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István László G.
( 1972 )


1972 born in Budapest (21st December)
1997 graduates from ELTE University, Budapest in Hungarian and English Philology; finishes studies at The Invisible College
1997 present teacher of Hungarian Literature at Ferenc Toldy Grammar School; lecturer in English Literature at the Comparative Literature Department of Gáspár Károli University of the Reformed Church; doctoral candidate at Contemporary Hungarian Literature Department, ELTE, Budapest
1999 participates at The English Writer Conference in Cambridge, sponsored by the British Council
2002 2004 leader of the British Council s poetry translation seminars with poet friends
2004 October: participates in a reading tour called Converging Lines, in England

Main prizes:
1999 Zsigmond Móricz Scholarship, 2006 The National Cultural Found's Creative Scholarship, "Pebble from Nizza" Prize, Miklós Radnóti Prize, 2007 Mihály Babits Translator's Scholarship

Through Five Doors

One of the most talented poets of his generation, István László G. found his unique poetic voice as early as in his first volume. The theme of his poems would be difficult to grasp, as he creates an inner landscape through surrealistic, bizarre images from everyday experiences and woodland scenes. In this volume, short, closed forms prevail. Out of the five cycles (the “five doors”), it is „Csomók, balladák” (“Knots and Ballads”) and „Hangok között” (“Among Voices”) that stand out especially, in the former one there are paraphrases from world literature (Eliot, Yeats) and ballads with dense texture and private content, in the latter one, texts sometimes given to personas from world literature, and though the dramatic situation remains hidden, yet, owing to their intensity, they become suggestive and elevated.

Cross Draught

The inward eye ultimately gives way to dreams in the second volume. The breath of the poems are longer, and the first cycle called “Sound and Shadow: Dream Poems” can be considered one long poem. Ilona Legeza writes of this cycle, “these are dream poems; childhood dreams or adult dreams going back to childhood, dreamlike reveries or recollections of old scenes in the dream. These dream-landscapes are incidentally rather prosaic, a hall, a kitchen, a stairway, an evening bathe, a short trip, a swim near the bank – “only by the bank, it’s allowed there only” –, a slight illness, a dinner etc. What is dreamlike in them is the poems’ atmosphere, their strange iridescent state, the dimness of all outlines, or, their unreal definiteness, a general prevailing of the synecdoche, the pre-logical or magic way of thinking characteristic of children, the constant, almost compulsive, recurring of certain lines, expressions and syntactic units.” Dreams, dream-evidences retain an important role in the later poems of the book, whether stated in one single song that is linguistically simple, although surreal in its images and logics („Harangozásra” / “For the tolling of the bell”; „Évszakok születése” / “The Birth of Seasons”, „Körtánc”/ “Round Dance”), or having some dream-story („A kastélyban”/”In the Castle”; and all the poems of the last cycle). It is in connection with the concept of the dream that in this volume, the images of vision and blindness gain a symbolic role. In the last cycle, like in the first one, the loneliness that dreams its dreams elsewhere appears in the vicinity of others and in collective places (a canteen, at a party, on a bus, in the pool).

Submerging Sonnets

The third volume, one of István László G.’s most strictly organized and most unified books, comprises twice fifteen sonnets. The undertone of the poems is passion, their unnamed experience is perhaps closest to angst, desire or thirst (whose object can be God, some completeness or another person, but at times the speaker addresses himself in them). The seemingly arguing structure of the sentences follows some autonomous logics and this way, and through their strong musicality, they pull the reader through themselves. They state one or two fragments of experiences, this is how much there is to grasp, yet each poem works as a whole, and by sheer logics they are almost impossible to untangle, so ultimately it is the inexpressible experience that talks in them. „… reading his third book makes me glad. There are mature poems aligning in front of me, all excellent in their own unique way, and the author has his own, unified voice that differentiates him from his fellow poets. His severity has not fallen prey to any temptation. He had the nerve not to stop at the attractive half-ways of shaping a poem, where he obviously had everything in the lines he wished to put into the poem, yet his high expectations forced him to go on and find the ultimate expression. And here is the result, he steps in front of us with a spotlessly finished lyricism, he carries his modern-unique contents without compromise, and in a way that this enormous inner work does not transpire in the poems, whose surface is so perfect and beautiful and, seemingly, simple as if nothing would be more natural than what he is saying. The weights emerge when one reads them for the umpteenth time, and these two together, beauty and weight, offer us a magnificent and deep poetry.” Magda Székely


