Slovakia has a rich poetic culture, which is unfortunately often neglected beyond her borders. Aside from a few translation specialist, Slovak poems are infrequently translated for a Western audience, and when they are, it is often amateur and much nuance is lost. This phenomenon is a result of the Cold War. The Železná opona, the Iron Curtain, made Slovakia and her Eastern neighbours inaccessible to the West. Due to the Socialist Realism imposed by the Soviet state, Slovak art has only recently recovered ground with audiences worldwide.
Thus, many translated anthologies concentrate on contemporary and modern poetry, showcasing the works of young and flourishing poets, although some older poems such as the mischievous ‘Mor Ho!‘ (literally, Kill them!) remain greatly popular.
Modern Slovak poetry also commonly employs a playful spirit, with plenty of onomatopoeia (Dummygaria, humygari! Prrp! Prrp go-go-goatskin! Cockadoodlehen! Keekerekee!).
Exposure of such poems is gaining momentum in London as well. The poet whose works are exhibited belong, Peter Milcak, read his poetry here at SEESS London in November last year.
Selected Works by Peter Milčák
Everything that Victor’s got
Victor’s got a black balloon. Charlie has seen red, yellow and blue balloons before but has never seen a black balloon.
Victor says, though, that it isn’t a balloon but the soul of his uncle Emil. Emil was always afraid of dying during the day and instead wanted to die at night so that nobody would see his black soul.
But Emil died during the day. The sun was shining and it was perfectly still. As his soul rose into the air, Victor tied some string to it.
Now he has to carry it with him everywhere. He even takes it to school, but in a carrier bag so that his teachers don’t notice it.
Victor has a black balloon but it’s hard living with two souls.
Victor, Charlie and the End of the World
Charlie says that the end of the World started the moment the World came into being victor says that the end of the World didn’t start until Jonah found a little bird which has fallen from a nest up a very tall tree. Because Jonah has a good heart, he told himself he would look after the bird until it was able to fly away by itself again.
So he fed it with rainworms then may bays until it could wander into the yard where it then swallowed a whole hen. After which it ate a cow and then, in the garden, hid a whole cherry tree in its beak.
With relief Charlie says that when a strong wind picks up, the great bird will spread its wings and fly away for good.
Victor senses however, that when the great bird flies away, the last thing it will hide in its beak will be our Earth. And yet that might not mean the end of everything for inside the bird, Jonah’s good heart will still be beating.