Czeslaw Milosz, T.S. Eliot, and the Generative Canon

a talk by Peter Dale Scott, with introduction by Robert Hass
D37 - Hearst Field Annex
Tuesday, February 21
5:30 pm
picture of Czeslaw Milosz, T.S. Eliot, and the Generative Canon

T.S. Eliot and Czeslaw Milosz, both great but idiosyncratic poets, can be closely compared but also contrasted. Milosz was deeply indebted to Eliot’s notion of the poet’s relationship to the “ideal order” of the past. But Milosz (who unlike Eliot believed himself to be guided by a daimonion or inner voice) also revived the belief of Blake and Whitman in the responsibility of poets to break with that past. In Milosz’s words, “The poetic act both anticipates the future and speeds its coming.” I see the two poets, in their creative disagreements, as part of one dialectical "anti-traditional tradition" (Octavio Paz), or what I call a generative canon.

Reception to follow. 

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Peter Dale Scott translated Polish poetry with Czeslaw Milosz in the 1960s, and with him produced the first book in English of the poetry of Zbigniew Herbert, His own poetry books include Walking on Darkness (2016). and also his trilogy Seculum: Coming to Jakarta (1989), Listening to the Candle (1992), and Minding the Darkness (2000). A former Canadian diplomat, he was a professor in the UC Berkeley English Department from 1966 to 1994, and also a co-founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at UC Berkeley, In 2002 he was awarded the Lannan Poetry Award.