Three times thirty three poems and a poetry translation (from Emily Dickinson). Yet the poems themselves are open (and indication of this may be that they usually have no title), they are loosely connected, and their images are more mosaic-like. There are poems with a denser texture and unexpected, shockingly strong lines (“What kind of guarding”; (In the Cloud); “There’s River-current in the Stone”), songlike quatrains, and a longer cycle: “(The Danube Manages)”, in which figures of contemporary Hungarian society speak their last soliloquies (similarly to János Arany’s poem, “Hídavatás” / “Bridge-opening”). „ István László G.’s poems are volatile, elusive: they do not have a story, some content that could be recalled, there are only the images drifting and running into one another in them. As if blocks of words with different substance and weight would stand together: in a way that what we read is not only the assembly of words, but some musical, mathematical unit in which the meaning of the words is only one of the weighing elements, but the structure is organized according to some deeper, unconscious logics. We get into the whirl of a subjectless and endless monologue. There are impressions and sensations swirling: it is never once stated what indeed the poems coil around. As if writing itself was a slow, concentric approach to its own ungraspable subject. Staring and dizziness are recurring motifs, and meanwhile the poems mime the same whirling with their own devices, they turn around, return to their beginning, circumscribe the unspeakable, modelling with their very structure the course of thinking itself /…/ This is the landscape of inner perspectives with its trees, stones and river mouths: the personality widens inwardly and dissolves into the impersonal in a world that is reconstructed from fragments of vision. /…/ The sadness of sustained attention reverberates in István László G.’s sentences: “Your dress smelling of herbs – / it surrounds you with clouds that you are not / fit to be human.” It is not some kind of tearful sorrow, on the contrary; it is wide, attentive, leisurely, thrillingly strange and eternal, just like an angel’s eye staring at a sunspot.” Krisztina Tóth

Take Care of Yourself While I Sleep

The fifth and yet again strongly organized book comprises two larger parts, each divided into three cycles. They are divine poems in the sense that at the same time they are closely connected to the emotional areas covered earlier (loneliness, absences, thirst, seeking). „In his new book, following one of the centuries-old traditions of Hungarian poetry, István László G. expresses a deeply felt inner struggle of doubt and belief. In the first half of this book composed by mathematical punctuality and musical inventiveness he builds a cathedral from poems, moreover, as some Gothic church-building master, he decorates the facade with stonework, so that from now on, in the second half, prayers, psalms, supplication and dialogue shall be uttered in this space built from words. In the dialogue with God he first confesses his doubts from which he creates his own Creator, only to be able later to present God’s inner drama, his own self-destructing doubts – the paradoxical proof of his existence. The addressing of God unfolds from the drama of self-addressing, and the other way round, the emphasis of prayer is gradually transferred from the praying person to the listener of the prayer: ‘I close my eyes’ – ‘close your eyes on me’. István László G.’s polyphonic poetry is the summary of the self-examination of a restless and scrutinizing mind. His voice fills this self-created space with shocking clarity.” Győző Ferencz Dénes Krusovszky writes: „/The first part called “Cathedral”/ … implies in its title the manifold space where the speaker of the poem seeks God (who can be considered here the synonym of the Other, of the unknown): Cathedral, Burger King, Railway Restaurant. The main question is to be found in the very first line of the book: ’What is the headstone of fear?’ (‘Cathedral’). This refers to the fear of God, and consequently, to the fear of God’s non-existence, a metaphysical loneliness. The second smaller section tries to answer the questions of the first one by examining everyday faces and situations, trying to infer from them the non-everyday. /…/ The third section pushes off from this point and, quite unexpectedly, jumps back to myths. Through a couple of figures from Sumerian, Greek-Roman and Jewis-Christian culture, it seeks in an obsessed way what he sought earlier in the Burger King. Naturally, there are no ultimate answers to final questions here, yet the task is important: ’Like a piece of broken earthenware, to put together / its fragments is not useless for nothing’ (‘Istar’s balance’). This is one of the most exciting parts of the book, especially since what we read here lead to the more personal lyricism of the second great part. The sequence of the texts in the part called ‘Take Care While I Sleep’, whether dialogic, confessional, self-addressing, God-denying or swearing, symbolically opens with the poem ’Faithless’: ‘Lord, don’t play with meg, don’t save me with the fire’ and ends with ‘Close Your Eyes On Me’: ‘I’ll say a first prayer / for you, take it as if it was / conceived in you, as on your mirror: you shall close your eyes on me’. And all this while it travels on a road that everyone seeking to find their place in this world is bound to travel on, without the chance of the least possible resignation, and in the end he can only ask God (whatever it is): ‘And who are you praying to?’ (‘Close Your Eyes On Me’).”

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