10. 01. 2012. 09:42

Poem of the month - Piroska Reichardt: Before Sleep

I search the Web, and am unable to find a picture of her anywhere. Nothing. But her poems, it seems are almost everywhere: I find them posted on blog after blog, almost as if they were being passed from hand to hand as a kind of solace for our days.

An Untimely Death in the Midst of Catastrophe

I came across the work of Piroska Reichardt almost by happenstance, as one day, in Room No. 2 at the Balatonfüred Translators' House, I was browsing through a volume entitled Magyar költőnők antológiája (The Anthology of Hungarian Women Poets). There was—surprisingly, for a culture that guards the memories and mementos of its greatest poets so assiduously—very little information about her to be found, beyond what was printed in the brief biography in the volume itself.  She was born in Beregszász in 1884, attended middle school in Miskolc, and then graduated from university in Budapest, after which she taught in a girls' gynmasium. A search in the catalogue of the Országos Széchényi Könyvtár reveals that she translated as well from English. At least eighty of her poems, translations, studies and critiques appeared in the seminal journal Nyugat (West, 1908-1941). After appearing in the anthology Heten vagyunk (Seven of Us, 1909) with Margit Kaffka she published three more volumes of poetry: Az életen kívül (Beyond Life, 1911); Őszi üdvözlet (Autumn Greeting, 1922); and finally, A változó napokkal (With The Changing Days, 1936)

In 1943, as her biography states in the Anthology of Hungarian Women Poets, “she escaped from Fascist persecution into suicide.” I am intrigued by the idea of her escaping into suicide, and can hardly judge what action I might undertake, given similar circumstances. I search the Web, and am unable to find a picture of her anywhere. Nothing. But her poems, it seems are almost everywhere: I find them posted on blog after blog, in fancy, flowing typefaces, with elaborate illustrations, almost as if they were being passed from hand to hand as a kind of solace for our days.

Before Sleep

The sound of cars, bells ring in the distance
in my room hushed to silence is a lullabye.

The row of streetlights keep vigil
drawing shadows in the shade upon my wall.

Tomorrow's distant pale light gleams
into the sad multitude of memories and sorrows.

And from space, from the silence, from worry and today
Into lifeless being I faintly dissolve.

Translated by: Ottilie Mulzet

Tags: Piroska Reichardt