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Stumbling Along

Dülöngélünk (Stumbling Along) 1947 The early poetry of István Kormos is influenced by folk poetry and the poetry of certain masters (József Erdélyi, István Sinka, Sándor Gellért), but his most important themes (childhood, wanderings, love), as well as his often grotesque vision that gives reality a dreamlike quality, are already present. One of his most beautiful songs is “White Flower”, one he wrote in memory of Miklós Radnóti; and the typical Kormos-tone to come can be heard in his poem about donkeys, “With a Cross on the Hire of Their Mane”, a poem whose tone is akin to that of Francis Jammes.

A Tale about Quince, the Snub-Nosed Bear-cub

Mese Vackorról, egy pisze kölyökmackóról (A Tale about Quince, the Snub-Nosed Bear-cub) 1956 In the 1950s and 1960s, Kormos could publish only tales for children and poetry translations (among others, he translated Chaucer, Burns, Puskin, Molière and André Frénaud, as well as Russian folk poetry, the latter with his then wife, Zsuzsa Rab). Yet his verse tales written about Quince, who is at times a child, other times a bear cub, approach his own poetry in their playfulness and linguistic inventions, and occupy an important place in the pantheon of Hungarian tales for their sheer elegance.

Alas, Poor Yorick

Szegény Yorick (Alas, Poor Yorick) 1971 During his forced silence, Kormos did not write a single poem. When he recommenced, his poetry changed: he combines the tradition of folk poetry with the sophisticated musicality of modern French poetry, combining accentual and metric rhythms. In this poetry, reality is constantly mixed with the imagination, just as the past is with the present. In the poem “Red Dolphins Are Dragging Me On” he depicts the real and the spiritual landscape of love and possible loss. In “Alas, Poor Yorick” he draws a portrait about his own social yet perpetually lonely figure. Just like in the cemetery scene in Hamlet, Kormos’s poem mixes the playfully light, the philosophical and the elegiac. “Most of the time, the real details of his poetry suddenly turn into some mystic glimmer, they lose their firm outline, the objects and the living tilt from their place and their proportion and become parts of an ever-changing mythology. While his fantasies, ideas, even obsessions cluster into some almost palpable material. The interplay of the real and the imagined is perhaps the most characteristic trait in Kormos’s poetry.” -László Lator

The Wandering of N.N., poems

N. N. bolyongásai (The Wandering of N.N., poems) 1975 The most important poems in the volume are the title poem, “The Wandering of N.N.” and “October”. “In The Wandering of N.N.”, the proportions of the so-called poetic and the crudely humorous, the airy and the coarse, the beautifully flying bel canto and the deliberately stumbling form of N.N. are changing; the voices of orphan-hood and bitterness are more profound, and more and more they are filled with merry and playful elements. Perhaps as an instinctive defence; as if Kormos had felt it in the wind that he only had time for amusement,” -László Lator

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