Saturday, May 10, 2014

Poeta Doctus-Natus

Poeta Doctus and Poeta Natus. The terminology makes a distinction between poets with natural talent and those who learned poetry. The Hungarian contemporary poet Dániel Varró is by some miracle a mixture of the two- bearing all the positive features of the two categories. His poems or narrative poems are fun to read and I am personally fascinated how flawless his poetry is. Unfortunately, not many of his poems are translated to English yet, but this might be because it is still fresh and most great works of literature need a little dust on the cover before translators put their hands on them. Preferably it will be Varró himself to translate this already published works into English.

The cover of Beyond the Smudgy Mountain
illustruted by Zsuzsa Varró, the poet's sister
His most well-known published book is Túl a Maszat-hegyen (Beyond the Smudgy Mountain), a narrative poem which exlpores the adventures of a young fellow, Muhi Andris. The kindergartener finds himself a parallel world where he meets various magical, under average, extraordinary and often idiosyncratic characters. The narrative is written in the familiar Onegin stanza with Dante's tercines in one section and hexameters in another. (These evoking the Purgatory and epics' battle scenes). Reading the poetic novel is enjoyable at any age, regardless of the level of literary education.

A trait of Dani Varró's work is that it can be evaluated on several levels. First, there are the children who like the book and several poems for their childish language and imagery. The characters often stand close to children's heart, which can bring poetry close to them. There is also the language, the use of words that appeal to readers' ears at any age. An older reader with greater comprehension of words multiple meanings or allusions can find a different kind of humor in Varró's poetry while someone who understands most literary references can read his works as an inventory of literature.

One of the embedded poems from the book, Szösz néne (Old Missus Fluff) is translated to English. Coincidentally, this is one of my favorites. David Robert Evans, the translator, did a wonderful job and gave back the meaning of the poem along with all the gags in it and remained faithful to the original style. I would like you to take it as a "sneak peek" to the whole book, which will hopefully be translated as well.

Until then, there is one more poem that is worth reading, and thanks to Stephen Humpreys' translation, it's also available in English. The poem is called Borbála, which is a female last name. This poem is a paraphrase of Dezső Kosztolányi's Ilona (another name), for which I could not find an English translation.Borbála discusses the beauty of the name itself and a person beyond it, who he finds attractive. I have to admit that I was surprised by how great the translation is. I didn't think that it was possible to echo the sound pattern, the meaning and the rhythm of the poem at the same time. However, the translator succeeded and repeated everything essential to the greatness of the poem, including the strict three syllable lines.

A recent photo of Dani Varró
As a disclaimer, I would like to add that I like Dani Varró's work too much to leave it out from this series, even if it means writing about a hopefully soon-to-be-written translation. As being one of the best contemporary poets in Hungary and a translator,I think chances are high that there will be a translation of his work as well.