norbert blei | seifert and others

24 01 2008
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Poetry Dispatch No. 207 | January 23, 2008

SEIFERT & Others (Sue Peterson, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, Ruth Wallis/Risque’ Songs…) REVISITED

(A POETRY DISPATCH NEWSLETTER/UPDATE OF SORTS)

While we are still in the first month of the New Year, I thought I would call your attention to the Czech poet, Jaroslav Seifert again (Poetry Dispatch #206, the first dispatch of 2008) via Klaus (Monsieur K’s) insights and excellent work at www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com .

The archived (and greatly enhanced) version of this dispatch includes important biographical info about the Seifert, as well as photographs and a reader’s contact/commentary from Prague.

The first photograph that accompanies the Seifert dispatch more than caught my breath. (Monsieur K, way over there in France, seems to be reading my mind — or senses the conditions I work in.) It is a photo of a ‘busy’ desk by the brilliant old Czech photographer, Josef Sudek, (1896-1976). His photographs of Prague were often compared to Atget’s photographs of Paris.

I have treasured Sudek’s desk photo since the first time I saw it in the 1970’s. Since then, my desk (my condition here in the coop…a long way from Prague) has slowly taken on the depth and character of Sudek’s famous photograph—called “The Labyrinth“. Perhaps that old photo was an artistic piece of foreshadowing. Lost. Out of control. I wish it were otherwise, but there seems to be nothing I can do. I’m destined to live and write in the labyrinth.

More on Seifert and his work in a future dispatch. (More on Sudek too…but probably for print, not the net.)

It took a fair number of months, but Monsieur Klaus and I are now caught up. All the Poetry Dispatches (going back to 2005) have now been archived. What a treasure. Please consult the archives on a regular basis. Pass the site on to friends. By Monsieur K’s count, it is a very active sites, thousands of hits — from all over the world. There is so much good work there. And much more to come. Stay with it…me…us.

I would also like to call your attention to please take a second look at the following recent (greatly enhanced) Poetry Dispatches in particular: Susan Peterson (A Quiet Poet in the Village), Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (A Belated Obit) and Ruth Wallis (Risque’ Songs). In each instance, you will be both informed and delighted by the added material.

So take a few minutes. Go to http://www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com Look up Jaroslav Seifert first. Read/enjoy. Move on to Susan Peterson, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (some great photos of her) and Ruth Wallis — both photos and old album covers of all.

Thank you all.

And thank you Klaus — for making this happen, a bigger, better, wider and wider concept on the world wide web!

Norbert Blei

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jaroslav seifert | štàsten & happy

2 01 2008
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Poetry Dispatch No. 206 | January 1, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR

And so, another year of Poetry Dispatch. I thought we might start off 2008 with one of my favorite Czech poets, Jaroslav Seifert, who has something important to say about “happiness” which we are so fond of extending and associating with a new year… Norbert Blei

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To nejhorší mám za sebou
–řikám si—, jsem už stár.
To nejhorší mám před sebou.
ještĕ žiji.
Ale kdybyste mermomocì chtěli vědět.
byl jsem štàsten.
Nĕkdy celỳ den, nĕkdy celé hodiny,
nĕkdy jen pár minut.
To stačí.
Jaroslav Seifert

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The worst is behind me
—I tell myself—I’m already old.
The worst is yet to come,
I’m still alive.
But if you must know,
I was happy.
Sometimes a whole day, sometimes a whole hour.
sometimes only a few minutes.
That’s enough.
-Jaroslav Seifert

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seifert.jpgJaroslav Seifert (September 23, 1901 – January 10, 1986) was a Nobel prize winning Czech writer, poet and journalist. Born in Žižkov, a suburb of Prague in what was then part of Austria-Hungary, his first collection of poems was published in 1921. He was a member of the Communist Party, the editor of a number of communist newspapers and magazines – Rovnost, Srsatec, and Reflektor – and the employee of a communist publishing house.

During the 1920s he was considered a leading representative of the Czechoslovakian artistic avant-garde. He was one of the founders of the journal Devětsil.

In March 1929, he and six other important communist writers left the Communist Party for signing a manifesto protesting against Bolshevik tendencies in the new leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

He subsequently worked as a journalist in the social-democartic and trade union press during the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1949 Seifert left journalism and began to devote himself exclusively to literature. His poetry was awarded important state prizes in 1936, 1955, and 1968, and in 1967 he was designated National Artist. He was the official Chairman of the Czechoslovak Writer’s Union for several years (1968-70).

In 1977 he was one of the signatories of Charter 77 in opposition to the repressive regime of the time.

Seifert was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984. Due to bad health, he was not present at the award ceremony, and so his daughter received the Nobel Prize in his name. (Some sources say, that the government didn’t let him go accept the prize.) Even though it was a matter of great importance, there was only a brief remark on the award in the state-controlled media. He died in 1986 and was buried at the municipal cemetery in Kralupy nad Vltavou. His burial was marked by a high presence of secret police, who tried to suppress any hint of dissent on the part of mourners.

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