Blesok no. 74, September-October, 2010

Poetry since 1945

Ján Gavura

In the period from 1945 to 1948 Slovak poetry witnessed a return to the poetic works of the interwar years and prolongation of literary trends dominant in the 1930s. A significant degree of continuity may be observed in relation to spiritual poetry. Many authors of the first and second wave of the so-called Catholic Moderna wrote their best works at this time. Janko Silan wrote Piesne zo Ždiaru ('Songs from Ždiar',1947) and Úbohá duša na zemi ('The Poor Soul Upon Earth', 1948), and Svetloslav Veigl wrote his book Láska smrť ('Love, the Death', 1946). Furthermore a third wave of the Catholic Moderna developed in a promising way, represented by Vojtech Mihálik and his collection Anjeli ('Angels', 1947) as well as by Viliam Turčány, his junior by two years. More remarkable change, however, can be observed in the works of the most compact avante garde group of poets - the suprarealists. The poetics of fantasy and experimentation had been examined heavily during the critical war years, revealing that behind the rich imagery a relatively superficial and simplified vision of the world incapable of principal reflexion was hidden in the works of several suprarealist poets. In reference to this, M Hamada speaks about the crisis of suprarealism. The most distinguished figures of this avante garde stream, however, did not get lost - R Fabry's poetic composition Ja je niekto iný ('I Is Someone Else', 1946) and Pavel Bunčák's collection S tebou a sám ('With You and Alone', 1946) rank among the most inspiring poetic works of that time.
    The events of the Second World War, the crisis of humanity and critical situations of existence posed pressing questions to the artists who tried to give answers through their verse. Many poems became a direct response to what happened, indeed topics of war could be found in poetry as early as the 1930s when poets perceived the threat of worldwide conflict. All the leading poets reacted to the war and all of them, without exception, opposed it. Among the first was Emil Boleslav Lukáč, who expressed concern at the growth of fascism in Europe as early as in 1934 in his collection Elixír. Later Laco Novomeský, writing his volume Svätý za dedinou ('Saint Behind the Village', 1939) also included poems dealing with the Spanish antifascist resistance. The topic of war was dealt with in further works by Lukáč in his collections Moloch (1938) and Bábel (1944) and by Novomeský in the collection of poems Pašovanou ceruzkou ('With Smuggled Pencil', published in 1948), which was written during his imprisonment in 1940-1941. Similarly Valentín Beniak reacted to the war threats and concrete war events in his books from the end of the 1930s, and later with a broader concept in the poems Žofia ('Sophie', 1941) and Popolec ('Ash Wednesday', 1942). Among the key antiwar collections also rank the books Hostina ('Feast', 1944) and Studňa ('Well', 1945) written by Ján Smrek, the main figure of Slovak poetic and cultural life since the 1920s.
    The Second World War remained the central topic of Slovak poetry long after 1945 (in drama it preserved its leading role until well into the 1970s). This may be accounted for by reference to the political usage of the outcome of the war, in which a central role was accorded to the liberation of the country by the Soviet Red Army. After the political takeover in February 1948, which turned democratic Czechoslovakia into a totalitarian state with a one-party (communist) system, the political impact on literature was complete. The activities of artists during the existence of so called Slovak State (1939-1945) started to be examined, and their involvement in political and cultural institutions, their loyalty to the rules followed by the fascist Slovak government were reviewed. Official doctrine of the newly-constituted government derived from the materialistic philosophy of Marxism started to create a uniform plural foundation of Slovak culture. Journals and publishing houses of religious and spiritual literature were closed as well as the cultural tribunes supporting the democratic wing of the Slovak population. Within a year two thirds of existing periodicals had been banned.
    Politisation of culture was followed by totalitarian rule. This was foreseen by artists who tried to escape it by making compromises which would still leave them with the freedom to create art works (Manifest of the socialist humanism, 1948). Their gesture, however, was refused as insufficient and the prevailing cultural policy required a total implementation of certain criteria. The word 'truth' was defined in a more precise way as 'the party truth', demonstrating that the values and interpretation of phenomena was measured by the criteria of political utilitarianism. Such a political dictate to the cultural activities of artists led to the loss of plurality as well as to topical uniformity (in poetry agitation lyrics, posterity and pathos), a vulgar simplification of style, a black and white vision of the world, utopian visions presented as a reality. This period, also called a period of schematism, produced poetry celebrating the transformation of Slovak society, the building up of a new country, the transformation of man. The presentation of time became uniform, there was the dark past, and then present activity for a better tomorrow, which it was said ironically 'had not arrived yet'. Among the authors representing this schematic poetry were Milan Lajčiak, whose collection Súdružka moja zem ('Comrade, My Land', 1949) was considered an example of socialist poetry, Ctibor Štítnicky, Milan Ferko and other poets who had created successful poetry in the preceding years or decades such as Vojtech Mihálik, Andrej Plávka, Ján Kostra, Pavol Gašparovič Hlbina and Vladimír Reisel.

