Czeslaw Milosz: Poems Background

Czeslaw Milosz: Poems Background

A native-born Lithuanian, Milosz grew up in Czarist Russia. His parents brought him up a humble servant of the Catholic Church, a relationship which he struggled with his entire life but to which he remained true. Returning to his homeland which was now Poland, Milosz lived through a couple of nasty social regimes. He began his poetry career following the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939. In fact most of his poetry was published in his early career, as he preferred political essay in his later life.

Milosz published a semi-autobiographical book about his experiences in the war titled The Captive Mind. Following the book's success, he pursued a more serious political career, writing often about his time in Poland. In the 1960s he moved to California, living near San Francisco Bay. This dramatic change of environment sparked numerous poems, essays, and other written works which attempted to wrestle with feelings of being the outsider who still somehow knows more than the insider. Milosz was confused by American ignorance in light of his own dramatic life experiences.

In 1980 he received a Nobel Prize, the crowning achievement of his career, but he was not done. He continued to publish poems and essay collections into the early 2000s before his death. Milosz viewed writing as his duty, since he had been uniquely positioned to understand political and social complexities which lead to such awful wars as WWII. His writing is an amalgam of his own self-therapy and words which he believes people need to be told and take seriously. Overall his works have somber and anxious notes, but they are filled with beauty.

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