Sixteen Theses on Walking and Poetry

by Mátyás Dunajcsik
translated by Timea Balogh
  1. Walking is the poetry of the urban space.

  2. Just as a poet uses the same language as everyone else, only for other things and in other ways, a walker walks the same city as other pedestrians, only with a different purpose and perspective.

  3. Walks, much like poems, are composed via selection and arrangement.

  4. Just as a poet sometimes uses strange, obsolete words, a walker often comes across seldom visited places.

  5. Just as poetry can sometimes cleanse trite words, calling them back to their original meanings, a walker can only really see a city if he keeps in mind the original purpose of the places and buildings in it, even if they serve new purposes now. 

  6. Just as the poet has the power to give entirely new meanings to certain words, the walker sometimes also uses certain places for things other than they were originally designed for. 

  7. The poet is always ambivalent about the grammatical rules of her native language. A good walk is always a little illegal. 

  8. Important poems change the language in which they are written. A truly important walk leaves lasting marks on a city.

  9. Both walking and poetry are forms of catastrophe tourism: just as poetry begins where everyday conversation ends, likewise the walker looks for those places where the fabric of the city unravels.

  10. The empty spaces left behind by buildings demolished or never built are as sweet to the walker as the unsaid and the indescribable are to the poet.

  11. Poetry is a language’s living memory and conscience, just as walking is to a city.

  12. A reader most enjoys poems written in his native language. The most exciting walks are always the ones we take in our hometowns.

  13. But actually, all poems speak in their own mother tongues, just as every walk reveals a new city.

  14. The foundation of both walking and poetry is the breath. Its rhythm is determined either by words or by steps.

  15. Just as there are one-word poems, so can one step be considered a walk.

  16. Poets and walkers look up more often than other people. 

Mátyás Dunajcsik is a poet, writer, translator, editor, polyglot and performer. Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, and having spent two years in Iceland learning the language, he now resides in Dresden, Germany, juggling five languages (Hungarian, English, French, Icelandic, German) in his work and daily life. In Hungarian, he published a book of poems and short stories titled Repülési kézikönyv (Flight Manual), as well as a short story collection titled Balbec Beach, a children's book titled A szemüveges szirén (The Spectacled Siren) that he later adapted to the stage, and 13 translations, including works by Wilde, Nabokov, Saint-Exupéry, Robbe-Grillet and F. Scott Fitzgerald. A selection of his short stories has been published in German translation as well under the title Unterwasserstädte. His electroacoustic sound poetry pieces have been performed at the Poesiefestival Berlin and at the Margó Festival Budapest. You can find more about him and his work at his website:

Timea Balogh (@TimeaRozalia)  is a Hungarian-American writer and translator with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A 2017 American Literary Translators Association Travel Fellow, her translations of Hungarian prose and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in The OffingBrooklyn Rail’s InTranslation, Asymptote, Waxwing, Two Lines Journal, Lunch Ticket, Arkansas InternationalWashington Square Review,  and the Wretched Strangers anthology by Boiler House Press, among others. Her debut short story was nominated by Juked for a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. She has stories forthcoming in Prairie Schooner and Passages North . She studies literary translation in Budapest.