Miroslav  V&;lek (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

A qualitative change came after the death of Stalin and the collapse of the cult of personality. Until then Slovak literature had been mired in a crisis unlike any other in the 20th century. In these dark years poets were allowed to publish only works which accorded with strict cultural and political directives; some of them remained silent willingly, while the silence of others was enforced. Several cultural representatives or artists were imprisoned following artificial political processes (the most famous being the process involving the so-called 'bourgeois nationalists' where several leading artists including Ladislav Novomeský and Ivan Horváth were sentenced to imprisonment), while in the so-called 'monster processes' many members of the artistic intelligentsia (including Vladimír Clementis) were even sentenced to death and executed.
    The first remarkable talents of the latter part of the 1950s were those of poets Milan Rúfus and Miroslav Válek. Both entered literature relatively late, intentionally avoiding the vulgar schematic years.
    The first collection by Milan Rúfus, entitled Až dozrieme ('When We Mature', 1956) resumes the Symbolist line of Slovak poetry with sorrow as its basic tonality, the tragic feeling and return to private and intimate expression. Rúfus from the very beginning introduced himself as a poet of lasting human and artistic values that did not change in his subsequent output which amounted to over 20 books of verse in the years 1956-2008, including Zvony ('The Bells', 1968), Chlapec maľuje dúhu ('A Boy Paints the Rainbow', 1974), Prísny chlieb ('Severe Bread', 1987), Čítanie z údelu ('Reading From Fate', 1996) and Vernosť ('Faithfulness', 2007).

