Wednesday, 29 September 2010

UEA Writers #1 - Ágnes Lehóczky

The first UEA-associated writer to be featured is poet Ágnes Lehóczky. Her first collection Budapest to Babel, from which the first poem is taken, is a favourite of mine; a complex and original debut that not only forces and encourages the reader to engage with its tricky syntax and innovative linguistics but rewards them in plentitudes for doing so. There are echoes of Heideggerian and Derridean philosophy in her work, as well as American post-Language poetry (and of course Agnes Nemes Nagy), as it confronts and continually defamiliarises and reinvigorates language without every losing its humane connection with the reader. The second poem we are lucky enough to be featuring is from a second collection currently in progress, more information on which will be forthcoming as and when. Enjoy! [NB. These two poems are supposed to be block formatted, but Blogger refuses to allow me to justify them. So, with apologies to and the consent of Agnes, just pretend there's a straight line of text running down the right hand side of the poems.]

Nárcisz’s breakfast letter

I will simply tell you what I can see on this table, here.
No, not on that table but on the one that floats. In the
window. The one that moves with the hour. Its lustrous
objects, some of them latent, some obvious, layer by
layer half-sheltered behind each other like a mock-up of
some insipid geology, travel by the horizon. I will tell
you. Although it’s not easy to stop. Seeing inside. A
crooked vase. Bursting flowers. They burst on the
glass. I do not know what sort but not sunflowers and
the vase is not blue of any kind. I could ask someone
and if they did not know they could ask someone and if
they did not know. Apples piled on top of each other
buoyant in a bowl relatively visible: curvaceous torsos,
perpendicularly squashing against one another with a
negligible force unit of kilo Pascal. Though, weight
nullifies for those who only watch. Did you know that
despite the apparent struggle, these apples strive for
equalization? They say. A kitchen knife tilted on its
side. Its glossy metal edge reflects another ceiling,
another sky, blurs it, blurs its white. The texture of air
woven between the metal and the white escapes and
floods the room. The razor’s edge facing down the
surface of the table reflects unknown darkness, a
darkness duplicate. The intimate recollections of the
two. A chunk of butter. Left outside sunbathing in the
light yellow light of early afternoon melting into its
own outline. Then the butter expands and steps out of
itself. It becomes smeared on the glass. I read that
objects have no contours, only oscillating transitions. I
don’t know if it is true. Perhaps the replica of it is true.
An eggshell in a gaudy eggcup, its top torn off with a
zigzagged motion. A mineralized minuscule skull,
drained, after an elongated tribal ritual. But this time no
religion, no ideology. An embroidered egg cap, a
Sunday outfit. Still warm from incubating the freshly
boiled egg. If you were here you would slip into the
needlework’s inner textile and reel up the story of the
thread stitched vice versa. If it wasn’t too late. Look,
these objects are travellers. Wait. Only a few more
things here. A light green net bag; it is more pistachio.
A fishnet fishless. Or a marionette collapsed after the
hand dropped it. Yet it seems it wakes again, stretches
with the stretching of the sun. It all changes by the
second. Let’s hurry up. It’s not easy to erect a world.
Outside. A jam jar with lumps of marmalade. Left
open. The lid is chequered; red and white, red and
white. This pattern restricted to the circle of the rim
continues outside the rim too, it brims over it,
inaudibly. But this would be a detour and we must stay,
we must stay here, with a facsimile table that’ll soon
depart. The table that is still here…just

Monday, Midsummer

It’s Monday again. And you are always already gone. I
wanted to spend the longest day with you. Instead
you took the train home shuffling in your head all the
reasons why I am not accompanying you into the
warm tunnels of three enduring midsummer nights.
Why I stand still like a planet unsure whether to
proceed towards the North or the South. For three
never-ending days. You see, the old painter was
curious whether you lived in this town. He sketched
your face still with his eyes. He wanted to smear
silvery blue and copper colours on his canvas. It was
such a bright night, I could not sleep. The most
perseverant insomnia of the sun. The same thing
happened with the actor. He wanted to know about
certain dates and places. He wanted to be your orbit.
He wanted to make you converse. So that he could
secretly erase the line between night and day. So that
you would never go to sleep. I was holding onto a
small pebble in my palm. When I woke I saw it was
your hand. This pebble is a rock. This pebble is a rock
face. The face of a rock. Such a bright night, I could
not sleep. Footsteps in my eardrum. Throbbing
definitely louder. Is there someone leaping up the
stairway? Is this you arriving? That night a ghost
stopped me in the street and asked about words. My
words. He asked how they sell. He was wearing a ten-
gallon hat and smoked a cigar. A drunken spectre. No
outlines. Wingless. Or with very rudimentary wings.
When I queried his knowledge he turned back into a
frog. Into an odd local who swears he never said a
word. And shuts the pub door quietly after himself.
Leaving only a tiny piece of fabric caught by the door.
The corner of his coat. It was such a bright night. I
could not sleep. I saw him again the other day in the
pub. Bespectacled. Old faced. Muttering my words,
telling me that the nights were so bright he couldn’t
sleep. Burying his face in the pages of his notebook.
His notebook was his face. That night I dreamt of
another solstice. I was buried alive in a catacomb
wrapped tightly in white linen. Always the
underground cities after all. Labyrinths of minerals.
Crypts of solar eclipses. Mummified moments. Good
soil. The stunning system of air holes. This way
memory is corporate. This way memories are parched
like the monks of Brno. Many parched monks with
mouths agape resting horizontally in a row. They
almost look alive. I once wrote about this. A long time
ago. But now, since you asked, I must remind myself
of a Monday so unalterably stationary. The
subterranean dialogues of three days and three nights.
What’s a great conversationalist? What is time? You
ask when we pass by an acrylic memorial plaque lost
in a cobbled cul-de-sac. I shrug my shoulders. I do not
know. I can only see an opaque river. Milky. Cloudy.
Transparent. Allowing light to pass. Flicking away in
gallons of silver tea. In porcelain. The earth’s axis tilted.


Ágnes Lehóczky is a Hungarian-born poet and translator. She studied for her Masters in English and Hungarian Literature at Pazmany Peter University of Hungary (1994-2001) then completed a Creative Writing MA in Poetry at the University of East Anglia with a distinction in 2006. She is currently completing a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing at UEA where she was teaching Creative Writing on the Undergraduate Programme. She has two short poetry collections, Station X (2000) and Medallion (2002) by Universitas published in Budapest, Hungary, both written in Hungarian.

Her first English collection was published by Egg Box Publishing in 2008 and is entitled Budapest to Babel. She is this year’s recipient of the Arthur Welton Poetry Award and has recently been selected as the winner of the Daniil Pashkoff Prize 2010 in poetry administered by international Writers Ink. She appeared on ‘The Forum’ on the BBC’s World Service. She is currently working on her second collection in English to be published by Egg Box in 2010/2011. Her collection of essays on the poetry of Agnes Nemes Nagy are to be published in 2010/2011 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. From September 2010 she is teaching creative writing on the Masters course at the University of Sheffield.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely gorgeous imagery, particularly the first poem.Lehóczky articulates so clearly the feeling of inhabiting an identity that is transnational and very malleable, and feels at home only in the construction of itself. Poems from a European wanderer :-) "I read that
    objects have no contours, only oscillating transitions. I
    don’t know if it is true. Perhaps the replica of it is true."


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