Poetry in Ostrava

We’ve spent the last two nights with our friends Petr and Lenka in their flat in Ostrava. Petr teaches at Ostrava University. Yesterday we met with a class to talk about the writing from British Columbia and then in the evening there was a poetry festival to celebrate the literary journal Protimluv. The next issue of the journal will feature some of John’s poems in both English and in Czech (translated by Jiri Mesic — and I apologize, Jiri, if you’re reading this because I can’t figure out how to do the diacritics in this program…). John was invited to participate in the festival, reading five poems in English with projected bilingual texts behind him and Jiri at hand to translate his comments on the poems. After he read, there was an interview with Jiri and Petr. The gallery was full with people standing behind the seats and a guy from Czech television filming the event. People asked John to sign copies of the festival programme, small postcards with his photograph on them, and even just blank pieces of papers. Who said poetry was dead? It was a wonderful event. Ten other poets read briefly and although they read only in Czech, I could sense which ones were influenced by the Beats, which ones were lyrical, musical, and of course which ones were funny. The organizer Jiri Machacek played a violin to accompany Yvetta Ellerova as she sang (a voice from heaven, truly) poems by her husband Petr Hruska and she played a silvery xylophone as she sang. One of the pieces was in English, a poem about the Beskydy Mountains which we can see from Petr and Lenka’s kitchen and where we will go tomorrow for two nights. They have promised to take us to my grandmother’s village in the mountains where the house where she was born still stands. I’ll post some photographs (I’m not using my own computer right now).

After the poetry reading we went to the Moravian National Theatre bar for a drink and how lovely it was, the high ceilings and old leaded windows, the long wooden tables against the soft yellow walls.

3 thoughts on “Poetry in Ostrava”

  1. So sorry for my tardiness in checking in, Theresa. Your posts going back to February 11 are completely charming. I love the Brno dragon hanging from the stone ceiling of the arch (though it bears a striking resemblance to our North American crocodile, n’est pas? What’s the story there, I wonder). And the food! – “beef with cream and paprika, chicken in tomato and fresh basil, accompanied by a bright Frankova wine, garlic soup and potato dumplings” – it sounds like the very essence of Eastern European cooking and worth travelling to Brno all by itself.

    But I’m even more delighted by how warmly you both have been received and by the response to west coast prose and poetry. To my great embarrassment I confess to not having read the more striking titles you’ve listed here; how could one not want to read a book called “Seven-Knot Summers” or “Two Wolves at the Dawn of Time”? To be rectified this year, I promise.

    Looking forward to more posts.


    p.s. To Jiri Mesic: you are to be commended for your insight and good taste; I hope to see the day come when John’s poetry is translated into languages from across the European continent. You’ve opened the door. dg

  2. Theresa, I read until today your writing about the meeting in Ostrava (festival Protimluv). It’s beautiful when I read that so far is written about Ostrava. Meeting with you was very nice. Many greetings to you. I am sorry that we did not manage to meet, but I believe that we will meet again.
    I wish you a light summer of the world ocean


  3. Yvetta, I’m so glad you wrote a comment. After we left Ostrava, we went to Horni Lomna (Petr Kopecky took us there, with Lenka) where my grandmother was born. I’m writing about her and remember the song you sang about the Beskydy Mountains — the lyrics were based on a poem by your partner, Petr, I believe? I would love to have that poem to look at if you’re able to send it to me. I’m looking at Josef Sudek’s photographs of the Mionsi Forest right now and am dreaming my way there…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s