International conference on the poet's works location:University of Chicago date:28 April 2006
It is a truism to state that the experience of “being on the road” is central to the poetry (and essays) of Adam Zagajewski. As it appears, archetypical notions of “homelessness” and “wandering” tend to be evoked by Zagajewski in a dual way. On the one hand, the author of Jechać do Lwowa (To Go to Lvov) seems to be inclined to revive (and modify) age-old tropes of nomadic existence. Its negative manifestation is the idea of exile (exilium), embodied by the fate of the Jewish people (the loss of the Holy City, the Babylonian exile, the Diaspora). Its positive manifestation is the notion of a pilgrimage (peregrinatio), i.e. the visiting of a holy place or sanctuary. On the other hand, these traditional tropes of wandering (exile and pilgrimage) seem to go along in Zagajewski’s poems with various contemporary manifestations of “being on the road”. The setting of his poems is often travel-related and located in places such as airports, highways, and train station waiting rooms. Moreover, Zagajewski’s lyrical personas seem to pass a great deal of their time in all kinds of vehicles: cars, planes, (metro) trains, ... In most cases, these particular settings seem to transcend their function of being situational frames and may be said to constitute a particular chain of motion-related metaphors. The present paper will explore the various dimensions of Zagajewski’s preoccupation with modern means of transportation and the way it intertwines with the main themes of his poetry. The analysis provided in the paper will focus on well-known Zagajewski poems such as Wielki piątek w korytarzach metra (Good Friday in the Tunnels of the Métro), Jechać do Lwowa (To Go to Lvov), Szybki wiersz (A Quick Poem), Wędrowiec (A Wanderer), Lusterko samochodu (Car Mirror), and Lotnisko w Amsterdamie (Airport in Amsterdam).