Author's page

Ferenc JUHÁSZ
( 1928 - 2015 )

» Stag Song (1955)
» What can a Poet do? (1967)
» Three Epic Poems (1975 )
» Skeleton of Childhood (2010)

Biography

1928 born in the village Bia
1934-46 schooled in Bia and Bicske, graduates from the School of Commerce of Budapest
1946 enrolls at the University of Budapest as a Hungarian-Sanskrit major
1947 factory worker
1948 member of the Communist Attila József People s College; makes friends with the poets László Nagy and István Simon
1948-49 Story Editor for the Hunnia Studios
1950 Presidential committee member of the Hungarian Writer s Union
1951 works for the Hungarian Writer s Union
1951-74 Editor for the Szépirodalmi Publishing House
1952 travels to Vienna to the second peace congress; participant in the International Writers Congress in Bulgaria; later travels widely
1966 readings in Paris
1967 International Writers Congress in Lahti
1963-1971 Editor of the periodical Új Írás (New Writing)
1975 1976 nominated for the Nobel Prize
1977 guest of the Swedish Royal Academy
1974-99 Senior Editor of the periodical Új Írás
1992 founding member of the Széchenyi Academy of Arts


Main prizes include:
1949 Baumgarten Prize, 1950 Attila József Prize, 1951, 1973 Kossuth Prize, 1967 Poets Prize of Struga, 1971 Miklós Radnóti Prize, 1991 Prize of the Arts Fund, 1992 Golden Wreath of Struga

Stag Song
1955

Ferenc Juhász was born and raised in an age of transience and the beginning of a new dictatorial era. He came from a poor family and aimed to describe the whole universe, not just the confines of an age. This long poem is his first great success as a poet; first it was titled Stag Song and was originally written for the occasion of the Béla Bartók anniversary of 1955; later it was re-named The Boy Transformed into a Stag Crying at the Gate of Secrets. The poem is based on the folk celebrations of wintertime, on the so-called ‘hunters’ colindas’, on which Bartók has based his work Cantata profana of 1930, mixing the motives of hunting and transformation with the Hungarian myth of the miracle stag. The text is based on narration and dialogue, and uses parallelism, variation and repetition as a means of evoking the atmosphere of archaic folk texts (as for example the Kalevala of Finland). Juhász sometimes cites the Bartók text, but he changes the situation; this time not the father but the mother is calling back his transformed stag-sons, conjuring up memories, evoking the power of love and the importance of traditions. She deeply regrets that she is unable to understand the new stag-language his son uses. In spite of the archaic atmosphere, the scene is not archaic but modern; the stag is not only a city-dweller, but is nearly transformed into a city, with eyes as big ports and veins as black cables. This is a personalised myth referring to the events of the writer’s life. It is evident that his most important conviction is his belief in the decisive role of poets and the power of words.

What can a Poet do?
1967

The book, which can be viewed as a theoretical introduction to Ferenc Juhász poetry, is as strictly composed as a volume of free verse; it comprises texts that had appeared only in literary periodicals or as radio speeches and even presents his most important forewords and afterwords. At the beginning of the volume there are essays on great Hungarian poets such as Mihály Csokonai, Sándor Petőfi, János Arany or Attila József; then the speech follows that the poet held at the funeral of Áron Tamási, followed by essays on István Vas, Géza Képes and László Nagy. There are numerous essays on the poet favourite painters, graphic artists and composers, such as Gyula Derkovits, Béni Ferenczy or Zoltán Kodály; but there is also a personal voice present, which relates the childhood experiences of the poet, confessing about his family, his reading and his everyday life. The collection of personal essays is a true declaration of love to art in which poetry has a very important place. The poet says in the foreword: ometimes it seems that only poets love the world, but the world doesn love its poets. They are, however, the most true children of matter itself, children of the world that were rewarded for their truthfulness only by letting them be poor, humiliated and ridiculed. Poets, though, continue to plant their lily in the very heart of existence. He relates the world and intends to change it. He is the envoy of goodness. The singer of life and the friend of death. He is singing until his mouth is stopped by mud. And he desires freedom and love always.

Three Epic Poems
1975

The book contains three epics: The Sántha Family, Father, Mother. „These three long poems are the triple constellation of my contemplation, happiness and mourning. They were inspired by the joy of totally different internal cosmic moments, but the triple unity of their star-bodies were shot out from the same unified matter. ... It was not only my song intending to preserve in words the living and dead things that I have seen or heard, to make them stay alive in the loud cosmic space of living memory; but I also wanted to make them eternal, to preserve the heartbeats of mortality and the quick adolescent throbs of liberty. ... I’ve built a flowering and living coffin out of these verse epics, built of breathing bricks of living crystal flowers, in which, as entombed in living flesh, people and objects still live, smile, mourn and love in freedom, and outbrave mortality with their rosy bodies and the mystery of their clear eternal freedom...” (Foreword)

Skeleton of Childhood
2010

In this newest collection by Ferenc Juhász (b. 1928), now eighty-three years old, we can read the poems he has written in the last four years. Juhász, a tenacious artist who has been producing his incomparable verse since the early 1950s—to this day only by hand—is a revolutionary innovator of narrative poetry, having already led this genre to previously unimaginable horizons. And, as now evidenced in Skeleton of Childhood, the sweeping impulse for the epic that has characterized his works to date continues in his poems unabated. A key subgenre we encounter in Skeleton of Childhood is the epic long poem, that which sets out to fill “broad spaces” and which here follows the tracks left behind by memories—in particular, memories of a distant youth. Childhood no longer has a body, or at least not flesh; it has decayed, leaving behind a skeleton: “We do not grow old, but Time has grown old around us and in us.” The poet’s search for memories here proves to be a staggering, feverish process. Indeed, increasingly he is left alone with his memories as he finds himself having to bid farewell to ever more people. But as conveyed in these remarkable poems, each goodbye is also a moment of creation, in a sense; for it evokes the person or the thing that is then released. As for the other subgenre that comprises a distinct cycle in this volume, it is one that might be said to be characteristic of poets as they age: short lyrical poems. These works resound with an ecstatic anthem—namely, the will to live—that stands in opposition to the “aging of old man Time.” Ferenc Juhász is indeed a living classic, one incapable of writing a poem that is not in some respect compelling or, yes, staggering in its force.

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