Mysticism for Beginners
By Adam Zagajewski

If I had to choose between the daily newspaper and poetry, I would forgo the Times, because the great poets—and in this group I certainly count Adam Zagajewski, along with Seamus Heaney, Anne Carson, and Czeslaw Milosz—deliver essential and eternal news, usually in the form of questions. They nudge us to challenge ourselves about how we are spending our one life. A Polish poet now living in Paris and Houston, Zagajewski writes modest, frank meditations that approach contemporary prayer. In a poem called "Moment," he distills happiness, always the hardest emotional coloration to find arrested on the printed page:

We went out. The pale sun shone,
tinny music tinkled softly
from a car, two jays
studied us, humans,
threads of longing dangled in the air.…

This moment, mortal as you or I,
was full of boundless, senseless,
silly joy, as if it knew
something we didn't.


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