Milan R&;fus (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

    A more dynamic change was brought to Slovak poetry by Miroslav Válek, who carried on the modernisng trends of the home and foreign avante garde. The centre of Válek´s poetry became the image of man as a creature with a private as well as a social life, a human being giving love as well as losing it. Even though the anthropocentric character is typical of art, the poetic vision of man by Válek has almost metaphysical validity. In this anthropology man is a unique creature, as well as part of a larger whole within the history of the world. His formal expression is unique, marked in early collections (Dotyky, 'Touches',1959 and Príťažlivosť, 'Attractions', 1961) by civil language, dynamic metaphor and irony, and in later collections (Nepokoj, 'Unrest', 1963 and mainly Milovanie v husej koži, 'Making Love in Goose Flesh', 1965) by disillusion, sarcasm and even cynicism. According to Válek, a poem has to originate from an idea and the poem carries the meaning as a whole. Válek introduced himself as a poet of a thinker's calibre ('an analyst and a synthetist in one person', E Jenčíková) and a suggestive poetic image.
    Together with Miroslav Válek and Milan Rúfus, other authors contributed in a positive way to the development of Slovak poetry. One of them was Viliam Turčány with his late debut Jarky v kraji ('Ditches in the Country', 1957), in which he brings back idylic poetry and enchantment with classical form.
    The decisive moment at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s was the arrival of a strong poetic group so called Trnava Group, also known as the Concretists, made up of Ján Stacho, Ján Ondruš, Jozef Mihalkovič and Ľubomír Feldek. Their position in Slovak poetry was so strong at the beginning of 1960s that the subsequent generation of poets entering literature a few years later felt the necessity to annul the poetry of the Concretists, to get rid of its impact. The poetry of the Concretists was based on sensual concreteness and 'concrete memory' (it was from this that the name of the group was derived), which got into poetry through sound and picture motives, through evocation of childhood and personal experience. Metaphor was lifted up ('metaphore will save the world', Ľ Feldek), metaphor was able to enchant through its imaginative character and meaningful interpretation. The inclination to sensual phenomena marked efforts to avoid the political requirements of the official cultural doctrine.
    Despite a joint appearance (in 1958), this poetic group comprised strong individuals who in the end parted company in their artistic programme. Ján Ondruš was the first to acquire a strong personal profile in the group, he aroused interest through his poems published in the latter part of the 1950s. However, a publishing house refused to release his debut work and his first book was only published six years later, this was the collectionŠialený mesiac ('Crazy Moon', 1965), considered one of the most remarkable books of the decade (Milan Hamada). In many-sided parallels Ondruš accentuated human communication, isolation and necessity of the human touch (literally). Images of human vulnerability, motives of pain and impaired integrity were interpreted in an unchangeable poetic manuscript based on 'dislocation' of worlds (inventive word collocations based on new syntactic links) and on subject-vs-object exchange, where the author was the 'fictitious co-subject' to himself (F Matejov). His favourite topics were developed in longer poetic works as well, eg Posunok s kvetom('Gesture With a Flower', 1968), V stave žlče ('In a State of Gall', 1968) či Kľak ('Genuflection', 1970).
    Another important poetic figure who attracted attention at the beginning of the 1960s was poet and concretist Ján Stacho. He brought suggestive metaphor to poetry, derived from a unique human experience rich in sensual impulse or stimulus (the field of erotics and bodiness), which he evoked through lively images and associations understandable in suprasensual (non-verbal) reception. Gradually in his poetry, vertical, almost baroque relationships between man and the world are deepened, man aware not only of his intense experience on the Earth, but also of the duality of deeds in another, spiritual dimension. Extatic poems about corporeal intoxication (the collection Svadobná cesta, 'Honeymoon', 1961) changed to poems about unfulfilled man and the unfullfillness of man (Dvojramenné čisté telo, 'Two Arms Of A Clean Body', 1964) and a search for harmony which however is not to be found. Neither does the 'word', which used to be a reliable guide in the first books, bring the much sought-after solution to tiredness, depression and the threat of death (the collectionsZážehy, 'Ignition', 1967 and Apokryfy, 'Apocryphs', 1969). Jozef Mihalkovič was the third concretist poet whose poetry derived from the epic movement of the story, the parable of a human life, in which he often links the present time with the past (topics of childhood and memory). Intensely deep experience overtakes the words and can only be described by a fitting metaphor rich in associations (Ľútosť, 'Pity', 1962 and Zimoviská, 'Winter Dwellings', 1965). The antitheasis to Mihalkovič and his restrained statement is the poetry of Ľubomír Feldek; even though both share some topics (the family, the role of the male). Feldek resumes the avante gardeplayfulness which is a constant part of his poetics. Children´s perception without limits is regarded by him as the fundamental mode of viewing. Writing books for children becomes for Feldek as important as writing books for adults.

