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The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert

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This is the best translated and largest edition of poetry by the Czechs' only Nobel Prize–winning poet, Jaroslav Seifert (he won the prize in 1984 and died in 1986). The poetry is surprising in its simplicity, sensual, thoughtful, moving, comic in turns. Author Milan Kundera has called this collection “the tangible expression of the nation’s genius.” This is the best translated and largest edition of poetry by the Czechs' only Nobel Prize–winning poet, Jaroslav Seifert (he won the prize in 1984 and died in 1986). The poetry is surprising in its simplicity, sensual, thoughtful, moving, comic in turns. Author Milan Kundera has called this collection “the tangible expression of the nation’s genius.”


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This is the best translated and largest edition of poetry by the Czechs' only Nobel Prize–winning poet, Jaroslav Seifert (he won the prize in 1984 and died in 1986). The poetry is surprising in its simplicity, sensual, thoughtful, moving, comic in turns. Author Milan Kundera has called this collection “the tangible expression of the nation’s genius.” This is the best translated and largest edition of poetry by the Czechs' only Nobel Prize–winning poet, Jaroslav Seifert (he won the prize in 1984 and died in 1986). The poetry is surprising in its simplicity, sensual, thoughtful, moving, comic in turns. Author Milan Kundera has called this collection “the tangible expression of the nation’s genius.”

30 review for The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    Poetry is a dialogue about truth, and it should be a passionate, entreating dialogue. Pure bliss!!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    For me, the poetry ranged from ones that I didn't like or understand to ones that I liked very much. What tipped the scale from 3.5 to 4* was the selection of reminiscences at the end (entitled "All the Beauties of the World" & translated by George Gibian). For me, the poetry ranged from ones that I didn't like or understand to ones that I liked very much. What tipped the scale from 3.5 to 4* was the selection of reminiscences at the end (entitled "All the Beauties of the World" & translated by George Gibian).

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Allen

    Jaroslav Seifert's poetry reflects a sensibility which is essentially sunny despite a bald recognition of life's darker side, and his commitment to his role as a poet is without resentment. Seifert's translations of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and his clear appreciation of Heinrich Heine's work seethes like a lightning bolt through the work; Seifert is a working class poet who spent much of his youth with these poets, but he individuates himself very well in these poems. This collection makes the major Jaroslav Seifert's poetry reflects a sensibility which is essentially sunny despite a bald recognition of life's darker side, and his commitment to his role as a poet is without resentment. Seifert's translations of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and his clear appreciation of Heinrich Heine's work seethes like a lightning bolt through the work; Seifert is a working class poet who spent much of his youth with these poets, but he individuates himself very well in these poems. This collection makes the majority of Czech poetry look pale--clearly written with craft, in the hands of a skilled translator. Seifert's music is what comes across the most strongly. "PROLOGUE To be a poet is no easy task: He spots a warbler in the woods flying above its nest and he can't stop himself from thinking --O Wicked Ecstasy!-- of the warm tousled dimple in his girl's armpit. Yet he walks onto the wood because he can hear voices and everything around is softly trembling. And what d'you know? Quite close he'll see leaves and flowers, the pinkish trunks of the tall spruces glistening after the rain. They are most beautiful during the day and then at night. But it's not me. Once, in the past, the poet raised his voice and blood crowed loud. Men rushed to take up arms and women did not hesitate to cut their honey-hued and dark-red hair ]bowstrings. They're more elastic than our nylon strings. Unless the tyrant falls ---and that's hereditary too-- the poet is condemned to silence and the sharp-edged hand of prison bars will shut his mouth with iron claws. But he will scream his verses through the bars while the burners of books get down to work. But that's not me! Sometimes he'll desperately clash his words together to produce some certainty-- but there's no certainty win our world And vainly does he fling his fiery words far, even beyond death, to lighten the darkness that lies motionless on this mass grave and merely clings to miserable bones, spattered with verdigris from the lighter they over looked in the executed man's trouser pocket. But that's not me!"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jason Mashak

    Even in translation, this collection was well-written enough to warrant some serious consideration of my own writing. There is absolutely nothing contrived in Seifert's work. In fact, it apparently wasn't for him 'work' at all, as these poems read like postcards or letters to an old friend. And the voice is consistent, so the reader feels as if he/she *is* that old friend. I will definitely revisit this book in a couple years. Even in translation, this collection was well-written enough to warrant some serious consideration of my own writing. There is absolutely nothing contrived in Seifert's work. In fact, it apparently wasn't for him 'work' at all, as these poems read like postcards or letters to an old friend. And the voice is consistent, so the reader feels as if he/she *is* that old friend. I will definitely revisit this book in a couple years.

