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Hungarians Celebrate National Poetry Day with Recitals, Book Kiosks, and Political Protest

Fanni Kaszás 2018.04.11.

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.

On this day there are an increased number of literary evenings, book presentations and signings, readings, spontaneous slam poetry nights, and various literature-related events. For a day, customers can pay with a poem in some coffee shops, and people are “posting” poems on trees, buildings, and even writing them on the streets, including József Attila’s Levegőt! , written as a form of political protest on the street where newly re-elected Prime Minister Viktor Orbán lives.

Levegőt! (József Attila) on the street

POKET, the pocket book project of actor Miklós H. Vecsei, poet-author Krisztián Grecsó and, the Sztalker group, also started today. They believe books are among life’s daily necessities, and offer smartphone-sized real books to replace smartphones in passengers’ hands on public transport. The group set up vending machines at seven busy points of the city: Keleti Railway Station, Puskás Ferenc Stadium, Széll Kálmán tér, Móricz Zsigmond körtér, Örkény István Theatre (Madách tér), Déli Railway Station and the Vígszínház. An eighth vending machine is a “pocket book truck” and will be set up on the main summer festivals. From these machines, people can buy high-quality pocket books, designed by MOME graduate Kristóf Benedek Kiss, for 990 forints (EUR 3). The first available books are Utas és Holdvilág (Szerb Antal), “És mesélni kezdtem” (Eszterházy Péter), A Pál utcai fiúk (Molnár Ferenc), Egy elmebeteg nő naplója (Csáth Géza) and Ady Endre éjszakái (Gyula Krúdy). You can watch the image film of the project here:

Similarly to previous years, Iain Lindsay, the British Ambassador to Hungary, recited a poem in honor of Hungary’s National Day of Poetry at the Attila József Memorial in Budapest. Ambassador Lindsay asked his followers on Facebook and Instagram for suggestions as to what he should read, and this year, he recited the first two stanzas of Attila József’s poem, Óda (Ode):

You can read the recited first two verse here:

Óda (Hungarian)

Itt ülök csillámló sziklafalon.
Az ifju nyár
könnyű szellője, mint egy kedves
vacsora melege, száll.

Szoktatom szívemet a csendhez.
Nem oly nehéz –
idesereglik, ami tovatűnt,
a fej lehajlik és lecsüng
a kéz.


Ode (English)

I am sitting
here on a glittering wall of rocks.
The mellow wind of the young summer
like the warmth of a good supper
flies around.

I let my heart grow fond of silence.
It is not so difficult,
– the past swarms around –
the head bends down
and down hangs the hand.


 Attila József
translated by Tamás Kabdebó

via UK in Hungary, btf.hu
featured image: Urbanista

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