L&;dia Vadkerti-Gavorn&;kov&; (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

The reaction to the poetry of the concretists was extremely rich. Several distinguished poetic figures entered into a dialogue with this poetry and accepted some of its motives which were close to them, eg Ján Šimonovič, Štefan Strážay and Lýdia Vadkerti-Gavorníková. Others, such as Ján Buzássy, tried to stand apart from it. Vadkerti Gavorníková in her poetry managed to link the magic motives of folklore, personal experience and rational judgement in an excellent way. Poems in which often a lyrical pole of a song is interwoven with epic poetry are based on the confrontation of an individual with the role of man or, in the case of Gavorníková, a woman. Everyday as well as unique situations in which a woman (a mother, a daughter, a wife) is described with precise and expressive language, quite often combined with functional usage of proverbs and other phrasal expressions (the collections Pohromnice, 'Candlemasstide', 1965, Totožnosť, 'Identity', 1970, Kolovrátok, 'The Spinning Wheel', 1973; Piesočná pieseň, 'The Sandy Song', 1977 and Víno, 'Wine', 1982). Active usage of phrasal expressions in poetic language is also found in the poetry of J Buzássy. From his introductory collection Hra s nožmi ('Game With Knives', 1965), Buzássy writes poems full of inner contradictions which he tries to align. In his first book we can feel the tension between the individual and society, the search for incorporation into a greater whole (the socialist idea of collectivism), which is in following books substituted by contradictions between body and soul, between those who are and those who live (Škola kynická, 'School of Cynics', 1966), and between passion and chastity (Nausikaá, Nausicaa, 1970).
    At the end of the 1960s another influential group of poets entered Slovak literature. The name of the group was derived from a famous story by A Sillitoe, Lonely Runners ('Osamelí bežci'). Three authors Ivan Štrpka, Ivan Laučík and Peter Repka presented their poetry as common manifestoes in journals, where they refused poetry stripped of ethics as well as political orders in creative writing. All three of them managed to publish two books in the free atmosphere of the 1960s and after the political change in 1970 the group became unwanted (the Ivan Štrpka collections Krátke detstvo kopijníkov, 'The Short Childhood', 1969 and Trista tára, 'Trista Tells Lies', 1971; the Ivan Laučík collections Pohybliví v pohyblivom, 'Moving in Movement', 1968 and Sme príbuzní na začiatku, 'We Are Relatives', 1970; and the Peter Repka collection Sliepka v katedrále, 'Hen In the Cathedral', 1969 and book of reports Vstaň a choď, 'Stand Up and Go', 1970, which censorship banned and decided to destroy).

Ivan Lau&;&;k (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

    Interest in the group revived at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, when new directions in postcommunist Czechoslovakia (since 1993 an independent Slovakia) were being sought.
    Despite new trends and the rise in the Slovak poetry during the 1960s, official literature was still represented by authors who, with more or less alterations, resumed the traditions of socialist realism. A look back at the 1950s brought certain reflection, and it was admitted that 'in the process of seeking some mistakes were made”, but at the same time it was added that 'for the main direction of development these were not vital in any way' (statement from 1962). The picture of Slovak poetry in the 1960s was very rich, one pole being represented by a number of authors faithful to socialist realism, together with a group of authors who brought several innovations in this area (V Mihálik, J Kostra, P Horov). Slovak poetry was further enriched by a great number of other authors who entered poetry with a special programme. A great contribution was made by Mikuláš Kováč and his absence of conventionalism (the collectionsObrana stavebnice, 'Defence of Building Set', 1963, O modrej labuti, 'The Blue Swan', 1966), by Ivan Kupec and his anti-utopia (Mahonai, 1964 and Vyzliekanie z hnevov, 'Taking Off Anger', 1965), by Jozef Mokoš and his ability to describe the anxiety of an individual in the world of the atomic threat (Praskanie krvi, 'Blood Switch', 1962), by Štefan Moravčík and his chasing the word, creating puns, world play and ubiquitous erotic inspiration (Slávnosti baránkov, 'The Festivals of Lambs', 1969 and O veľkej zmyselnosti bielych ovečiek, 'On the Great Sensuality of White Sheep', 1970), by Štefan Strážay and his minimalist poetry with great suggestive power (Veciam na stole, 'Things on the Table', 1966), by Kamil Peteraj and his new objective concept of thought (Sad zimných vtákov, 'Orchard of Winter Birds', 1965, and Čas violy, 'The Time of Violin', 1966), by Marián Kováčik and his sagacity (Súradnice, 'Co-ordinates', 1963), and by Tomáš Janovic in his gnomic anecdotes (Epigramatika, 'Epigrammar', 1962).
    The 1960s were also years of returning poets who were not allowed to publish because of strict party bans, or whose silence may be attributed to other reasons. Among the most prominent returns was Laco Novomeský, who he published three collections - Vila Tereza ('Villa Theresa', 1963), Do mesta tridsať minút ('Thirty Minutes to Town', also 1963) and especially the book of verse Stamodtiaľ a iné ('From There and Others', 1964), based on author´s personal experience of communist imprisonment in the years 1951-1955. Other leading figures of interwar literature, such as Ján Smrek, Janko Silan, Emil Boleslav Lukáč, Maša Haľamová, Pavel Bunčák and Rudolf Fabry, also made a positive return during this period.
    Books of the everlasting value were written in this period by Miroslav Válek, Ján Ondruš and other concretists, and especially by Milan Rúfus, whose collections Zvony ('The Bells', 1968) and Triptych (1969) offered a pressing analysis of the crisis in human values. Rúfus depicts human hypocracy and often useless cruelty in an uncompromising way.