  5. 4 out of 5

    l.

    my favourites: a hundred times nothing, when in the history books, how painful i would find it, SOMETIMES WE ARE TIED DOWN, halley's comet, once only.. i do like his poems, but the way he writes about women sometimes irritates me (attributing this to him being born in 1901, and me being hypersensitive) note to self: try to find 'concert on the island' and 'halley's comet' my favourites: a hundred times nothing, when in the history books, how painful i would find it, SOMETIMES WE ARE TIED DOWN, halley's comet, once only.. i do like his poems, but the way he writes about women sometimes irritates me (attributing this to him being born in 1901, and me being hypersensitive) note to self: try to find 'concert on the island' and 'halley's comet'

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Very glad I read this. Definitely worth the read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Jaroslav Seifert brings me back to my favorite city in the world: Prague. He brings the streets and the river and the parks and the castle and the churches to such vivid life, it's like I never left when I read these poems. He also has such a tender way with words, bringing to life such beautiful, simple, domestic moments, and these simple moments are the weight to bring down lofty themes of love, suffering, guilt, beauty. In fact, Jaroslav is obsessed with beauty, with women's beauty - through Jaroslav Seifert brings me back to my favorite city in the world: Prague. He brings the streets and the river and the parks and the castle and the churches to such vivid life, it's like I never left when I read these poems. He also has such a tender way with words, bringing to life such beautiful, simple, domestic moments, and these simple moments are the weight to bring down lofty themes of love, suffering, guilt, beauty. In fact, Jaroslav is obsessed with beauty, with women's beauty - through the twist of a wrist, a smile, the way the hair falls over the shoulder. He lived in Prague through some of its painful times of the twentieth century and through his poetry he brings those upheavals, those sufferings to life. He mourns over the Holocaust, feels intense guilt over the pain of his Jewish neighbors, over the destruction of the Kralupy. He revels in love, in beauty, in the greatness and splendor of his ancient city, Prague. Some of his poems were so sensuous and languid, invoking memories of young love and the desperation of it, the flames of a single touch. The line in 'Lost Paradise': "There is no time without murder" is absolutely heart wrenching and poignant, and clearly embodies the hopelessness of so many after the end of World War II and the despair that was a pall over so much of Eastern Europe. I was deeply moved and impressed with so much of his poetry - for the duality of it, the homage to such beautiful things and to suffering, that these poems embodied a sense of freedom and memory. I really did love so many of them. My one issue came to the pieces at the end of the collection and were his reminisces. I suppose I realized that his view on women, while shaped during the early twentieth century, is a bit more idealized rather than real. Women and beauty are ideals to which he worships and in turn, women are more dehumanized, turned into objects of desire and beauty and art rather than humans with emotions and needs and complexities. It reshaped my perceptions of his poems after I read those pieces. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed this collection and hope to see more of his work translated into English.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    maybe as good as herbert fantastic..... september 18...update sometimes I dont know, but sometimes, just sometimes.... and i wonder if 'canal garden' is not my absolute favorite poem ever.... its first stanzas are remarkable and lonely, and then he just goes rambling on in a way i dont know, i dont know.. but sometimes just sometimes. maybe as good as herbert fantastic..... september 18...update sometimes I dont know, but sometimes, just sometimes.... and i wonder if 'canal garden' is not my absolute favorite poem ever.... its first stanzas are remarkable and lonely, and then he just goes rambling on in a way i dont know, i dont know.. but sometimes just sometimes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Godfrey

    Love Czech writers and poets....but my heart is especially attached to Jaroslav Seifert. His poems about Prague, the destructive war years in the Czech city overtaken by Nazis, and his romances are unbelievably touching, emotional and real. No other poet like him....

