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A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry
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A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,344 ratings  ·  152 reviews
"A collection of 300 poems from writers around the world, selected and edited by Nobel laureate Czeslaw MiloszCzesław Miłosz's A Book of Luminous Things—his personal selection of poems from the past and present—is a testament to the stunning varieties of human experience, offered up so that we may see the myriad ways that experience can be shared in words and images. ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by Mariner Books
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Marilyn Basel 1996 edition San Diego, New York and London. My copy says USA on colophon page so my copy printed by Harcourt, Brace was printed in one of the first…more1996 edition San Diego, New York and London. My copy says USA on colophon page so my copy printed by Harcourt, Brace was printed in one of the first two cities. Editions in Europe most likely say London.(less)

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Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kris
Shelves: poetry
'I have always felt that a poet participates in the management of the estate of poetry, of that in his own language and also that of world poetry.'
-Czesław Miłosz

For those, like me, that always wished they could have enrolled in one of Miłosz's courses at Berkeley, can find a bit of a consolation in A Book of Luminous Things. Edited, with a wonderful introduction asserting his intention to not defend poetry but 'remind readers that for some very good reasons [poetry] may be of importance today',
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommended to K.D. by: Nobel Prize for Literature
Shelves: poetry, nobel
Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was a Polish poet, prose writer and translator of Lithuanian origin. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.

Tomorrow, the Filipinos group here in Goodreads will celebrate our 2nd year anniversary. Our main activity during the celebration will be a poetry reading. This will be our first time to have this kind of ambitious activity. As I try to read at least one work written by each of Nobel Prize awardees, I picked and read this book by Milosz. I thought I could
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011, poetry
This anthology was a serious underachiever – I found little excitement in it. Of course there were some good poems, but many of them so well known that they provided little surprise (ever hear of Walt Whitman?).

Part of the problem is Milosz’s apparent love of the Chinese. I almost felt he would have been happier doing a whole anthology of Chinese poets. No disrespect to the Chinese, but I felt I was going to o.d. Chinese poetry is pretty much all contemplation, and unless you're looking
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I bought this, along with a collection of Robert Hass essays, at the Oblong Book Store in Rhinebeck, NY, in the Hudson Valley. Visiting the Valley was more fun than visiting the City, at least for this more-rural sort, and those two books will always remind me of geography--where I was, when I was, why I was--thus gaining stature among books on my bookshelves (most with a more humble pedigree).

What makes this collection is the guiding hand of Czeslaw Milosz, who made it such a personal mix
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nothing Twice
-Wislawa Szymborska

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Summer Loper, Jessica, anyone who loves poetry
Shelves: poetry
I've been reading this book for 10+ years now. The great thing about poetry anthologies is that you don't have to read it all at once and you can easily pick them up, get something wonderful out of them in under a minute and be better for it.
Anyway, this is a marvelous collection of just what the title implies. It is divided under the following groupings: Epiphany, Nature, The Secret of a Thing, Travel, Places, The Moment, People Among People, Woman's Skin, Situations, Nonattachment and History.
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I don't know how I would begin to review a poetry anthology, especially as my interactions with them are typically one hitter quitters, dropping in for one poem, tumbling it for a bit, and dropping back into the world. They almost become reference, right?

This works well not as a reference but as something to read through, pages at a time. My attention span doesn't allow for me to stay in one steady line for too long, and the swamps of poems (these are good swamps) swamp me in in a real way.

Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A really wonderful anthology of international poets. Some of them are pretty old, like 1,000 years or so - but there are also lots of contemporary poets, and often the two are showcased side by side. Milosz also gives a little preface or description before a new poet or poem. Since the poems vary widely in geography, culture, and history, these little snippets really helped me to appreciate each poem and learn something new or fun.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, poetry
The Window

