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István ÁGH
( 1938 )

» From Found Time (2005)


István Ágh, younger brother of the eminent mid-century poet László Nagy (1925-78), was born in 1938 in the Veszprém County village of Felsőiszkáz, some 20 km southwest of Pápa, and writes under a pen-name. He completed studies in Hungarian and librarianship at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest before starting a career as a librarian and literary editor. Since his first volume of poetry, Szabad-e énekelni (Is One Allowed to Sing?), appeared in 1965, he has produced more than a dozen more, along with three volumes of selected verse: Boldog véreim (My Happy Kinsmen, 1979), Mivé lettél (What’s Become of You?, 1998) and A.I. válogatott versei (Selected Poems, 2000). Ágh has also written children’s stories, literary reports and journal entries; published A madár visszajár (The Bird Returns, 1973 and 2000); as well as social reportage about his native region and his own life, a selection of which articles was published under the title Dani uraságnak (For Squire Danny, 1984 and 2000).

Major prizes:
József Attila Prize (1969, 1980); Artisjus Literary Prize (1986);
Kortárs Prize (1989), Kossuth Prize (1992), Tibor Déry Prize (2005);
Arany János Grand Prix (2007); Radnóti Prize (2008); Prima Prize (2009); Győri Könyvszalon alkotói Prize (2010); Balassi Bálint-emlékkard (2010); A Nemzet Művésze (Artist of the Nation)(2014); Kölcsey-emlékplakett (2016)

From Found Time

The pieces in this volume of poetry comprise a lyrical growing-of-age novel. A man relates the events of his life from childhood until old age, from the first moments that cannot be recollected, to naïve marvelling at the world, to the sagacity of the grandfather. Diverse scraps of memories are unpacked in each poem. Agh starts with recollections of childhood: he remembers a lady from far-off Budapest, sunbathing on a terrace, whom he spied on when a little boy (“Sun-Worshipper”); a young hare set into flight by workers in the field at harvest time (“Leveret”); the secret, illegal slaughtering of a pig during the Fifties (“Slaughter on the Black”). A second cycle presents images of adulthood: fear of examinations (“School-Leaving Exam”), the sight of a “wax-yellow livid purple” dead soldier in 1956 (“Lifeless”), settling down in Budapest (“Initiation”). Finally, there are experiences of old age: remote history summoned up at a tram-stop in the big city (“At the Stop”), the reliving of childhood through grandchildren (“Child’s Play”), the family grave in the cemetery (“At the Parents’ Grave”). In the course of summoning up these memories, a reconstruction of the process of remembering is also arrived at. The opening poem, “Amazement”, provides an organic metaphor for the act of remembering: for I conduct this deception I believe I am as happy about its flowering, not the hollyhocks. In form, the poems recall the iambic metre of the 18-line strophes of Cricket Music, the epoch-making 1947 volume by Lőrinc Szabó, a classic figure of Hungarian poetry in the twentieth century. Compared with that model, however, the entire volume is made up of verse that is largely unrhymed, or at best rhymed only at the end of the strophes. “With his poems of remembrance, István Ágh maps a domain of consciousness where few have gone before.” – Győző Ferencz, Népszabadság “The chief virtues of… István Ágh’s volume lie in the details. The poems are arranged like pictures at an exhibition: genre scenes, and the details are genre lines that are pleasing to ear and eye alike.” - A.S.V., Magyar Nemzet

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