Invisible but Present

That Zbigniew Herbert cannot be here with us deserves a few words of comment. Zbigniew Herbert is 71 years old, and an intellectual of that age in the United States is usually perfectly able to travel, speak, and enjoy the golden years. Czeslaw Milosz, another Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner, is 13 years older than Herbert, yet he gives poetry readings and travels around the world. But Czeslaw Milosz spent his life in the United States and in other free countries, including pre-World War U Poland. Zbigniew Herbert spent his life in Soviet-occupied Poland. The last time 1 talked to him on the phone, he could barely speak. His illness is not so much a function of his age as it is a fruit of many years of privation. The political system whose center was in Moscow not only wrecked the economies of Soviet-dominated countries, it also destroyed the health of their citizens. As I deplore Zbigniew Herbert's absence here today, I cannot but remember its real causes. And I am comforted by the realization that The Ingersoll Prizes promote a worldview which, one hopes, will make a repetition of the Soviet experience all but impossible. —Ewa M. Thompson

I wish to convey to The Ingersoll Foundation my sincere thanks for the award, which is as prestigious as it is unexpected. I bow deeply before the memory of the award's patron. I could not, in the brief remarks uttered here, adequately acknowledge the greatest poet of...

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