The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 09, 2008

I Thought, I'm So Imperfect

I always find Adam Zagajewski's poetry to be deceptively simple. His language choices--while obviously deliberate and purposeful--come across as effortless, especially in the poem I have for you below, En Route. The nominal story is a trip through Europe, and the words read as lightly as if Zagajewski had simply dashed off the poem while riding on a train, mailed it off to his publisher, and forgotten all about it until it surfaced before him to be read at the 92nd Street Y.

Zagajewski also has this incredibly dry wit, one that makes his poems feel especially light at first reading. There's a great line in En Route--

No, ma'am, I said,
this is the nontalking compartment.

--that I am considering using with the teenagers who ride the subway with me in the mornings. I'll let you know if it works.   

All of this conspires to make his work that much closer to my heart. There's an incredible sense of invitation in all of this lightness, which is in fact surrounding a pretty heavy poem. And in the audio below, there's the added bonus of Zagajewski's voice reading in deliberate syllables, taking time to make side comments to the audience and pausing to allow space for the laughter--I love it.

You can download En Route here, or stream it in the player below.

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