The rich variety of the 1960s, though not yet a plurality, was brought to a close by political events. The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968 meant the beginning of the end for the eased cultural and political atmosphere in the country, followed by a gradual takeover of initiatives by anti-reform communist polititians, supported by the Soviet government. In April 1969 at the Communist Party Congress a final decision was adopted that further development in Czechoslovakia would not lead to democratisation, but rather to the strengthening of party principles and totalitarianism. This marked a return to a situation similar to that in the 1950s, in which periodicals and progressive newspapers were banned, all the leading posts in state administration and culture had to undergo a revision of loyalty and those who in the preceding years had taken an active part in reforming society were removed from their posts or intimidated.

Only a few years later another young, talented poet Daniel Hevier entered literature. After the first virtuoso books indicating his extraordinary sense of language, he came up with the collections Nonstop (1981) andElektrónkový klaun ('Electronic Clown', 1983). He managed to create an alternative to civilism which in his case was derived from common situations of man living in the 'grey' years of communism. He put up a mocking mirror and his refusal culminated in a clownish decadent attitude.
    From the mid 1970s Anna Ondrejková also made an appearance in Slovak poetry, attempting to find elements shared by folklore, social sentiment (Kým trvá pieseň, 'As Long As the Song Lasts', 1975) and a deep personal message (Snežná nevesta, 'The Snow Bride', 1978, and Plánka, 'Wild Tree', 1984). In comparison to Hevier her poetry was more moderate and traditional, however in the last two books her verse depicted a sense of rootlessness, schizoid disorder and lack of experience. The conservative expression of Ondrejková was in line with the poetry of Ján Zambor, an author who revived the basic modernist gestures of symbolism in a most remarkable way, (the collections Zelený večer, 'The Green Evening', 1977, and Neodkladné, 'Urgent', 1980). By using minimalist forms, his gesture is enriched with powerful analytical fragments.
    A quality increase in poetry can be observed in the latter part of the 1970s and at the beginning of 1980s when gradually talented poets of preceding decades were able to return. Apart from the older authors (V Turčány), these comprised mainly of a strong generation of poets from the 1960s. New books of verse were released by concretist authors J Stacho and J Mihalkovič, and new trends were presented by Ľ Feldek in his collectionPoznámky na epos ('Notes on the Epos', 1980), a set (in topic and form) of different poems reacting to daily inspirations, and also deepening the relationship of private vs historical and intiminate vs public.
    After a period of silence new books were published almost simultaneously by Mikuláš Kováč, Ivan Štrpka, Štefan Moravčík and Ján Štrasser. M Kováč published the books Zemnica ('The Earth House') and Písanie do snehu ('Writing In the Snow'), both in 1978, and Rodinná pošta ('The Family Mail', 1980), in which we can see the poet indignant at the tragic situation of a simple person swallowed by the blind mechanism of history. New impulse can be found in the books of verse by Ivan Štrpka, Teraz a iné ostrovy ('Now and Other Islands', 1981), Pred premenou ('efore the Metamorphosis', 1982) and Správy z jablka ('News From the Apple', 1985). Usage of shortcut and parallel worlds is intertwined with a complex, multi-level consciousness of the lyrical subject facing humdrum as well as peak moments of an individiual. The meticuously-carved word is characteristic of Š Moravčík and his verse (Čerešňový hlad, 'The Cherry Hunger', 1979), an ecstatic enchantment with eroticism, life and death, all necessarily linked in a natural circle. In his subsequent books which also include some texts from the first stage of his writing, he experiments with how far he can go with word play and the boundless freedom of poetic writing and life. In his poems of this time