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92Y / Paris Review Interview Series: Czesław Miłosz with Robert Faggen

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Posted on June 29, 2015

This conversation between Czesław Miłosz and Robert Faggen, part of a collaboration between 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center and The Paris Review, was recorded live at 92Y on October 4, 1993. We are able to share the recording thanks to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, longtime friend of the Poetry Center and The Paris Review. Here is an excerpt from the full interview that ran in The Paris Review as The Art of Poetry No. 70 in the winter of 1994.

INTERVIEWER

Do you feel, as Eliot did, that poetry is an escape from personality?

MILOSZ

This has been a constant problem for me. Literature is born out of a desire to be truthful—not to hide anything and not to present oneself as somebody else. Yet when you write there are certain obligations, what I call laws of form. You cannot tell everything. Of course, it’s true that people talk too much and without restraint. But poetry imposes certain restraints. Nevertheless, there is always the feeling that you didn’t unveil yourself enough. A book is finished and appears and I feel, Well, next time I will unveil myself. And when the next book appears, I have the same feeling. And then your life ends, and that’s it.

INTERVIEWER

There are confessions in a number of your poems. Do you feel that confession leads to anything?

MILOSZ

I don’t know. I have never been psychoanalyzed. I am very skeptical as far as psychiatry is concerned. My dream is to be on a couch and to tell everything, but I wouldn’t be able to, probably, and besides it wouldn’t lead anywhere.

Christopher Lightfoot Walker

Christopher Lightfoot Walker (1954-2012) served as poster director, prints director and advisory editor of The Paris Review. He also volunteered at the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center, making transcriptions, which were models of their kind, of audio recordings of live literary events. Chris was born in New York City, attended the Buckley School, then went west to Fountain Valley School and back east to Hampshire College. He was engaged in a number of entrepreneurial efforts (some in collaboration with his father, Angus Lightfoot Walker, longtime chairman of the City Investing Company), when, at the age of 31, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He wore his adversity lightly, retaining, in addition to his considerable wits, his sense of humor and sense of fun. Against the odds he remained a person on whom no delightful thing was ever lost. Chris was always grateful for the refuge he was able to find in the work provided by 92Y.

This post is part of 92Y/The Paris Review: Interview Series.