Day of Hungarian Poetry

’Then why should I, a poet, study 
poetry? The wet star, that eye 
which swims upon the midnight eddy, 
may not with grace ascend the sky.

Time oozes down, and I no longer 
suck the breast milk of fairytales;
I quaff the real world in my hunger, 
whose foamy head is heaven's pales.’

(Quotation from Attila József’s Ars Poetica)

Attila József’s question is not just a poetical question, because poetry is the life itself. The day of Hungarian poetry has been celebrated since 1964 on 11 April – Attila József’s birthday. We celebrate not only the poet, but also poetry and lyric. What is poetry and why should we commemorate it?

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Poetry is not only self-expression, an eternal mystery that has influence on people and thus on the way of the world; it is intangible but so alive. According to a survey made a couple of years ago, fewer and fewer anthologies are bought. Perhaps, it is difficult to absorb in poetry because of our accelerated lives, but still we should not forget about it. Contrary to common knowledge, our poets did not exclusively deal with mongering rhymes. We have collected the memories of their less known occupations in our collection – including János Arany’s activity as a secretary general (proven by a letter of honorarium), Gyula Juhász’s correspondence or Miklós Radnóti’s written examination at the teachers’ training college.

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This year again, the day of Hungarian poetry was celebrated with cultural programs, exhibitions and competitions throughout the country. This year, the festival was linked to the 200th anniversary of János Arany’s birthday. The Petőfi Literary Museum and the University of Theatre and Film Arts invited all the children and adults who love János Arany to the statue of Arany in the garden of the Hungarian National Museum as of 11 a.m. on 11th April 2017. The program was János Arany’s poems ‘A vigasztaló’ and ‘Rege a csodaszarvasról’ (The Legend of the Wondrous Hunt). Anyone could join the actor students reciting the verse and the refrain of the poem.
Those who wished to have not only food for thought could take part in the program of Magvető Café that opened at 5 p.m. the same day. Visitors could listen to excerptions read from eleven anthologies published by Magvető this year; János Szegő was the host.


Translated by Zita Aknai