we can also find awareness of the existence of the reverse side presented by the limits to human chances as well as political reality (Erosnička, 'The Erotic Frog', Tichá domácnosť, 'The Silent Household', both 1981, Maľované jarmá, 'The Painted Yokes', 1984). J Štrasser, after his debut Odriekanie ('Self-Denial', 1968), released much later his further collections Podmet ('Subject', 1980) and Denne ('Daily', 1981), in which he offered analysis of the human existence in typical conditions of daily humdrum life. Both Moravčík and Štrasser are linked through their sense of satire, which they richly used in their books of the latter part of 1980s. One of the experienced poets who resumed publishing poetry in the 1980s was Kamil Peteraj. Compared with other authors Peteraj set his writing in concrete situations and in reality. Even though often based on his own personal experience, Peteraj's poetry is able to create a precious image of a joint experience, often strictly dialectical or paradoxical (especially the books Minútové básne, 'One Minute Poems', 1986, and Útechy/maximy/telegramy, 'Consolations-Maxims-Telegrams', 1987).

Mila Haugov&; (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

    Apart from the famous names, some high quality poetic debuts were also made in the 1980s. The beginning of the decade saw the debuts of two women poets, Mila Haugová (Hrdzavá hlina, 'Rusty Clay', 1980, Premenlivý povrch, 'Transforming Surface', 1983) and Dana Podracká (Mesačná milenka, 'The Moon Lover', 1981, Zimní hostia, 'The Winter Guests', 1984). Whereas the poetry by Haugová was directed towards an intimate utterance based on precise introspection and its symbolical natural expression, Podracká added more literary knowledge, intertextual coherence and intellectual coverage of motives.
    A more turbulent response was evoked by Jozef Urban, Ivan Kolenič and Taťjana Lehenová, young poets entering the literature in the mid 1980s. Their radical poetry of revolt provoked a negative response from literary scholars and attracted various accusations of public unsuitability, eg Lehenová was accused of pornography for her playful erotic poems. Urban's book of verse Malý zúrivý Robinzon ('The Small Ferrocious Robinson', 1985) reacted in a polemic way to current social and poetic convention and through a youthful revolt to intimate and challenging situations he provoked the reader to overcome hypocritical blindness. Urban's poetry rose above other poetic writings through its extraordinary language skills and showy way of eased verse intertwined with elements of bound verse.
    A gesture of revolt also marked Ivan Kolenič's poetic debut Prinesené búrkou ('Brought By the Storm', 1986) in which he accentuates on one hand a strong sense of freedom and exuberance, and on the other great sensitivity and sentiment. Further books by Kolenič always brought a distinct change of poetics as well as overall concept. Even though all three authors entered literature in a rather remarkable way, their potential for innovation stagnated in following decade and other poets had a more inspiring impact.
    The political changes of November 1989 brought final liberation from political diktat in the field of art. The launch of parliamentary democracy created sufficient conditions for all authors without any exceptions. However, the new circumstances brought new restrictions of a different character – economic. Mass support for literature, a broad network of libraries and low book prices ceased to be automatic and soon economic criteria became an unwanted but decisive phenomenon in the field of publishing. Another tendency which has had a negative impact on poetry was the growth of media competition, which shifted the book 'medium' to the edge of general interest, as a result of which literature was 'marginalised' (P Zajac) and above all poetry became a minority literary genre. The importance of literature in the years of the communist oppression (as well as in preceding centuries when the Slovaks had formed as an independent nation) was greater, because it played the role of a broad social tribune, and often as a counterbalance to official political thought.

