06. 30. 2012. 17:11

Poem of the month - Sándor Weöres: Monkeyland

Sándor Weöres wrote many poems for children, and many more that sound like children's poems but are equally appreciated by adults, like the one above, absurd and nonsensical, playful and innocent in tone, yet deadly serious.

Oh for far-off monkeyland,
ripe monkeybread on baobabs,
and the wind strums out monkeytunes
from monkeywindow monkeybars.

Monkeyheroes rise and fight
in monkeyfield and monkeysquare,
And monkeysanatoriums
have monkeypatients crying there.

Monkeygirl monkeytaught
masters monkeyalphabet,
evil monkey pounds his thrawn
feet in monkeyprison yet.

Monkeymill is nearly made,
miles of monkeymayonnaise,
winningly unwinnable
winning monkeymind wins praise.

Monkeyking on monkeypole
harangues the crowd in monkeytongue,
monkeyheaven comes to some,
monkeyhell for those undone.

Macaque, gorilla, chimpanzee,
baboon, orangutan, each beast
reads his monkeynewssheet at
the end of each twilight repast.

With monkeysupper memories
the monkeyouthouse rumbles, hums,
monkeyswaddies start to march,
right turn, left turn, shoulder arms -

monkeymilitary fright
reflected in each monkeyface,
with monkeygun in monkeyfist
the monkeys' world the world we face.


A Hungarian child is typically introduced to the poems of Sándor Weöres (1913-1989), whose centenary will be celebrated next year, at the age of three or thereabouts. This extremely prolific and virtuoso poet wrote many poems for children, and many more that sound like children's poems but are equally appreciated by adults, like the one above, absurd and nonsensical, playful and innocent in tone, yet deadly serious. Distance from, and yet a ruthlessly precise description of, all things human; serenity and satire at the same time—these are the features that make Weöres's poems so loveable and elevating. Even if you don't understand Hungarian, listen to the poet's own reading of "Monkeyland", to get a sense of the elfish being of this outstanding and unique poet.


Translated by: Edwin Morgan

Tags: Sándor Weöres