A storm blew in last night and knocked out
the electricity. When I looked
through the window, the trees were translucent.
Bent and covered with rime. A vast calm
lay over the countryside.
I knew better. But at that moment
I felt I’d never in my life made any
false promises, nor committed
so much as one indecent act. My thoughts
were virtuous. Later on that morning,
of course, electricity was restored.
The sun moved from behind the clouds,
melting hoarfrost.
And things stood as they had before.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Guy by: Ken
My clearest feeling response to this was disappointment. And I have been struggling with why. The poetry chosen by Miłosz was generally very good to excellent, but often enough flat. I somehow felt myself plodding through the collection, rather then dancing or racing. And, even worse, found myself comparing the collection to Robert Bly's enthralling and stimulating collection News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness. I am very well aware that it does a disservice to both to compare, ...more
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-books
This anthology by Czeslaw Milosz has taught me much about reading poetry. It has also provided me a list of poets’ works for future reading. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is intrigued by the ability of good poems reaching the rarefied realm of consciousness: truth, beauty, sufferings and nobility. These poems are highly distilled; they are also short, vivid and accessible.

There is no T.S. Eliot, because the Milosz made “accessibility” the primary criterion for this anthology.
Oct 28, 2016 rated it liked it
There’s a traveler mad with grief,
no doubt seeing odd things;
he talks to himself, and when he looks
wipes us out with his look.
Antonio Machado

Poor moth, I can’t help you,
I can only turn out the light.
Ryszard Krynicki

Autumn, cloud blades on the horizon.
The west wind blows from ten thousand miles.
A single wild goose climbs into the void.
Tu Fu
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In any anthology of poetry, some poetry is a hit and some is a miss. This book had a wide variety of hits. I adore poetry, in all it's forms, and even the old English poems that involved dense language and intricate rhyming schemes were still interesting and easy enough to understand. I love that Milosz specifically wanted to choose poems that were easy to read and easy to understand.

This book was light and refreshing and represents everything I adore about poetry.
Jan 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This was good, but I didn't love it. I was surprised not to love it, considering I like so many of the poets represented here. But I didn't love it. The choice of poems was - I don't know, deliberately non-magical, maybe? I'm all for everyday life - I'm a big fan of taking the ordinary and making it strange. But many of these poems were all ordinary, no strange. That said, it does have some wonders.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I know -- big deal, another poetry anthology. Still, I love this one because I dig the editor's tastes, and I love that he chose poetry that is life affirming. He says, "I rejoice in being able to make an anthology as this one, and it may be a source of optimism that in this cruel century such an anthology could be made." Amen.
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Oh this book! Best anthology of poetry I have ever picked up. I will be eternally in debt to my professor. This book didn't cover Shakespeare, Milton or Frost but translations from the Chinese, Polish and authors you have never heard of before! In a wonderfully surprising way that made me read for days like a novel. Excellent. If you don't own a copy, do.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
It was a decent selection of poems. Fewer indigenous tribal poems and a bit heavy on Polish poets.

Some time of the editor's comments were frustrating. Several times based on his comments it was obvious he didn't understand them poem. Once he even said "I feel this is a good poem." Really? His ridiculous commentary almost ruined the anthology for me. If it's not going to add insight into my deeper understanding of the poem, just don't say anything.

The stars are for the poems, NOT for the
Eric Perry
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Imagine having a writer whom you respect, who also happens to be a Nobel Prize laureate, recommend a few poems. Czeslaw Milosz has done this for us. I like to think of it as a gateway book to poetry in the same way that viewing a performance of one of Shakespeare's comedies may be a better introduction than reading Julius Caesar in the tenth grade. Milosz has selected poems according to accessibility and length. To those developing a taste for poetry he has selected works that are vivid and ...more
Martin lyon
Aug 17, 2013 rated it liked it
The three poems I choose were: The August Afternoon
The Window
Black Meat

I decided to choose The August Afternoon poem because my birthdays in August.
I choose The Window because in books at night people always look at the window and freak.
I choose Black Meat because I like eating meat for dinner.
This book fits onto Three Poems or short stories from one anthology.
I found all of them interesting. The August afternoon was about someone and his mother taking a walk. The Window is about a storm that
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
A rich and varied collection by a Nobel laureate, noteworthy for an especially generous sampling of old Chinese poetry. Sometimes the editorial comments are longer than the poems, but overall a book I'm glad I experienced.
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Summer by: Cami
A stunning collection. I was blown away by the sections on the body, and women's self image-some achingly poignant. Confession: some skimming throughout
Chad Harrison
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
First book of poetry I started since graduating with an English degree (though I started and finished another earlier this year). Great collection, especially as a kind of an introduction to poetry and it's themes. Got me excited to read more.

