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Try to Praise a Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski Essay

In the Poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” by Adam Zagajewski, the point that the speaker is trying to get across is that one must learn to accept or praise the faults of the world, to see the beauty to help heal the mutilated world. We as a society must remember the good things when times begin to get arduous. Zagajewski uses repetition with the phrase “Praise the Mutilated World,” and each time the phrase is written, it means something completely different because of the tone that is being used and the urgency that is being asked to praise the mutilated world. The tone changes throughout each stanza, it changes from an asking tone, to a demanding tone, to a parental tone then a pleading tone to help the speaker project his feelings to the reader that even through the darkness there is light. Zagajewski also uses imagery to help the reader be one with the essay, by allowing one to put themselves in this poem. Zagajewski is trying to remind the readers to see past the bad, to praise the good when things have gone wrong.

associate Adam Zagajewski’s poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” with September 11th. Although it was not written in memoriam to the victims of this tragedy (Twin Towers), it did appear in The New Yorker on September 26, 2001. For many, these were the first healing words we were able to digest. Zagajewski is quoted as saying, “The poem reflects a philosophical conviction more than an event.”( Tennant) When asked what particular event sparked the creation of this poem he said “For me, it’s the way I have always seen the world. When I was growing up I saw a lot of ruins in postwar Poland. This is my landscape. Somehow it stayed with me, this feeling that the world is wounded or mutilated.” (Tennant) The truth of the world is reflected back to us in poetry and faith. Zagajewski has called upon us to pay attention to beauty and to wounds and joy.

The poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” has four stanzas that begin with these lines: “Try to praise the mutilated world”(1), “You must praise the mutilated world”(6), “You should praise the mutilated world”(12) and “Praise the mutilated world”(18). This poem consists of good and bad memories, such as “Remember June’s long days, and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew”(2-3) which is taken to be a pleasant memory, a memory one would love to enjoy. “You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere, you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully”. (10-11)

This line is a negative line. Each section has a different number of lines containing positive memories and negative memories. The word choice preceding “mutilated world” corresponds to the number of good and bad things mentioned in the poem– the section that says “You must praise the mutilated world”(6) contains two good lines and three bad lines, meaning that when more things go wrong than right, to stay sane you must remember all the positive. These words describe actions that seek to mend that which has been destroyed.

The speaker uses repetition of the phrase “praise the mutilated world” to make his point that the reader must admire the world, because it is wounded. For example, there is war, poverty, famine, destruction of homes and countries, families are being torn apart. All these hurtful, destructive events plague and wound our world. With each phrase it asks the reader, and society to praise the mutilated world, but each time is it written, it has a different tone. In the first stanza the narrator speaks “Try to praise the mutilated world.” Zagajewski is asking the reader to praise this wounded world. The speaker reminds the reader of the wonderful things the earth has to offer. “Remember June’s long days, and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.” (2-3) People typically enjoy these life’s simplicities, but often take for granted. Zagajewski is reminding us of the simple yet desirable things in life.

The speaker then describes the less appealing, and sense of abandonment , to make the previous lines look more enticing so the reader will want to remember the fine things in life. “The nettles that methodically overgrow the abandoned homesteads of exiles.”(4-5) The reader can comprehend the imagery of something that has been abandoned for a quite some time. The reader can get a sense of loneliness, some place that was once home to someone, are now abandoned. These homes might have been abandoned from the people who became refugees, people trying escape a war. The reader can understand this when he writes “he nettles that methodically overgrow.”(4) The strong imagery of the intense and bright red color of strawberries and wine over shadow the sad depressing homestead. The color red is associated with lust, passion, love, and beauty as well. The speaker is emphasizing the beauty of the earth, the beauty of the strawberries.

The tone in the intro to the second stanza begins “You must praise the mutilated world.” This section has a more urgent tone; it has three negative lines and only two positive lines. “You watched the stylish yachts and ships; one of them had a long trip ahead of it” (7-8) The imagery allows, the reader to imagine luxury, something that is nice and pleasant. By emphasizing on “Stylish yachts, and a long trip”(7-8) the writer allows the reader to imagine the pleasant possibilities. Then Zagajewski writes the negative “While salty oblivion awaited others. You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere; you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.” (9-10) While the fortunate enjoy a nice trip on a yacht, others are prisoners that are being shipped off to possibly a prison, while the men in charge possibly officers or military men laughed and were enjoying this somber moment of destroying people’s lives.

