“Try to praise the mutilated world”: Adam Zagajewski and the poetry of 9/11

Clare Cavanagh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Adam Zagajewski’s poem addresses history’s victims only obliquely, through its refugees and abandoned homesteads. Lyric history, as Zagajewski envisions it, retains its humanity through its specificity and thus remains habitable and human in spite of the endless exiles and executioners. As throughout Zagajewski’s writing, the natural world is steeped in human history, and though he makes no explicit mention of it, this history is clearly informed by modern Polish experience. The poem emerges from experience that is both deeply personal and profoundly historical. “Try to praise the mutilated world, " the poet bids himself as the poem begins; and forms of this exhortation recur four times in the space of the poem’s twenty-one lines. The compassion for all “refugees headed nowhere” that gives Zagajewski’s poem resonance far beyond the borders of his lost homeland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge World Companion to Polish Literature
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781000453591
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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