wanderer" and "Dreams from the Shores of the Mediterranean" also show a remarkable command, longer philosophical play and speculation artfully crafted. Easy compelling reading, all of it: it's a powerful collection. Recommended.

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Aleksander Wat: Other books by Aleksander Wat under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Aleksander Wat (1900-1967) was a leading Polish writer.

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