There is a poet who is called the ‘September 11 poet.’ It is Adam Zagajewski who has been loved by readers for the last 20 years with his poem ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World.’ But he is Polish poet, not American. The poem was written one and a half years before the September 11 attacks. The poem embodies his visit to Lvov, Ukraine, with his father.
Lvov used to be the territory of Poland. But Poland had to give Lvov to Ukraine and receive a part of Germany’s territory in return as the result of the Yalta Conference in 1945. Residents of Lvov including the poet’s family were displaced because of that. Their homeland now belonged to another country. It was heartbreaking.
His home visited after more than 50 years with his father was a ruin with overgrown nettles. But in his eyes, his hometown was beautiful, and the sun was warm. That is why his poem starts with “Try to Praise the Mutilated World.” But how can we praise the world if it is ruined, damaged and broken? He says we should remember beautiful memories. The rich land, leisurely summer days, florid music concerts, glorious moments with loved ones and acorn picking in the park on an autumn day. The world is still beautiful with these memories, even though it is in ruins.
Americans despaired when the September 11 attacks occurred. People fell on their knees and the world seemed to have lost all the lights. The poet’s warm words consoled them. He says “the gentle light that strays and vanishes and returns.” What consoled Americans was not the words of vindictive and enraged politicians, but the words of a foreign poet called ‘the poet of ruins.’ “You should praise the mutilated world.” That is why he is called the ‘September 11 poet’ even though his poem is not about the tragedy.