March 12, 1997 "An Evening with Czeslaw Milosz" at the Library of Congress
Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
On Thursday evening, April 3, Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz will read from his work in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Robert Hass will introduce Mr. Milosz and will discuss his work with him. The program, which is presented under the auspices of the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund, will begin at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are not required.
Born in Lithuania in 1911, Czeslaw Milosz began his writing career when his first works were published in Poland in the 1930s, where he lived during the Nazi occupation. After World War II, he worked for several years as a diplomat in Washington, D.C., in the service of Poland's new communist government. Disillusioned with the Polish regime, he defected to the West in 1951 and spent a decade in Paris as a freelance writer. In 1961, he accepted the position of lecturer in Polish literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where he later became professor of Slavic languages and literatures, a position he currently holds. He spent 20 years teaching at Berkeley and writing primarily in Polish for the people of that country, in which his books were banned. It was not until Mr. Milosz received the Nobel Prize in 1980 that the Polish government lifted the ban on his work, and the poet made his first trip home in 30 years. His works include Bells in Winter (1978), The Issa Valley (1981), The Separate Notebooks (1984), Czeslaw Milosz: The Collected Poems 1931-1987 (1988), Provinces (1991), A Year of the Hunter (1994), and Facing the River (1995), among many others.
Robert Hass has worked with Mr. Milosz as a translator of many of the poems in his Collected Poems and in his books Provinces and Facing the River.
The poetry and literature reading series at the Library of Congress is the oldest in the Washington area, and one of the oldest in the United States. This annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s and has been almost exclusively supported since 1951 by a gift from the late Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who wanted to bring the enjoyment and appreciation of good literature to a larger audience. The Poetry and Literature Center, which administers the series, is also the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late philanthropist Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. Since then, many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 in 1985, as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the literary series, plans other special literary events during the reading season, and usually introduces the programs.