To the Editors:
In the June, 1983, issue of The New Criterion, Stanislaw Baranczak reviewed Czeslaw Milosz’s book The Witness of Poetry. . . . Mr. Baranczak quotes Milosz saying that poetry can sometimes “save nations or people,” and draws from that a conclusion that “in countries such as Poland contemporary poetry more than once proved indispensable to society’s existence; its role as a witness to reality, a defense against oppression, and a source of hope is not an abstract axiom but the concrete and personal experience of many people.”
I personally cannot say for how many people poetry plays this role, but I have a sad feeling that it would not be a difficult task to count them. As for the whole idea, it belongs, when confronted with the reality of the contemporary world, to the category of “wishful thinking.” . . .
It is true that Milosz’s poems were...