Here's a favorite:

The Need to Win

When an archer is shooting for nothing,
he has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle,
he is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold,
he goes blind or sees two targets.
He is out of his mind!

His skill has
Dylan Gauche
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Miłosz and I have very different values when it comes to poetry, but that didn't render this anthology unreadable by any means. However, regardless of how beautiful much of this poetry was, I simply do not share the ethos of the editor.

Additionally, this makes a claim to being an international anthology. Although that is technically true, Miłosz chooses poets from a small handful of countries, and finds ways to return to them in virtually every chapter.

I think, good for Miłosz that he got to
Mary Sue
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn't like this book at first. I found the introduction in parts pretentious, and I found many of the poems dull.

And yet, Milosz has done something truly brave and lovely in building up this anthology. He's given us a beautifully intimate glimpse into his interior life and his interaction with poetry, with luminosity. While I may not know how to appreciate all of it, I am really grateful for that - and for the 30-odd poems he introduced me to that stole my breath away.

I would, in fact, not
Graham P
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Czeslaw Milosz covers much ground here, in what he defines a luminous collection. Lots of Taoist poems mixed with Eastern European grit, and then some playful standards from the American scene - the highlight being Al Zolynas 'Love in the Classroom', which is as exquisite as it is heartwarming. Hardly any deconstructed and absurdist poems touch these pages. The elegance lies in the simplicity and clarity of the line. Anna Swir, Gary Snyder, Leonard Nathan feature prominently, deservedly so.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5. The selection was very limited, between authors of a the same region and like 5 authors who got several poems each, with wide gaps between the other kinds of poetry available. This is mostly Eastern and Northern European, some Chinese, and a handful of other nations. When I see "An International Anthology of Poetry" as a subtitle, I assume there's going to be a wider range than that.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this book! Even if you aren't a poetry lover, you will find something that speaks to you. I especially liked the Chinese poets he chose for this anthology. Discovered a few others too that I'd like to read some more of. The last chapter just about overwhelmed me with the subject and ways the poems addressed it. Yes, I am discovering poetry for the first time. So pardon my enthusiasm.
Liz Banks
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
It took me months to read this because I like to read good poetry slowly. It is divided into categories: Epiphany, Nature, The Secret of a Thing, Travel, Places, The Moment, People Among People, Woman's Skin, Situations, Nonattachment, History. Poetry ranges from 8th Century China to Modern America. Enjoy!
Sherry Elmer
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2017
I admire Czeslaw Milosz very much as a poet. This anthology of poems he chose, however, was not one of my favorites. There were not a lot of poems that really grabbed me, although I was happy to be introduced to Anna Swir, my favorite discovery in this anthology.
Nicole Lisa
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018, poetry
There were only a few poems in this anthology I really liked, and many I felt meh about and a series that I think were supposed to be about women but maybe were mostly written by men that I actively did not like.
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Czesław Miłosz was a Nobel Prize winning poet and author of Polish-Lithuanian heritage. He memorialised his Lithuanian childhood in a 1955 novel, The Issa Valley , and in the 1959 memoir Native Realm . After graduating from Sigismund Augustus Gymnasium in Vilnius, he studied law at Stefan Batory University and in 1931 he travelled to Paris, where he was influenced by his distant cousin Oscar ...more
“Since poetry deals with the singular, not the general, it cannot - if it is good poetry - look at things of this earth other than as colorful, variegated, and exciting, and so, it cannot reduce life, with all its pain, horror, suffering, and ecstasy, to a unified tonality of boredom and complaint. By necessity poetry is therefore on the side of being and against nothingness.” 11 likes
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