Songs of Ecstatic Despair. Miłosz and the Counterculture

Marcin Jaworski


This article discusses the relationship between the American counterculture
of the 1960s and Miłosz’s poetry created during that time in Berkeley. The poet
observes the student revolt through his own experience with history, including his leftist
sympathies. He is critical both of the naïve hippie postulates and Herbert Marcuse’s new
version of Marxism. However, he treats counterculture as a symptomatic response to
vital problems of the Western civilization in the second half of the twentieth century. He
refl ects upon the infl uence of art on power, totalitarian as well as democratic. He sees
the necessity of commitment, though he asks about its form and effects. Countercultural
experiments coincide also with Miłosz’s own search for “a more capacious form” and
with the epiphanies described in his poems.

Słowa kluczowe: Czesław Miłosz, counterculture, engaged literature, Marxism, epiphany

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