There is a directness in the poetry of Zbigniew Herbert that makes it easier for the reader to immediately grasp and submerse themselves in his verse. There is no obfuscation, no unnecessary verbiage in his work. He also peppers his poems with historical references that one can share in as an extended metaphor for a similar experience.
“Writing must teach men soberness; to be awake” Herbert wrote and he came from a generation in his native Poland that had known much suffering. It’s a very sober generation. It’s a generation with no time for flowery BS.
What I most like about Herbert is his tone which reminds me of a less surreal Kenneth Patchen. He’s got the same slightly ironic, slightly whimsical tone. Herbert is a serious poet but his poems are not one of sadness.
He is also an erudite student of history. One who understand its patterns and also the role of tradition. This makes the poet better IMO as it means he understands his, the poet’s role, in the real world. He understand where it all fits and how to take it in and what to take in and what to exclude.
Here is one of my favorite Zbigniew Herbert poems http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/zbigniew-herbert/i-would-like-to-describe/