The thematic constraint of the poems does not count for much; it merely defines the spatial domain from which the waves of free, long, rich associations and bold metaphorical connections pulsate and spread. In the poems there is full use of rich vividness and suggestive metaphors that also involve synaesthetic relationships. With such artistic practices Ondruš reminds us of surrealism, whereas his subject matter is closest to existentialism. The epithet in Ondruš is metaphorized in various manners: synaesthesia (‘inaudible scream’, ‘yellow eye’), oxymoron (‘black snow’), or personification (‘the trees weeping’, ‘dead waters’, ‘silent egg’, etc.). It is metaphorized, therefore, in service to the overall analogy. In Ján Ondruš’ poetry the analogical perception on a semantic level predominates, which is then reflected in the syntax of what is said, as well as in the compositional elements of the poem. This platform is also employed in creating the independent epithets. Their inversion is still often functional and in the context of separating or blurring the lyrical subject, whose position is fluid. The lyrical subject appears once in an I-form, then in a you- or we-form, sometimes it registers, and other times it mentions. It is not merely an emotional, but also a rational subject. Certain narrativity is brought about by the very cyclic, continual and episodic order of description in the poems. Punctuation in this poetry is reduced to a minimum. By omitting punctuation, the partitioning is stopped; the segmentation of the marked complex is blocked. Predominant structural and stylistic elements and practices one encounters in Ondruš’ poems are: rhetoric apostrophe, repetition, asyndetic, elliptic and polysyndetic gradation, occasionally inversion and, certainly, ample metaphoricity. His poem is realized in a more universal and more symbolic (associative) world as the world of intimacy, that is, the world of the alienated individual, more universal than the decadent world. The aetiological perspective here is revealed through the subject’s viewpoint, but primarily through his “existential metaphors.” Thus, in Ondruš there occurs “a complete identification of poem and poet (…) that is, the view of man from a position of his substantiality, from a position of his inner scope, integrity or degradation4F.”
Ján Ondruš’ poem is filled with narcissism, but is also fertile and aesthetically eloquent. The lyrical subject here is at the same time a protagonist and an antagonist, bound between his own self and infinity, between his own self and light, loneliness, love and exile. He battles his own self, his inability of consistent communication not only with himself, but with others as well. Ján Ondruš unveiled the truth of the fact that a deep look into one’s self often also implies unveiling something dark and repressed within. For him, each image is a portrait of the spirit; each word represents the individual’s life. He has the power to hear the music of the growth of plants (seeds, grains), to go to a “vegetative direction” in order to decipher the cycle of the origins of the world. He carries within and feels the rhythm of the spirit and the word, as well as the great semantic power of his proto-symbols: water, earth, wood, fire, mirror, star, and the like. He often identifies with these proto-symbols of the world, which thus transform into symbols of the spirit. From an artistic aspect, the manner in which Ondruš “mentalized” his own life experience is highly effective. It is also effective how the author managed to establish a subtle proportional relation with life in his poetry. That is why his lyrical hero is firmly attached and calls in his aid the inner imaginative models. It is so because “Ondruš’ poetic report always aims toward the pivot, the core, the finest nerve, the bare bones of human existence, whereas for the author himself – the given poem acts somewhat as a surgical procedure, as well as catharsis tasting of other obsessions and depressions.”5F
Ján Ondruš is essentially concrete, meaningful – he allows the feelings hidden in the poems to circulate through the reader’s mind by using thought agents: colour / picturesqueness, description of the situation and using the metaphor as constituent part of the poem. His poems are perceived as great flashes of wondrous imagination. They do not surrender easily. But that is why the interpretive insubmission, as well as the observational frenzy of Ondruš’ poem have their deepest and most essential origins and grounds precisely in the poet’s personal and characteristic belief in the inherent relation of poetry with man’s existential forces, with the universe of human life. It is poetry with inner tension, with deep resonances and with complex metaphors. Ondruš’ path and his personal destiny are in no way easy, as is neither our reading experience of and with them. Hence “we as readers are forced to surrender from empathy to entropy if we are to understand Ondruš’ undertaking. Otherwise we do not stand a chance of entering his poem without feeling like an angry little beast. Since its very manner of dethronement provokes in the reader the familiar symptom of resistance. But, is that not, in fact, what the author wanted to accomplish? He does not ask questions bordering on discomfort and illegibility in order to humiliate us, but to raise us to a higher level. We believe that is the matter here; Ondruš has an unusual but appealing proposal – to anger us in the text, but to offer us knowledge in return: knowledge of ourselves as compared to others, to the knowledge of the other.”6F
Ján Ondruš is a poet-synthetist. Each of his poems is compact, establishes a dialogue with time and with the meaning of existence. His verses sound authentic, remarkably fresh, as a discovery or a revelation. The Ondrušian world is more turbulent and constantly in motion. Valér Mikula is right to state that “the possibility that Ondruš opened in Slovak poetry remains open since it has not been completely exhausted yet…”7F Hence, in accordance with Stanislava Repar’s view as well, it is really “no use to tabooize what has for years been associated with the appraisal of this poet and his poetry. It seems much more productive to return to him with complete openness, as well as with a view on the progressive movements in European thought in the last twenty-thirty years.”8F
One could therefore assume that no Slovak poet in more recent times has so intensely suffered from the disease of the everyday as has Ján Ondruš. Most likely in no other Slovak author “could one feel so profoundly and resoundingly that, which Ondruš in fact demonstrates in his work, the language of (personal) history, the unwaveringness of true human identity, operates beyond exile and where madness is portrayed. The poet essentially never crossed the line, never went over to the other side, where the inarticulate silence of exile reigns (“toward/ the carefree/ Lucia in the mirror”).”9F The poet thus becomes the searcher for the meaning of existence. With all his inner endeavours, he never attempts to cover everything at once, but only gradually reveals the individual levels of what man and his eternal experience mean. His language testifies to the fact that the image of cosmos is in fact the anthropo-cosmos. In his profound psychological projection the cosmos symbolizes the personal, the revealed, as well as the transcendental, enlightened by the subject – the self. Even when he feels the tragedy, when he is forced to struggle with human drama, and when he encounters sorrow, he gloriously and proudly rises above them and stoically speaks of them as of human truth, standing above pain and suffering. Ján Ondruš’ poetry is always searching for the origins of our internal, revealing in every poem what is to us the most intimate, thus considering that the most acceptable is one’s view of one’s self, with the hell within, with the deep abysses of the human mind.
4. HAMADA, M.: Skutočnosť a básnická transcendencia. In: Slovenské pohľady, 82, 1966, ch. 5, pp. 8, 11.
5. HATALA, M.: Ak nie tak kritické, ako stanovisko. In: Literika, 1, 4.3-4, 1996, p. 132.
6. HABLÁK, A.: Takto ja čítam „V stave žlče“ Jána Ondruša. In: Romboid, 42, ch. 4, 2007, p. 33.
7. MIKULA, V.: Ondruš slovenský (Diskusia). In: 5 x 5 a iné kritiky. Levice: L.C.A, 2000, p. 101.
8. REPAR, S.: Básnikovo zariekavanie nie/zmyslu: „samokázeň sebasekerou na sebakláte“ (Moje čítanie Jána Ondruša). In: Ohnisko reči alebo mlčanlivá hĺbka horizontu. Bratislava: Kalligram, 2007, p. 123.
9. SOLOTRUK, M.: Ján Ondruš – svár o slovo. In: Literika, 2, ch. 1-2, 1997, p. 201.