While I was in Honolulu of course I went to the bookshop. No hanging around beaches and surfing all day for me! I picked up a load of light beach lit — Hanna Arendt, Samuel Beckett and Czelaw Milosz. Appropriate enough, actually, Milosz has written enough poems about beauty of beaches and nature….and really whether or not one would be better off staying inside and thinking some more. Amongst the Milosz books I bought I was very happy to find “Second space”, which is the last book of poems he wrote before his death in 2004. There are many fine poems within, a particularly wonderful one is “Apprentice” which milosz writes about his relative, Oscar Milosz. It contains the following heart-stopping lines, written about the death and burial of Josef Brodsky in Venice:
“So Venice sets sail like a great ship of death,
On its deck a swarming crowd of people changed into ghosts.
I said my farewell at San Michele by Joseph’s grave and Ezra Pound’s.
The city was ready, of course, to receive the crowds of the unborn
For whom we will be just an enigmatic legend.”
And mr Milosz, you great and good man, you would be already gone from us before your poem reached the shores of the English language….and me, I spent the next few days driving around Kauai with my copy of “Second Space” lodged in the windscreen of my rental car. Every so often, when I stopped a particularly remote location, I would open the book at those lines and read them, just to make sure that they were still there.