01. 04. 2019. 12:56

Michael Castro Has Died at 73

Michael Castro, Poet Laureate of St. Louis, and translator of Hungarian poetry, has died at the age of 73.

On 24 December 2018, Michael Castro, Poet Laureate of St. Louis, and translator of Hungarian poetry, died at the age of 73. The poet was born on 28 July 1945 in New York. His instinctive connection with words became clear the moment he put pen to paper. In the ‘70s he moved to St. Louis, where at Washington University he got a Ph.D in American literature, specialising in Native American culture and mythology.  In 1975, he was one of the founders of the River Styx literary journal, which – as St. Louis’s oldest literary journal – still holds its readings every third Monday.


Michael Castro and Gábor Gyukics in 2008 touring their collection of Attila József's poetry: A Transparent Lion (Source)

He chose as his own vocation to share his love of words and language: he taught poetry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Lindenwood University. The mission and significance of the jazz and beat-generation poet’s work and life came to fruition in the fight against racial, sexual and ideological discrimination. Michael Castro was able to build a bridge between poets, and to celebrate the diversity of poetry. His last work Crossing the Divide, which he edited, continues to embrace the same mentality: an overview of the community and poetry of St. Louis, bringing about unity between poets, activists, philosophers, and artists. Thanks to his work in poetry, in activism and in the community he was nominated as the first ever poet laureate of St. Louis. In 2015, when he accepted the award he stated that it was a great honour for him, but also a great responsibility. He believed that poetry was capable of healing the community of St. Louis, and moulding the community into a whole regardless of sex, race or religion.

He was also closely connected with American jazz. In 2016, his poem entitled The Man Who Looked Into Coltrane’s Horn was published on Litera.hu in Gábor Gyukics’s translation.

Fifteen years ago he took over the poetry programme Poetry Beat on KDHX FM radio. He is the author of eleven poetry collections, six jazz poetry CDs and the essay collection Interpreting the Indian: Twentieth-Century Poets and the Native American.

Under his name there exist English language volumes of Attila József, Attila Balogh and Endre Kukorelly, as well as the anthology of modern Hungarian poetry Swimming in the Ground. He rendered the poems of almost sixty Hungarian poets into English including, János Pilinszky, György Petri, Olga Czilczer and Gizella Hervay. (See below for a couple of examples on HLO.) He visited Hungary many times, most recently in the summer of 2015, in the Kossuth Club, where he performed with his co-translator Gábor Gyukics and the Dóra&Kalmár Spiritual Gravitation Project improvisational jazz group.




Read here for Castro and Gyukics's translations of György Petri: Hanging Questions

Read here for Castro and Gyukics's translations of Attila József: With Pure Heart

Read here for Castro and Gyukics's translations of Endre Kukorelly: My God, How Many Mistakes I've Made


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This article originally appeared on Litera.hu

Translated by: Owen Good