Paradoxically, the huge social and political change did not cause an equally decisive upheaval in literature. As for the poetic work of previous times, more attention started to be paid to the poetry of Janko Silan and other poets of the Catholic Moderna, who had emigrated in the latter part of the twentieth century (R Dilong, K Strmeň and M Šprinc).
    After 1989 poetry, like other areas of literature, was marked by strong individualisation, and consequently perhaps the most decisive change compared to preceding decades was a significant increase in spiritual poetry. A broad spectrum of spiritual poets and their programmes now emerged in the form of a large group of poets who brought spirituality and religion to the fore and openly varied their topics according to Christian (and more often than not Catholic) principles. Another group of poets, large in number and prolific in output, did not treat Christianity as an independent object, but devoted their work to an analysis of man and the world in its natural dependencies, even though religious principles were obvious from the author´s viewpoints and evaluations.

Peter Repka (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

    A short retrospective of poetry after 1989 suggests that the greatest contribution to poetry was made by authors who entered literature in the 1960s – the Lonely Runners Group represented by J Buzássy or Ján Ondruš, who in 1996 released one of the key books of the decade, an updated edition of his preceding works entitled Prehĺtanie vlasu ('Swallowing Hair'). Milan Rúfus (1928-2009), though one generation older, had not lost his position as a cultural and moral authority in Slovak poetry. In the 1990s and at the beginning of a new millennium he released several books of verse and essays. His poetry of unchangeable human values in the world and in front of God formed a narrowly-set circle, which the author had not renewed for several decades, however through his melodic verse he managed to evoke a feeling of anxious, sincere experience. Persisting with traditional values, he showed that 'faithfulness' to true values is at the time of their relativisation an expression of a real 'man´s courage' (D Podracká).
    The ethical programme of I Štrpka, I Laučík and P Repka, also members of the Lonely Runners Group became up-to-date at the beginning of 1990s, when Slovak society and culture were seeking a new direction in a situation which had not yet become clear-cut. The three authors did not linger on their programme of the past, on the contrary they took an active role in seeking and positively influencing other poets of that time. Laučík´s 'de-humanised' (F Matejov) poetry depicting the world of mountains, caves and hostile north created a foundation for presenting different pressing human situations - the matter of morality vs the deaf world of nature and consequently of the human being, - as well as proving the values and strengths of man to acquit himself well in crisis situations (Na prahu počuteľnosti, 'On the Threshold of Audability', 1988, and Vzdušnou čiarou, 'On a Flight Path', 1991). In his last collection, Havránok (1998), he adds a geographical and historical link to human consciousness. Despite his dehumanisation Laučík becomes a poet of a culminating emotionality who points out to the human frailty endangered by our own ignorance and cowardice. I Štrpka took up some elements of the 'open' poetry which he had defended in the 1960s and developed it into a new processing poetry. The fragmentary character supported by a rich personal and cultural 'memory' is during the creative process transformed into a compact, internally-stratified unit. The poet often accentuates the state of a permanent as well as constant identity and communication crisis which he demonstrates by breaking up the poetic language. Unlike I Štrpka, P Repka created a new poetic programme in the 1990s based on confrontation of the present situation (personal and countrywide) with a generally valid message of a carnation which became the composition foundation for his poetic cycles. Repka, author of the famous reports from the 1960s, then resumes his analytical observations of the world (Že-lez-ni-ce, 'Railways', 1992, Priateľka púšť, 'The Friend Dessert', 1996, Karneval v kláštore, 'Carnival in a Monastery', 2002, and Relikvie anjelov, 'Relics of Angels', 2006).
    Even though many leading poets fell silent in the 1990s, others found enough inspiration for a new culmination. J Buzássy can be ranked among those as he resumed writing his gnomic poetry marked by inner contradiction between his classicist clarity and romantic predetermination, not succeeding in reaching a final harmony. After his book of verse Náprava vínom('Remedy with Wine', 1993) with reflexive cycles and the book Pani Faustová a iné básne ('Mrs Faust and Other Poems', 2001) containing poems of farce and comic character, Buzássy started writing a precise poetic diary in the form of bound quatrains (eg Dni, 'Days', 1995, Zátišie – krátky pôst, 'Still Life – A Short Fasting', 2004, Dvojkrídle dvere, 'Two Wing Door', 2006, and Bystruška, 2008).