  10. 4 out of 5

    Offuscatio

    "Sólo una vez al año florece mayo, una vez en la vida sólo el amor." ~ Tierno. "Sólo una vez al año florece mayo, una vez en la vida sólo el amor." ~ Tierno.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Pennington

    Romantic Czech Poetry

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Sus versos fascinan. «Canción de amor», «El tímido susurro de la boca besada...» y «Concierto de Bach» son mis poemas favoritos de esta colección. «Nunca dormí hasta avanzada la mañana, me despertaban los tranvías matutinos y con frecuencia también mis propios versos. Me sacaban por los pelos del edredón y me llevaban a la silla, y apenas me limpiaba los ojos me obligaban a escribir. Atado por dulce saliva a los labios de un momento único, no pensaba en la salvación de mi mísera alma, y, en vez de la glori Sus versos fascinan. «Canción de amor», «El tímido susurro de la boca besada...» y «Concierto de Bach» son mis poemas favoritos de esta colección. «Nunca dormí hasta avanzada la mañana, me despertaban los tranvías matutinos y con frecuencia también mis propios versos. Me sacaban por los pelos del edredón y me llevaban a la silla, y apenas me limpiaba los ojos me obligaban a escribir. Atado por dulce saliva a los labios de un momento único, no pensaba en la salvación de mi mísera alma, y, en vez de la gloria eterna, deseaba un breve instante de placer fugaz.  En vano las campanas me elevaban de la tierra, me agarraba a ella con uñas y dientes. Estaba llena de perfumes y misterios excitantes. Cuando por la noche miraba al cielo no buscaba el cielo. Más bien me horrorizaban los agujeros negros situados en el límite extremo del universo que son más terribes aún que el mismo infierno.  Pero oí de pronto el sonido de un clavicémbalo. Era un concierto de Juan Sebastián Bach para óboe, clavicémbalo y cuerdas, ¿De dónde venía aquella música? No lo sé, pero no era de la tierra. Aunque no había probado el vino, me tambaleé un poco y tuve que agarrarme a mi propia sombra». Concierto de Bach

  13. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    The first 1/3 of the poetry is crap. And then suddenly it's pretty good. Not earthshattering, but pretty good. I think he sort of reminded me of Neruda. I also read some essays at the end of the poetry section, and I think I like him better as an essayist. The first 1/3 of the poetry is crap. And then suddenly it's pretty good. Not earthshattering, but pretty good. I think he sort of reminded me of Neruda. I also read some essays at the end of the poetry section, and I think I like him better as an essayist.

  14. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Cowles

    3 1/2 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Scott Cox

    Poet Jaroslav Seifert was the first Czech to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1984. His poetry is worth reading, reciting, and memorizing for its rich texture. The following are my favorite lines from "If one could tell one's heart . . . Maybe it's possible to live without love - but to die without it is sheer despair." Poet Jaroslav Seifert was the first Czech to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1984. His poetry is worth reading, reciting, and memorizing for its rich texture. The following are my favorite lines from "If one could tell one's heart . . . Maybe it's possible to live without love - but to die without it is sheer despair."

  16. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Mid- late-20th century Czech goodness, a lot of evocative, home-towney, nationalist stuff, but imbued with a folksy symbolism and off-kilter weirdness that keeps it from devolving into, say, Smetana-type bullshit.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I've had this collection since I was a junior in college. While I was on my Kundera kick, a friend of mine brought back a copy of this book for me from Prague. I like to think of it as William Carlos Williams meets a Czech William Yeats. I've had this collection since I was a junior in college. While I was on my Kundera kick, a friend of mine brought back a copy of this book for me from Prague. I like to think of it as William Carlos Williams meets a Czech William Yeats.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stamatis Georgopoulos

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vishnu Swaroop

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nataska

  21. 4 out of 5

    Folamour

  22. 4 out of 5

    Milutin

  23. 4 out of 5

    Santiago Garrido

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shoaib Nagi

  25. 5 out of 5

    Viktoria

  26. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anne Marie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dithluan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adam Vincent

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bob Cat

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