The two Slovak authors presented their poetry in three German cities in August.
Here are the accounts of what our LIC colleague, Petra Mikulášová, and poet Zuzana Husárová thought about the presentations in Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin.
The three readings promoted two newly published bilingual poetry collections: Hyper by Zuzana Husárová and Erwachen / Waking Up by Michal Habaj. The books came out in the German publishing house hochroth Leipzig. LIC, together with the publisher and the Honorary Consulate of the Slovak Republic in Leipzig and the Slovak Community in Sachsen organized the events.
Both collections came out in the OstroVers edition, which aims to create "poetic isles" stemming from various countries of the former Ost Block. It was the first time that hochroth Leipzig published the work of Slovak authors. Hyper introduces poems from the last two years that have not yet been published in Slovak, whereas Erwachen features a selection of mostly already-published poems that now, for the first time, appear in a two-language edition.
On Thursday, August 19th 2021, the first reading took place in Dresden's modern Zentralbibliotek -- part of Kulturpalast -- in the heart of the historical center of the city. Sylvie Meißner, who is responsible for the languages and inclusion section, welcomed us to the library. Then I introduced our authors as well as the work we do at the foreign department of LIC. Afterwards, Zuzana Husárová read some of her poems from her collection both in German and in Slovak. One of the translators, Stefanie Bose, read the German translations of Michal Habaj's poems, while the author read the Slovak originals. A discussion with the authors followed, with questions from the audience as well.
It was mostly Slovaks and Czechs living in Dresden who attended the event and it was a pleasure to meet them. We learned that they founded a library in Dresden, in which people can borrow books in our languages.
On Friday, August 28th, translator and employee of the Honorary Consulate in Leipzig Stefanie Bose kindly accompanied us to Leipzig. The evening, titled hochroth³ – die Lesereihe (#2) was organized by the bookstore Buchhandlung Rotorbooks in a quiet, photogenic part of the city center. About 20 people came to hear the reading set in the courtyard of an apartments' block, but there were others who watched the event indirectly, too: residents sitting on their balconies and smoking an evening cigarette, or children playing in the far corner of the courtyard. Their presence added a valuable touch of the everyday to the poetry.
Local poet Martina Hefter also presented her work at the reading. She read from her poetry collection In die Wälder gehen, Holz für ein Bett klauen / Into the Forrest, Stealing Wood for a Bed, published by kookbooks. Unplanned impulses from the flats above the courtyards underlined the suggestive performances of the two female poets, e.g. when we heard the sound of a washing machine precisely in the moment when Zuzana Husárová read from her poem Bedrooms: "you are the disruptive element of the family because you seek freedom, as do I / when will you return from the washing machine?" And when Martina Hefter read the solemn poem Linn Meier (†2019) about the life and gradual death of an anorectic, the air was filled with the smell of schnitzels being fried for dinner.
The third reading, H&H in Berlin on August 21, was part of the annual summer celebration of the publishing house hochroth, and it was attended by people from all the branches: Berlin, Bielefeld, Heidelberg, Leipzig, Munich, Paris and Wiesenburg. In a park near the villa Novilla, in the cultural center Moving Poets Novilla, many poets from all corners of Europe gathered at the Spree river to read their poetry. Our authors were closing this inspiring event at dusk when the red full moon appeared, together with their Czech colleagues Jan Škrob and translator Lana Dornová who read in place of Jitka N. Srbová.
Espresso Tonic, my new coffee pleasure, has found its place in Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, via conceptual import, in the questioning eyebrows of waitresses, uniquely mixed, lemon drop added. In Dresden, we were welcomed by the beautiful new Zentralbibliothek in collaboration with Slowaken in Sachsen -- Slovak women genuinely interested in poetry forms and literary events. In Leipzig, in the courtyard of a former slaughter house, now Rotorbooks bookstore, we transformed a poetry reading and discussion into a social event: as the washing machine whirred and the dogs barked, as schnitzels were fried and evening quarrels dawned, as ashes from cigarettes smoked on balconies silently descended upon the intonations and emphases of both translated and original texts, even a question from the audience was asked and the German Genießen happened. Villa Novilla welcomed us in Berlin and Hochroth with its sommerfest and its outstanding German authors (poems by Karoline Günderrode), with an open bar and a stage with a backdrop of beautiful scenery: people, bar, mythic trees, applause, a night in this town with Mišo Habaj and Honza Škrob in front of you; the river, E.T. in Café Morgenrot and a whole day in great company behind you.
I would like to thank the whole Literary Center, especially Barbora Németh for organization and Petra Mikulášová for a pleasant and professional approach and a joyfull company throughout the whole trip. A huge virtual hug to translator and fellow reader Martina Lisa, host and poet Ulrika Feibig and translator Stefanie Bose. I was honored to have spent time with you.
Monday morning I walk into the Insitute of Czech Literature of the CAS, where I am a stipendist in August, and Ľubica Šmarcová smiles at me and asks: „Shall we have an espresso tonic?“