Just One Thing with Mátyás Dunajcsik
June's featured poem comes from Mátyás Dunajcsik, who wrote "Sixteen Theses on Walking and Poetry" in Hungarian, and Timea Balogh, who crafted the English translation. Here, Mátyás shares some photos of Budapest (top) and Dresden and tells us one more thing about writing the poem, Budapest, and the relationship between poetry, language, and walking:
At the time I wrote this piece, a little less than ten years ago, I was still living in
Budapest, Hungary, the city I was born and raised in. I looked at my hometown as this vast, multi-layered ocean of meaning and symbolism, where the flow of time is as unpredictable and varied as the city traffic – slowing down or speeding up at certain districts or near certain monuments, while standing still at other, less frequented corners. I looked at it the same way I looked at Hungarian, my mother tongue: with the same mixture of awe, pride, fear, trembling and adoration, as you look at a landscape that’s your home but is also a land that you’re preparing to conquer. Taking a walk in my city and writing a poem in my mother tongue brought the same excitement. Then the years passed, and soon no sane person could deny that the speedy trajectory of my city and my homeland was not that of a rising star as we had all hoped after the euphoric years of the Iron Curtain’s fall – but it was a descent into madness. And alas, having fled my
hometown years ago, and seeing that it makes for me less and less sense to use Hungarian as my primary platform of literary self-expression, that city and that language, or at least that proud and excited relationship I had with them, only exist now in my memory, which doesn’t mean that I’ve given up thinking about them. In fact, I think about them every day, as you keep thinking about a dead relative, a burned-down home, a sunken island. Right now, I’m still learning the vocabulary of my new home, the city of Dresden in Germany. I am as horrible in conjugating German verbs as I am inept in navigating the unknown streets of this baroque metropolis, with its own quirks and discrepancies in the time-space continuum. I trip, I fall, I stammer. But then I get up, try again, and try to fail better, constantly reminding myself that it’s OK to go little by little – I only need to get one step, one word right as a start. After all, just as there are one-word poems, so can one step be considered a walk.