04. 19. 2010. 10:53

What is poetry?

Since 1964, Hungary has celebrated the Day of Poetry each year on 11 April, the birthday of Attila József, whom many Hungarians consider their greatest poet of the 20th century. On this occasion, Litera asked some poets to define what we talk about when we talk about poetry.

 
János Lackfi: Questions
 
Are poems all non-smoking?
Or is it that in poems that are smokers
There are rooms reserved
for those who do not smoke?
Or are there smoking corners
even in non-smoking poems?
 
Perhaps you need to go right outside the poem
And light your cigarette in the street?
Smoking in poetry –
Is it a hazard to your health and those around you?
 
*
 
How many times a year
need I submit an honest self-assessment
On the fact that I read and write poems?
Or on the quantity of poetry read and produced?
Can I submit in an electronic form
My annual return on poetry?
 
What sort of fine do I pay
For any unacknowledged poems?
And how about MPs?
With reference to their immunity
How man poems a year can they read
or write without an invoice?
 

Mari Falcsik: poetry is news items about human existence with respect to the soul and the spirit (besides, it is my mother tongue, it is what I would speak wherever I am born). poetry is a conclusion filtered through one’s own senses, emotions and thinking about the human being, a conclusion which says, oh, so this is what we are like
 
 
Roland Acsai: Lake and lightning
 
I
Waterfalls reflected in the poem’s lake
Fall persistently up toward the sky.
 
II
Poetry is an upward lightning
It strikes a jagged line up to the sky.
 
 
Ádám Tábor: Poetry – that’s something quite different. It starts on the horizon where all other texts collapse.
 
 
Krisztina Tóth: Who is a poet?
 
My next door neighbour on the left says it’s someone who always does her washing at night. My next door neighbour on the right says it’s the person who never comes to the block assembly. The postman says it’s the one who always gets those A/4 envelopes. The newsagent says it’s the woman he saw on television and it said her name at the bottom. My mother says it’s the person who makes such a fuss about every little thing. The woman who’s my best friend says it  is someone who never listens to what you say. My boyfriend says it’s someone who listens and then writes about it. My kid’s friend says it’s someone you can sing with on the bus. My ex-husband says poets are those that he cannot publish, because either they have gone mad or they will or they do no writing anyway. The cabdriver says a poet is a man in glasses who makes you turn off the radio. The kindergarten teacher says poets are the people who are dead, plus Sándor Kányádi. I think it is someone who would never enter this under ‘occupation’. Aunt Judy says she doesn’t enter it because she has no proper occupation. The man in the all-night delly says a poet is someone who knows who we should vote for and answers all those stupid questionnaires.
 
 
Gábor Gyukics: Poetry is an unintended, sensual manifestation of incessant thinking.
 
 
István Vörös: The question is not what poetry is but what it isn’t.
 
*
 
After Auschwitz you can’t not write poetry. All valuable texts that have emerged since that time, are poems incognito, poems scrubbed clean, poems that have abandoned the faith of their ancestors.
 
*
 
If a pebble wants to become a poem, no one usually takes notice of this plan – until one day someone throws it into the river and before it sinks it bounces three times on the surface of the water.
 

Tags: Attila József