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Just One Thing with Timea Balogh

Earlier this week, we shared Mátyás Dunajcsik’s thoughts about writing this month's featured poem, "Sixteen Theses on Walking and Poetry," and today, Timea Balogh, who translated the poem from Hungarian to English, tells us how she came to the poem, walking in Budapest, and the collaboration of translation:

Budapest from Gellert Hill

"I was first introduced to Mátyás Dunajcsik’s writing at the beginning of last summer, when the Petőfi Literary Museum asked me to translate “Sixteen Theses on Walking and Poetry”, along with poems by the equally talented Kornélia Deres and Zita Izsó, for the 2018 Margó Literary Festival in Budapest. I was in Budapest at the time I translated “Sixteen Theses,” and it was hard not to imagine myself walking the blocks of the inner city just below my window each time I sat down to look at this poem. For some reason, my mind’s eye always led me to the same block of downtown Pest, to Madách Imre Square, a red brick residential building and plaza that houses, among other establishments and venues, the Örkény István Theatre, and flaunts a huge arch at its far end. Madách Imre Square sits beside one of my favorite buildings in Pest, the Neo-Gothic style building of the old Katedra Language School, whose slightly worn facade boasts Romanesque columns. This block is one of the more spacious streets of Pest and is just a short jaunt from the famed Deák Ferenc Square, a wide, green park where I often joined the sea of young people who hang out there in the summer evenings with bottles of wine and boom boxes. Perhaps my mind always took me here because I’ve lived several times in that area and have spent countless nights on Deák, or perhaps simply because, given the spaciousness of this block, it is much easier to “look up more often than other people” around here, as Dunajcsik declares poets and walkers do in “Sixteen Theses”.

After translating this poem, I learned that Dunajcsik is the editor and close friend of Márton Simon, who is the first Hungarian poet I ever had the pleasure of working with and whose oeuvre I’ve been translating the last few years. Thus, I was already quite familiar with Dunajcsik’s editorial work, and in the course of translating this poem with him, I became familiar with his own poetry and aesthetic. Dunajcsik speaks more languages than I can count on one hand, and he’s a fine translator in his own right. His comments on “Sixteen Theses” were detailed and immensely helpful—he has a remarkable sense for English usage, despite not being a native speaker. We’ve yet to meet in person, unfortunately, for we somehow keep missing each other. He currently lives in Dresden, and when he came to Budapest to read at the 2018 Margó Literary Festival last summer, I happened to be teaching an ESL camp in Rome. Now that I’ve officially moved to Budapest to study translation, however, we won’t have much of an excuse not to meet up the next time he visits home."

#JustOneThing

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