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Hungarians Celebrate Attila József’s Birthday, National Poetry Day

Tom Szigeti 2017.04.11.

Each year, on April 11th, Hungarians come together to celebrate The Day of Hungarian Poetry. As a part of this event, held on the birthday of famed Hungarian poet Attila József since 1964, people young and old celebrated the inspiring achievements of their country’s greatest literary geniuses.

The event comes on the heels of World Poetry Day, which was celebrated last month.

Szombathely, 2017. április 11. A költészet napja alkalmából tartott rendezvény résztvevõi elhelyezik kedvenc verseiket egy versfalon, amelyet Weöres Sándor-szobránál állítottak fel Szombathelyen 2017. április 11-én. Balra Lutor Katalin költõ és Doma Bence énekes-gitáros, egyetemi hallgatók. MTI Fotó: Varga György

National Poetry Day in Szombathely, where a ‘poetry wall’ was erected next to the statue of poet Sándor Weöres. Seated next to the statue are Katalin Lutor, poet, (left) and Bence Doma (right), singer and guitarist, who are both university students (Photo: MTI- György Varga)

While József’s name is tied most closely to this holiday, poet, writer, and journalist Sándor Márai (who would ultimately flee to California following the Second World War) was also born on this same day. In addition, important Hungarian poets such as Sándor Weöres and Sándor Petőfi are also remembered on this day.

In Budapest, József Attila’s birthplace was filled with songs and poetry recitals, as cultural and political leaders came together to remember the tragic genius who committed suicide in 1937 at teh age of 32.

In addition, similar ceremonies were held throughout the country, as students in Pápa recited Petőfi, a “wall of poems” was erected in next to a statue of Sándor Weöres, and a “poetry tram” wound its way through the streets of Debrecen.

Debrecen, 2017. április 11. Papp István, a debreceni Csokonai Nemzeti Színház színésze Arany János-verset olvas fel a költészet napja alkalmából az 1-es villamoson, Debrecenben 2017. április 11-én. MTI Fotó: Czeglédi Zsolt

István Papp, an actor in the Debrecen Csokonai National Theatre, reads a János Arany poem aloud on a tram in Debrecen as part of National Poetry Day (Photo: MTI- Zsolt Czeglédi)

In honor of this day, we would like to leave you, appropriately enough, with Attila József’s poem Születésnapomra (For My Birthday):


Upon my thirty-second year –

what a surprise, this poem here,



a little gift with which I say,

lurking alone in this café:



Thirty-two years just blew away,

I never made ten doits a day:



A pedagogue I might have been,

not this pen-busting, might-have-been,



But no; Herr College Chancellor

showed me the outside of the door:



It was a short sharp shock for sure,

my `father’ poem got its cure;

his word

and sword,

that saved the fatherland from me,

evoked my spirit and set free

its name

and flame.

`As long as I have any say

you’ll not teach here a single day’ –



If Mr Antal Horger’s pleased

our poet’s grammar-study’s ceased –


jollies –

no high school, but a nation I,

although he like not, by and by

shall teach,

shall teach.

Translated by Zsuzsanna Osvath


Via MTI, babelmatrix.org, and Wikipedia

Images via MTI

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