"A Discarded Tire by the Road": Miłosz Settles up with Ginsberg

Jerzy Jarniewicz


This article discusses Czesław Miłosz’s ambiguous relationship with American beat
and confessional poetry as well as with the counterculture of the 1960s. It focuses
on one of Miłosz’s late poems dedicated to Allen Ginsberg, published in Facing the
River in 1994. The poem, though ostensibly about Ginsberg, is in fact one of the most
confessional poems the Polish poet has ever written, presenting his own life as a failure,
“a discarded tire by the road,” and setting up Ginsberg as an exemplary wiser poet,
“who persisting in folly attained wisdom.” On the one hand, it seems diffi cult not to
see Miłosz and Ginsberg as two very different personalities. On the other hand, Miłosz
saw Ginsberg as the true heir to Whitman, whom he himself had always admired.
The discussion of the poem reveals that Miłosz uses Ginsberg as his own antithesis,
a Yeatsian mask or a Jungian shadow, representing everything that the Polish poet, with
his admitted contempt for any trace of weakness and mental instability, has never been or valued.

Słowa kluczowe: Czesław Miłosz, Allen Ginsberg, counterculture, beat poetry, confessional poetry

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