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The Drug of Art: Selected Poems
The Drug of Art: Selected Poems

Ivan Blatny

edited by Veronika Tuckerová

translated by Justin Quinn, Matthew Sweney, Alex Zucker

Poetry | $18 $15
Buy"One of the top 3 poetry translations of 2007"

Lost to the world for decades, Ivan Blatný was, according to the Czech Ministry of Culture, "one of the most significant Czech poets of the twentieth century." Blatný fled Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup in 1948, spending the rest of his life in England. This volume spans fifty years of his career and is notable for being the first major collection of Blatný’s work in English, including multi-lingual poems and some poems written mostly or entirely in English. Our edition includes an Introduction by Veronika Tuckerová, a Foreword by Josef Skvorecky, an Afterword by Antonín Petruzelka, and Working Notes from the translators. Eastern European Poets Series #15.

Excerpt ˇ


Small Variation 

Thursday 8 pm. On the table:
Matches, cigarettes, tobacco, knife, and lamp.
My tools.
You already know my music from five or six things,
You already know my music from five or six things,
My little song.
As it sizzles on the stove, as it bubbles in quietude
The song of the interlude,
Which happens only once in history. 
Matches, cigarettes, tobacco, knife, and lamp.
And dust on all of them.
The inaudible galloping horse carries it on its hoof.
In the deathified flat, dust up to the roof.
In the deathified flat, dust up to the roof.
For the last time the unsettled loses itself in history. 
Thursday 8 pm. On the table:
Newspapers, cigarettes, tobacco, knife, and lamp.
Newspapers: Papandreu, Pierlot.
Furniture: Divan, ornamented credenza.
My little song.
Big drops hit the poorly boarded-up window with a splat.
We'll get wet inside the flat!
We'll get wet inside the flat!
And even worse boards
Will be left for the coffin. 

7 December 1944

Close ˆ

About the Author

Ivan Blatny
Ivan Blatny was born in Brno in 1919 and established a name as a poet rapidly in the late 1930s and war years. He was associated with ‘Group 42’, together with Jir˘í Kolar, Kamil Lhoták and others, and was also close at this time to poets such as Jaroslav Seifert and Víte˘zslav Nezval (with whom he later fell out). He left Czechoslovakia in 1948 and came to London, spending the rest of his life in London, Suffolk and Essex and died in Clacton in 1991

About the Editor

Veronika Tuckerová is a native of Prague and a specialist in Czech litreature. She has taught at Queens College and Columbia University and is a regular contributor to the Prague based journal, Revolver Revue and to the New York-based journal, Slavic and East European Performance. Her translations from German into Czech include Gershom Scholem’s memoir From Berlin to Jerusalem and a monograph on Robert Musil; she recently translated Gary Shteyngart’s short story "Shylock on the Neva" from English to Czech.

About the Translator

Justin Quinn works at the Charles University, Prague, and has published three collections of poetry, as well as two studies of American poetry. For ten years, he was an editor of the Irish poetry magazine, Metre. As well as Ivan Blatny, he has translated the Czech poets Petr Borkovec, J.H. Krchovsky and K.J. Erben into English.

Matthew Sweney is a writer, editor, translator, and Assistant Professor of English at Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
Alex Zucker is the translator of the novels City Sister Silver, by Jáchym Topol (Catbird Press, 2000), and More Than One Life, by Miloslava Holubová (Northwestern University Press, 1999). Most recently he contributed to the adaptation and lyrics of J. R. Pick's The Unlucky Man in the Yellow Cap, a play with music set in the World War II Jewish ghetto of Terezín; the play appeared in the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2006. Currently he is working on a translation of the novel In Memory of My Grandmother, by Petra Hulová, to be published by Northwestern University Press.

Advance Praise

The verses and fate of the poet Ivan Blatný . . . complete the fate of Czech literature, which transcended the borders of the nation, often struggling for survival.—VACLAV HAVEL
For Czech-English émigré Ivan Blatný's poetry, terms like exile literature, subversion, appropriation, collage, pun, homophony, and even hybridity seem too limited, too stable. In an age where many—rightly—are suspicious of official verse cultures, here is the voice from a true underground—not the official alternative poetry of the day, but that minorizing, fluctuating underground that undoes hierarchical notions of language and culture. Blatný's heteroglossic poems are wonderfully strange, prosaic, sparse and distracted at the same time. They are as beautiful and singular as Vallejo's Trilce.—JOHANNES GORANSSON
As far as the translations are concerned, Blatný could have received no better introduction for readers of English.—HARP AND Alter
Blatny refreshes ideas of poetry as sibylline utterance, of the sublime confusion of negative capability and of giving an open yes to all contradictory things.—Denise Dooley
It’s partly thanks to the problems his poems pose that I suspect we are going to keep hearing more about them as time goes on… In Blatný we discover, not only an unfamiliar Czech poet, but also an unfamiliar English poet, and one whose English is very much his own. All the more curious that it’s so hard to tell where the Czech poet leaves off and the English one starts. In the best of his late poems, it no longer matters. —Barry Schwabsky