Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
In Unattainable Earth, Czesaw Miosz’s first collection of poetry published after receiving the Nobel Prize in 1980, he sets himself a task that he acknowledges is unachievable: to create a literature that embraces a world too immense for our limited vision and insufficient language. In his preface, Miosz notes that the Polish title for the collection means “earth too huge to be grasped,” which provides both a central thematic figure and a sense of scale for the poet’s ambition “to transcend my place and time, searching for the Real.”
In his poems, the writer not only shrugs against the limitations of consciousness and humanity’s fallen state but also struggles against the constraints of form. Rather than simply a collection of poems, Unattainable Earth is much more. It is filled with aphorisms and philosophical pronouncements as well as lyric poetry, and the book expands its formal boundaries by mortaring what Miosz calls “Inscripts”—prose fragments and full poems by other authors, even letters he received—into the architecture of the collection.
These interpolations are wide-ranging but consistent. They include passages from the third century Corpus Hermeticum (a collection of Greek texts from a more extensive group of works containing secret wisdom known as Hermetica), as well as writings by Miosz’s more immediate spiritual forebears, such as the philosopher Simone Weil and his cousin, the...
(The entire section is 854 words.)
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