Being shipped off to an unknown place is scary enough, but this is a somber moment because families are being torn apart, this example given is similar to the Nazis shipping off the Jewish to concentration camps during World War II, laughing and enjoying that they have dominance over these prisoners, that they control their future. In World War II “over 6 million Jews — men, women and children –who were systematically and efficiently slaughtered for no other reason than that they were Jews. Additionally, an estimated 5.5 million non-Jews, including hundreds of thousands of Romani (Gypsies), Polish nationals, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political criminals and others, were systematically murdered”(Austin).

When the speaker writes “while salty oblivion awaited others.” (9) It gives a negative connotation. When one gets salt in their wounds, it is painful, when they are being shipped off it is a painful experience to them psychologically rather than physically. Much like what The Jews and everyone else that were killed had to endure because they were “classified by the Nazi regime as “racially” inferior and, therefore, as “life unworthy of life.” (Austin). It’s the psychological equivalence of salt in their wounds. They could be getting separated from their families, they had to abandon their homes, leave behind their life for an unknown life ahead of them..

The third stanza begins “You should praise the mutilated world.” The tone is more of an authoritative tone. It’s the tone of a parent or loved one telling the reader that we must praise the mutilated world. Zagajewski writes “Remember the moments when we were together in a white room and the curtain fluttered. Return in thought to the concert where music flared you gathered acorns in the park in autumn and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.”(13-16) The narrator is someone the reader can convey as someone close such as a family member or friend. The narrator is telling the reader to remember all the fun things we’ve done together.

He is suggesting to remember all the family gatherings, all the events that take place inside families that people often take for granted, some may dread family gatherings and reunions, but once that right to gather freely is taken away, it is greatly missed. The white room conveys an image of a peaceful room. Its clean. No evil, tainted, unjust memories lie there. The room is white which symbolizes cleanliness, purity, serenity. The reader needs to look at their lives, despite the disasters, tragedies and disappointments we suffer, for the beauty and courage they still contain.

The last stanza is a final plea, the closing statements. “Praise the mutilated world.” Zagajewski wants the reader to praise every last thing. “Praise the mutilated world, and the grey feather a thrush lost, and the gentle light that strays and vanishes, and returns.” Every simple thing in life people often take for granted. Grey feathers are significant to this poem, Gray feathers denote peace and neutrality. “A Thrush Lost” (19) is a way for the speaker to say that peace is lost, it will return if you look to the better things in life. The last two lines “and the gentle light that strays and vanishes, and returns.” Are significant because the imagery, you can imagine the light of hope fading away into the darkness that represents all failed hope or lack of hope. The gentle light is the good in life, it is the light at the end of the tunnel.

It portrays people’s views on life and how some dwell on negative aspects more than the positive. The good moments are shortly lived, the dark last longer. “Clear moments are so short. There is much more darkness”(Tennant) Said Zagajewski. However Zagajewski makes a point to tell the reader that the light, or the good times will return “strays and vanishes, and returns.” He does not want us to dwell on the terrible. Zagajewski continually points out that we must remember the good times, the pleasant times, the memories and activities that bring us joy. He wants us to praise this wounded world that has been through so much. Two world wars, the holocaust, We are urged to pay attention to the world because we are a part of this wounded world.

It is such a universal quest; trying to find the good in the world when we are so often surrounded by so much suffering and pain and ugliness? It is human nature to dwell so much on the bad that we do not see the good things in life. We forget the past, we forget the things that once pleased us and the things we took for granted. Zagajewski wrote this poem to urge readers to not forget the good things in life. Often it is hard to look for the good in life when we mostly live in the dark. “In 2004, it was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 32,439 deaths. The overall rate was 10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. An estimated eight to 25 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.” (National Institute of mental health) This poem is a stark reminder that looking for the good in the end is the best thing to do. We, as today’s future generation must praise this mutilated world; we must enjoy and not forget the good most others take for granted.

Works Cited

Austin, Ben S.. “AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HOLOCAUST .” The Holocaust. Middle Tennessee State University Holocaust Studies Committee. 18 Nov 2008 .

“Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention.” National Institutes of Health. June 26, 2008. National Institute for Mental Health. 18 Nov 2008 .

Tennant, Agnieszka. “”Try to Praise the Mutilated World”: a conversation with poet Adam Zagajewski. .” Access my Library. 01-SEP-02. Christianity Today, Inc. . 4 Nov 2008 .

Zagajewski, Adam. “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” Literature, Reading, Reacting, Writing. 6th Ed. Kirszner & Mandell Boston Ma, The Thomas and Wadsworth Corp. 2007 pg. 869

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