Adam Zagajewski: The Duality of the Poet's Life

Every great poet lives between two worlds. One of these is the real, tangible world of history, private for some and public for others. The other world is a dense layer of dreams, imagination, fantasms ... These two territories conduct complex negotiations, the result of which are poems. Poets strive for the first world, the real one, conscientiously trying to reach it, to reach the place where the minds of many people meet; but their efforts are hindered by the second world, just as the dreams and hallucinations of certain sick people prevent them from understanding and experiencing events in their waking hours. Except that in great poets these hindrances are rather a symptom of mental health, since the world is by nature dual, and poets pay tribute with their own duality to the structure of reality, which is composed of day and night, sober intelligence and fleeting fantasies, desire and gratification. There is no poetry without this duality, though the second, substitute world is different for each outstanding creative artist.

- Adam Zagakewski, Introduction to Zbigniew Herbert, The Collected Poems