Dialogs with József Attila


This study of József Attila’s poetry continues. A dialog develops in multiple languages – visual  and verse, English and Hungarian. I continue the use of written words as mark-making, laying a bed of cursive writing onto the stitched, gessoed, wetted paper; first the original Hungarian in wet, black chalk, then, sometimes rotating the paper, an overlay of burnt sienna English. Each language a contrasting color. Overwriting, writing between the lines, blurring and revealing, repeating and reinserting the most compelling of József Attila’s words and phrases. The marks and languages are interwoven, reformed and reshaped to remark, respond, reply to the particular poem. I draw with book in left hand, chalk in right. I draw with English volume on one side of the work on the table, Hungarian on the other. Book pages stained as I draw, I hold the volume close to compare the languages, memorize the poems, and translate József Attila’s words into dark figural images.

The work is ongoing. Each piece excerpts a particular poem, bilingually. Some pieces use different excerpts of the same poem. I read more translations and struggle to penetrate the original Hungarian texts, discovering József Attila’s potent words to be astonishingly relevant to our world at this moment!

Precisely because József Attila’s written works speak so directly to the injustices and moral slippage of our own times, and because of the current paucity of outrage and because we need truths voiced with the clarity of a poet, a selection of J.A.’s verses are posted on this site. Each of the mixed-media works below is linked to its own page with an enlarged image and the entire associated József Attila verse in both languages.


I would like to express gratitude to several individuals for their help in this project. First, many thanks go to John Bátki for opening the door to Attila József’s poems through his published English translations done with an ear to twentieth-century American sensibilities. Bátki also generously shared his partial draft translation of the “Free Associations in Two Sessions”. Great thanks go to my good friend György Orbán, publisher and littérateur, for many enlightening and instructive study sessions on J.A.’s poems, linguistic analysis of translation, and historical narrative. I am very grateful to my dear friend Tamás Baranyi for his extraordinarily instructive draft translation of the entire “Free Associations in Two Sessions” (here in PDF format) and “Fire is Now White“, both done specifically at my request! Finally, enormous thanks go to my long-time friend Ambrus Gönczi for his continuous support of my artistic endeavours, for making this exhibition happen, and for introducing me to Attila József in the first place.



Dialog with J.A. - 1   Dialog with J.A. - 2   Dialog with J.A. - 3



Dialog with J.A. - 4   Dialog with J.A. - 5   Dialog with J.A. - 6



Dialog with J.A. - 7   Dialog with J.A. - 10   Dialog with J.A.- 11



Dialog with J.A. - 8



Dialog with J.A. - 9



Dialog with J.A. - 12



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