In It Will Return, her most recent volume of poems, Julia Hartwig is in dialogue with other great artists—Keats, Rimbaud, Milosz, Beethoven, Ravel, Van Gogh—considering the implications of greatness. Alongside this expansive perspective, we find attention to the smallest details, composing quotidian moments that open out into unexpected meaning. For Hartwig, close attention to the material world is a kind of spiritual undertaking. Like her Nobel Prize–winning contemporary Wislawa Szymborska, she writes poems that appear simple but are somehow all the more capable of yielding profound insights.
It Will Return reflects Hartwig’s firsthand involvement in Polish history and culture, and its poems are sensitive to the calamities of Poland’s tumultuous twentieth century. But It Will Return is a human collection before it is a national one, and these political motifs form the backdrop for more universal dramas.