Adam Zagajewski (1945-2021) was a Polish poet who was considered one of the “Generation of ’68” or “New Wave” writers in Poland. He was in residence in 1981, a year before he left Poland for Paris and a life of exile, producing dissident protest poetry, which was banned in his home country. Though he later moved away from that emphasis, he didn’t return to Poland until 2002.
Zagajewski earned a degree in psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow in 1968 and a master’s in philosophy in 1970. He taught at the Institute of Social Science of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow.
According to The New York Times, he published his first poem in 1967, a year later founded the poetry group Teraz, a poetry group inspired by the police suppression of protests against government anti-Semitism, and wrote (with Julian Kornhauser) a manifesto for the New Wave of avant garde poets in 1974 urging realism and a move to “speak the truth you serve.”
The reviewer Joachim T. Baer noted in World Literature Today that Zagajewski’s themes “are the night, dreams, history and time, infinity and eternity, silence and death.” The titles of his collections of poetry suggest some of these concerns: Tremor (1985), Mysticism for Beginners (1997), and World Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002). Writing of Zagajewski’s 1991 collection of poems, Canvas, poet and reviewer Robert Pinsky commented that the poems are “about the presence of the past in ordinary life: history not as chronicle of the dead, or an anima to be illuminated by some doctrine, but as an immense, sometimes subtle force inhering in what people see and feel every day—and in the ways we see and feel.” Zagajewski’s prose collections include Two Cities: On Exile, History and The Imagination (1995) and the 2000 memoir Another Beauty. Zagajewski was a winner of the Prix de la Liberté as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Berliner Kunstleprogramm.