Poetry since 1945

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Poetry since 1945

In the period from 1945 to 1948 Slovak poetry witnessed a return to the poetic works of the interwar years and prolongation of literary trends dominant in the 1930s. A significant degree of continuity may be observed in relation to spiritual poetry. Many authors of the first and second wave of the so-called Catholic Moderna wrote their best works at this time. Janko Silan wrote Piesne zo Ždiaru (‘Songs from Ždiar’,1947) and Úbohá duša na zemi (‘The Poor Soul Upon Earth’, 1948), and Svetloslav Veigl wrote his book Láska smrť (‘Love, the Death’, 1946). Furthermore a third wave of the Catholic Moderna developed in a promising way, represented by Vojtech Mihálik and his collection Anjeli (‘Angels’, 1947) as well as by Viliam Turčány, his junior by two years. More remarkable change, however, can be observed in the works of the most compact avante garde group of poets – the suprarealists. The poetics of fantasy and experimentation had been examined heavily during the critical war years, revealing that behind the rich imagery a relatively superficial and simplified vision of the world incapable of principal reflexion was hidden in the works of several suprarealist poets. In reference to this, M Hamada speaks about the crisis of suprarealism. The most distinguished figures of this avante garde stream, however, did not get lost – R Fabry’s poetic composition Ja je niekto iný (‘I Is Someone Else’, 1946) and Pavel Bunčák’s collection S tebou a sám (‘With You and Alone’, 1946) rank among the most inspiring poetic works of that time.
The events of the Second World War, the crisis of humanity and critical situations of existence posed pressing questions to the artists who tried to give answers through their verse. Many poems became a direct response to what happened, indeed topics of war could be found in poetry as early as the 1930s when poets perceived the threat of worldwide conflict. All the leading poets reacted to the war and all of them, without exception, opposed it. Among the first was Emil Boleslav Lukáč, who expressed concern at the growth of fascism in Europe as early as in 1934 in his collection Elixír. Later Laco Novomeský, writing his volume Svätý za dedinou (‘Saint Behind the Village’, 1939) also included poems dealing with the Spanish antifascist resistance. The topic of war was dealt with in further works by Lukáč in his collections Moloch (1938) and Bábel (1944) and by Novomeský in the collection of poems Pašovanou ceruzkou (‘With Smuggled Pencil’, published in 1948), which was written during his imprisonment in 1940-1941. Similarly Valentín Beniak reacted to the war threats and concrete war events in his books from the end of the 1930s, and later with a broader concept in the poems Žofia (‘Sophie’, 1941) and Popolec (‘Ash Wednesday’, 1942). Among the key antiwar collections also rank the books Hostina (‘Feast’, 1944) and Studňa (‘Well’, 1945) written by Ján Smrek, the main figure of Slovak poetic and cultural life since the 1920s.
The Second World War remained the central topic of Slovak poetry long after 1945 (in drama it preserved its leading role until well into the 1970s). This may be accounted for by reference to the political usage of the outcome of the war, in which a central role was accorded to the liberation of the country by the Soviet Red Army. After the political takeover in February 1948, which turned democratic Czechoslovakia into a totalitarian state with a one-party (communist) system, the political impact on literature was complete. The activities of artists during the existence of so called Slovak State (1939-1945) started to be examined, and their involvement in political and cultural institutions, their loyalty to the rules followed by the fascist Slovak government were reviewed. Official doctrine of the newly-constituted government derived from the materialistic philosophy of Marxism started to create a uniform plural foundation of Slovak culture. Journals and publishing houses of religious and spiritual literature were closed as well as the cultural tribunes supporting the democratic wing of the Slovak population. Within a year two thirds of existing periodicals had been banned.
Politisation of culture was followed by totalitarian rule. This was foreseen by artists who tried to escape it by making compromises which would still leave them with the freedom to create art works (Manifest of the socialist humanism, 1948). Their gesture, however, was refused as insufficient and the prevailing cultural policy required a total implementation of certain criteria. The word ‘truth’ was defined in a more precise way as ‘the party truth’, demonstrating that the values and interpretation of phenomena was measured by the criteria of political utilitarianism. Such a political dictate to the cultural activities of artists led to the loss of plurality as well as to topical uniformity (in poetry agitation lyrics, posterity and pathos), a vulgar simplification of style, a black and white vision of the world, utopian visions presented as a reality. This period, also called a period of schematism, produced poetry celebrating the transformation of Slovak society, the building up of a new country, the transformation of man. The presentation of time became uniform, there was the dark past, and then present activity for a better tomorrow, which it was said ironically ‘had not arrived yet’. Among the authors representing this schematic poetry were Milan Lajčiak, whose collection Súdružka moja zem (‘Comrade, My Land’, 1949) was considered an example of socialist poetry, Ctibor Štítnicky, Milan Ferko and other poets who had created successful poetry in the preceding years or decades such as Vojtech Mihálik, Andrej Plávka, Ján Kostra, Pavol Gašparovič Hlbina and Vladimír Reisel.

AuthorJán Gavura
2018-08-21T17:22:54+00:00 September 8th, 2010|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 74|0 Comments