Monday, March 3, 2014

János Pilinszky

János Pilinszky (1921—1981) is a Hungarian poet who lived in Budapest. He served with the Hungarian army during WWII; as a prisoner of war he witnessed the horrors of prison camps, including Ravensbrűck. These experiences are reflected upon in many of his poems. He received the Baumgaerten Prize in 1947 for his first poetry collection Trapeze and Bars. His next book, On The Third Day, was delayed from publication until 1959 by communist censors who considered it to be both too Christian and too pessimistic. This collection includes Pilinszky's celebrated poem "Apocrypha".

Pilinszky has been very influential for post-war Hungarian poetry. In English he is known because of the translation by Ted Hughes and János Csokits, from which the following comes.


Buried alive under the stars
in the mud of nights
do you hear my dumbness?
as if a skyful of birds were approaching.

I keep up this wordless appeal.
Will you ever unearth me
from the perpetual silence
under your foreign skies?

Does my complaint reach you?
Is my siege futile?
All around me glitter
reefs of fear.

Only let me count on you. God.
I want your nearness so much,
makes the love of loves even fierier.

Bury me in your embrace.
Do not leave me to the frost.
Even if my air is used up
my calling will not tire.

Be the bliss of my trembling
like a tree’s leaves:
give a name, give a beautiful name
a pillow to this disintegration.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.