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“Have I fulfilled anything, have I been of use to anyone?” Czesaw Miosz asks in “From the Rising of the Sun.” The self-doubt seems genuine and is still evident in an extraordinary later poem such as “Far Away,” published when he was eighty. Yet while Miosz could not stop asking himself these questions, his readers certainly may. He created a body of poetry and prose that serves as an eloquent testament to the human spirit struggling with the extremes of twentieth century experience. In that—in his poetic witness—Miosz was, indeed, “of use” to everyone fortunate enough to have discovered his work.

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Critical Essays