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Today’s featured poem on Slate was “About My Mother,” by a Polish poet named Adam Zagajewski. You can read the poem along with Zagajewski as he reads it for Slate at this link. The author and reader, Adam Zagajewski, is a poet, novelist, and essayist who was born in Lvov, in the Ukraine. He is one of the most famous Polish poets and has written many books throughout his lifetime. Zagajewski has won, in the past, a fellowship from the Berliner Kunstlerprogramm, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize, a Prix de la Liberté, and a Guggenheim Fellowship
This, to me, is one of those poems that benefits greatly from being read by the actual poet. Zagajewski’s voice seems to portray so perfectly the woe that comes with losing a loved one and remembering back on everything we loved, or even hated, about them. His deep, sonorous, heavily accented voice makes the poem resonate with the listener, and I don’t think anyone else could pull that off but the poet himself.
The poem itself reads like a list of all those things we might identify in our own mothers and come to love or hate. Zagajewski’s message is a fairly universal one, the feeling that one has after losing a parent and not being able to even voice the things we thought when they were alive. As I’ve learned, making things more specific increases their universal appeal, and I definitely see Zagajewski doing that here. All of the details about his mother that he names in the poem are very specific, but the poem is also easy to relate to.
A very powerful poem that makes you think about what you might want to say to your parents now, if they are still around. Again, you can listen to Zagajewski read his poem and follow along at this post on Slate. Feel free to post your reactions in the comments.
— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan