PAVOL JANIK | A DICTIONARY OF FOREIGN DREAMS

Pavol Janik - painted portrait
PAVOL JANIK
VIRTUOSO OF SLOVAK LITERATURE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Translated into English by Heather Trebaticka, nee King

Mgr. art. Pavol Janik, PhD., (magister artis et philosophiae doctor) was born in 1956 in Bratislava, where he also studied film and television dramaturgy and scriptwriting at the Drama Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (VSMU). He has worked at the Ministry of Culture (1983–1987), in the media and in advertising. President of the Slovak Writers’ Society (2003–2007), Secretary-General of the SWS (1998–2003, 2007–2013), Editor-in-Chief of the literary weekly of the SWS Literarny tyzdennik (2010–2013). Honorary Member of the Union of Czech Writers (from 2000), Member of the Editorial Board of the weekly of the UCW Obrys-Kmen (2004–2014), Member of the Editorial Board of the weekly of the UCW Literatura – Umeni – Kultura (from 2014). Member of the Writers Club International (from 2004). Member of the Poetas del Mundo (from 2015). Member of the World Poets Society (from 2016). Director of the Writers Capital International Foundation for Slovakia and the Czech Republic (2016–2017). Chief Representative of the World Nation Writers’ Union in Slovakia (from 2016). Ambassador of the Worldwide Peace Organization (Organizacion Para la Paz Mundial) in Slovakia (from 2018). Member of the Board of the International Writers Association (IWA BOGDANI) (from 2019). He has received a number of awards for his literary and advertising work both in his own country and abroad.

This virtuoso of Slovak literature, Pavol Janik, is a poet, dramatist, prose writer, translator, publicist and copywriter. His literary activities focus mainly on poetry. Even his first book of poems Unconfirmed Reports (1981) attracted the attention of the leading authorities in Slovak literary circles. He presented himself as a plain-spoken poet with a spontaneous manner of poetic expression and an inclination for irony directed not only at others, but also at himself. This style has become typical of all his work, which in spite of its critical character has also acquired a humorous, even bizarre dimension. His manner of expression is becoming terse to the point of being aphoristic. It is thus perfectly natural that Pavol Janik’s literary interests should come to embrace aphorisms founded on a shift of meaning in the form of puns. In his work he is gradually raising some very disturbing questions and pointing to serious problems concerning the further development of humankind, while all the time widening his range of themes and styles. Literary experts liken Janik’s poetic virtuosity to that in the work of Miroslav Valek, while in the opinion of the Russian poet, translator and literary critic, Natalia Shvedova, Valek is more profound and Janik more inventive. According to Sarita Jenamani, Secretary-General of the PEN International’s Austrian Centre, Pavol Janik has his place in world literature. He has translated in poetic form several collections of poetry and written works of drama with elements of the style of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Pavol Janik’s literary works have been published not only in Slovakia, but also in Albania, Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland,  the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

English translation by Smiljana Piksiades:

I AM CRYING YOU, MORNING

Behind the horizon the light is spraying.
The sky tremble’s like a tear.
The winged summer wilts.
Through the algae’s a lonesome dew slides.

Trees hold empty nests in their hands.
I quietly sing birds psalms.
In the empty night, empty star is falling.
Empty gaze of water is still cloudy.

I read an exclamation of silence
and drink the morning blood stream aloud.
The morning is taking deep breaths.

With its soft palms of the hands,
the haze crumbles poems.
Heart’s beating is not quieter.
Unbelievable sobs, like as if it was dead.

(1975)

English translation by Pavol Janik Jr.:

THE CONCERT

Do not be afraid of sudden outcries of the orchestra!
That does not mean the conductor
has seen my hand on your knee.
Allow a kiss.
 
Know that your sex outrages you only as much
as the music is anxious about the applause.

(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

ON THE LINE MAN – WOMAN AND BACK

You escape from me like gas. With astonishment I watch how with a single scrawl of your legs you ignite your silk dress.

With such blinding nakedness you pre-empt sky-blue flame.

Blazingly ablaze and perhaps wholly otherwise I address a fire which you will no longer damp down.

That time I wanted to declare at least what was essential to all chance passers-by, to all chance passing aircraft.

So under such circumstances who wouldn’t have spoilt it?

(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

NIGHT BUS

I admire the smiles of the wax figures and the drunks.

Their faith. Their humility. Their precision. Their infallible wisdom determined by the office of normalization.

I admire their wallpapered souls full of light and brocade. Their responsibility and legality surpassing the price of taxis and wine.

I’m terrified by the indifference with which they listen to the heavy breathing of the last trolley buses.

(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

SUMMER

The sun smashes our windows.
An urgent song reaches us from the street.

On the cellophane sky
steam condenses.
Unconfirmed reports are reproduced
about the wind.

The trees are the first to begin to talk
about the two of us.


(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

THE MOMENT BEFORE TOUCH

The air grows still.
As in an illustrated weekly
I leaf through your eyes.

To hear silence
as it walks in new shoes
and lulls the buzzing bees.
Somebody furiously addresses us with wings.

It’s said that you’ve seen
burning birds tumble from the sky!

It’s just at the base of your breasts
there’s something making a ceaseless hullabaloo.


(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

TO YOU

You come from a scent.
A crumpled flower.
I inhale you tangled like smoke.

You inhabit the starry sky
and dials of digital watches.

You stupefy me dependably
and faster than light.

My head aches from you
and to this moment I mistake you for music.

(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

VIVACE MA NON SOLTANTO COSI

Barefoot
you leap from star to star.
And each time there’s a chime
like the kiss of crystal glasses.

Thousands of your faces
skate with perseverance
on frozen ponds.

I open you 
with a violin’s clef
and seek the bow
whose elasticity can equal you.

Deep in you
instead of strings
I’ve touched tears.


(1981)

English translation by James Sutherland Smith:

PIANO

The moment we each have our own key
to the same flat
I’ll shift a piece of the garden
to the second floor.

Sometimes I’ll come personally.
Clean
and carefully shaved
to listen to home concerts.

I’ll come for sure
clumsily like a piano,
and always well-tempered.

(1981)

(To be continued…)

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