The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert

Translated by Edward Osers, Edited by George Gibian


Milan Kundera on Seifert: "In 1969, when the Russian horror was battering the country
. . . [t]his little nation, trampled and doomed -- how could it possibly justify its existence?
There before us was the justification: the poet, heavy, with his crutches leaning against the table;
the poet, the tangible expression of the nationís genius."

"Seifert's three great subjects are the beauties of women, art, and his nation. He characteristically
celebrates all three within a single poem, although his perpetually thrilled adoration of women
registers most powerfully and most winsomely. Perhaps Keats, had he lived to old age,
would have be come such a poet." --Booklist

"These are simply marvelous poems ... What I find truly valuable about Osers' translations ...
is the way he renders the surprising variety of Seifert's images, and the way that he catches
the breathtaking suddenness of the poet's coiled metaphors." --New York Press


In 1984, Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986) was the first Czech to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. "Endowed with freshness, sensuality, and rich inventiveness," the Nobel Committee stated, Seifert's poetry "provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man. . . . He conjures up another world than that of tyranny and desolation -- a world that exists both here and now . . . one that exists in our dreams and our will and our art."

Although Seifert lived through the many historic turns of his homeland, his was not a political poetry, except in its constant expression of love for his country, its beauties and its values. He was the great poet of Prague, of love, of the senses. His work was unpretentious, lyrical yet irreverent, earthy, charming. Seifert was known for the simplicity of his verse, yet his poems are full of surprises, never what at first they seem. They are marked by imagery that is beautiful or comical, by good, deep values, and by love in all its forms. This is a collection of poetry written throughout his life.

$14.95 paper, 255 pages, ISBN 0-945774-39-7


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Excerpt from The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert
For a larger selection of poems, visit Archipelago Magazine

Transformations

A lad changed to a shrub in spring,
the shrub into a shepherd boy,
A fine hair to a lyre string,
snow into snow on hair piled high.

And words turn into question signs,
wisdom and fame to old-age lines,
and strings revert to finest hair,
the boy's transformed into a poet
the poet is transformed once more,
becomes the shrub my which he slept
when he loved beauty till he wept.

Whoever falls in love with beauty
will love it to his dying day,
stagger toward it aimlessly,
beauty has feet of charm and grace
in sandals delicate as lace.

And in this metamorphosis
a spell binds him to woman's love,
a single second is enough
like steam in a retort to hiss
obedient to the alchemist
and drops dead as a hunted dove.

Without a stick old age is lame,
the stick turns into anything
in this ceaseless, fantastic game,
perhaps into an angel's wings
now spreading wide for soaring flight
bodyless, painless, feather light


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