Meeting with Bohdan Zadura


"Sharp boundaries" - presentation of Bohdan Zadura's poems in hungarian translation.

Thursday 14 November 2013, 6:00 pm

Lengyel Intézet

Budapest, VI. Nagymező u. 15.

Bohdan Zadura - Polish poet, novelist, translator and literary critic

Kiss Gy.Csaba - literary historian

He studied philosophy at the University of Warsaw, he contributes regularly to the monthlies "Tworczosc" (editor-in-chief since Fall 2004) and "Literatura na Świecie", and has published in most Polish literary and cultural journals. He has won numerous awards, including the 1994 Piętak prize. He has also written prose and literary criticism as well as translated from the English, Russian, Ukrainian and Hungarian.

His early work was regarded as neoclassical, and his poetry is elegant and shows an abundant facility with traditional verse forms. Symptoms of aesthetic change marked the 1983 collection Disembarking on Land, but his true breakthrough volume was Old Acquaintances, which broke away from his regular, formally disciplined traditional lyrics (and especially the sonnets for which he had a particular liking). His lyric subjects seem close to the everyday experience of the poet. He treats the reader as an equal partner in the search for elusive senses and sees poetry as a way of communicating something important about existence.

Zadura's present-day position as a teacher and master for many young poets is founded on the collection Silence. Its unusual opening section ("Verses Written in a Fever") and the long poem "Silence" rely on the fact that the verse flirts with kitsch at every step (rhyme, rhythmical balance, meter) while never permitting kitsch to get out of control or gain the upper hand. Reference to the tradition of the digressive poem permits Zadura not only to deliver a mythologized history of Martial Law, but above all to narrate his private history of that era. As a result, we have poems that begin with facts, pain, ecstasy and tears, and then go on to transform themselves into suggestive visions of those times. The verse is literal because it exhibits a simple faith in everyday words, and elliptical because it creates masterful and arresting poetical compositions on the basis of individual phrases. The final cycle of poems in Silence ("Stolen and Given") offers works arising from the margins of the poet's experience as a translator. Here is where the lyric form is brought closest to prose - here, too, is the root of Zadura's most powerful influence on the sensibilities of poets who began to write in the 1990s.