Erik Groch (photo by Peter Proch&;zka)

    The best books written by women poets Dana Podracká and Mila Haugová appeared at this time. In the poetry of Podracká intimate human life gets confronted with an archetypal role of a man and a woman (as well as Man as a universal human being). The poetess makes use of the rich symbolics of myths and literature and through an intense immersion (sensual and analytical) she tries to define the substance of man which she finds the most important task (eg the collections Meno, 'Name', 1999, Kazematy, 'Cassemates', 2004, and Persona, 'The Person', 2007). Poetry by Mila Haugová attracted great interest in the 1990s, especially her collections Praláska ('Protolove', 1991), Nostalgia (1993), Dáma s jednorožcom ('Lady with a Unicorn', 1995) and others, where she writes her 'deep monolithic message built in a documentary way' (E Jenčíková). In the books by Haugová the concrete life experience is linked with the archetype of a 'proto-woman' creating a whole about cruelty and strength in the life of a woman.
    Books of verse by Erik Jakub Groch and Peter Macsovszky are also much discussed. E J Groch is the author of several different collections linked by his strong accent on values and trust in simplicity, almost naivety, which is important not only in discovering the world, but also in saving man. In his first collections he gets inspired by poetry, philosophy and theology, creating however an imaginative language of his own based on repetitions, modifications and mild hyperbole. In his key book Druhá naivita ('Second Naivety', 2005), through the selection of older poems and several cycles of new texts, he clearly shows his Christian orientation. The Franciscan simplicity in describing the natural phenomena and human situations is ballanced by a conscious confrontation with post-structuralist philosophy and metaphysical character. Apart from Groch, literary scholars often speak about similar Christian orientation and modern intellectual expression in the verse of other poets such as Rudolf Jurolek, Igor Hochel, D Pastirčák, Marián Milčák, Peter Milčák, Ján Gavura and Joe Palaščák.

Similarly P Macsovszky represents not only his own writings, but also someone who inspired a new trend in the poetry associated with interest in meta-language during text writing, semiotic possibilites and model situations in poetry language (called by the literary scholars 'text generation'). Reviews of the poetry by Macsovszky (the collections Strach z utópie, 'Afraid of Utopia', 1994, Ambit, 1995, Cvičná pitva, 'Training Autopsy', 1997, Súmračná reč, 'Cloudy Language', 1999, and other books) speak about 'sterility', 'cynical distance' and poetics of 'coolness' (emotional cold and indifference). It is noteworthy that viewpoints of this kind of writing raised several important questions about the substance of art and some of its extreme limits. Poetry written by other authors is also associated with Macsovszky's poetry, these are Andrej Hablák, Michal Habaj and Noray Ružičková, whose poetry of allusions, fragments and virtual dehumanised objects hides the frailty and vulnerability of the subject (Osnova a útok, 'Arrangement and Attack', 2000 or Parcelácia vzduchu, 'Air Plotting', 2006).

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