“The Mind Freezes – József Attila, Brecht, supper conversation about evil”

 

Said I would post something today, a poem relevant to our day by a poet relevant to our times, an image or a word or two of mine. Nearly four pm, the afternoon wanes. It’s been a beautiful day, a good day. Kept busy to tamp down the darkness. Stacking wood – good. Shoveling compost – good. Planting seedlings – good. Whitewashing paper – good. Tearing more circles for new Spots and Holes – good, although don’t know what to do with the fact that these circles of mine resemble transmission electron microscopy images of covid – had no idea.

Still, thoughts intrude, disturb – troubling Brecht poems about no meat, bad bread,  potatoes speaking dire warnings… disturbing poems, not relevant says the censor within… those were the shortages of other war-times. Not like here and now – the likelihood of descent into scarcity and deprivation can’t can’t happen here and now… unless you are among the millions of unemployed, homeless, poor. But I mean the bones, the infrastructure of production, supply and distribution of food. So why then did I plant my garden this year after all? Why stock up on gesso on glue sticks on paper on brown rice and beans on dental floss and toilet paper?

I won’t post Brecht’s Dream of a Great Bellyache now. Instead, let me offer Attila József and his poem Fire! about maddening vision in dark times. Attila József was a great discovery for me back in 2017; that discovery resulting in my large Dialogs with József Attila project, specifically the piece Fire! (Dialog with József Attila – 8).

Had a conversation over supper about evil. What is the motive, the inner construction of these beings who want to end health care, end unemployment insurance, end virus testing and protective measures in the midst of this raging pandemic? What will that get them, how will it protect their pleasuring themselves of their wealth and power? How can they gain from withholding even the crumbs that others deigned to scatter? There is no dictionary to translate this. The mind freezes.

I read it in the daily news that the EU will soon decide about exclusion of Americans – that’s me! – although the numbers are quite low in Vermont (counting my numbers and weighing my risk, like Germans of mixed blood counted their percents). Not that I blame the Europeans now, after all, our mad mussolini decreed some months back that Europeans could not enter the US – and more to the point, who now would want any virus-ridden Americans?

Time for a Plan B. If I am to be exiled, there must be creative solutions to live with that. Ideas gestate – in case.

Meanwhile this pertinent poem by Attila József. New images of Assembled Spots and Holes will follow in the next post.

 

– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. June 24, 2020

 

 

 

FIRE!
by Attila Jószef

 

Fire!
The mill’s on fire!
Don’t hurt me, it’s not my fault.
Oh God, maybe the fire’s in me!
I really thought I saw a fire,
maybe it was a dream, an omen.
That’s why I scream: Fire! Fire!
It’s a great, roaring, raging fire.
It’s gangly arms flailing toward the sky,
there’s this white glow inside
but it singes everything in sight.
Doesn’t anyone feel it? Only me?
Did all the Hungarians die already?
All the men and all the women?
But here they are walking around.
Are they flesh and blood? Or robots?
They go to movies, eat and drink.
They don’t give a dog’s dick what I think.
Can they even hear me? Or is it just me?
We have plenty of wheat, plenty of flour.
Will it be better once the angels come
and bake us sweet-bread from smoke?
Look! Fire!
You are walking into fire.
If you see me, it’s the vision of a lunatic.
He’s seen your death. You’d better believe it.
At night, in front of your eyes he’ll appear,
whisper the hot roar of silence in your ear.
Flames will spew from his raging mouth.
Your death?
Now that I don’t know much about.
I just plant myself in your ear,
trembling, roaring like a town crier:
Fire! Fire! Fire!

Early 1924
Translation by Peter Hargitai

Attila József Selected Poems
iUniverse, Inc. Lincoln, Nebraska. 2005

 

 

click here to open Fire! in PDF format

 

 

DIANE SOPHRIN: NEW WORKS AND FREE ASSOCIATIONS. DIALOGS WITH ATTILA JÓZSEF

DIANE SOPHRIN: NEW WORKS AND FREE ASSOCIATIONS
DIALOGS WITH ATTILA JÓZSEF

Diane Sophrin - New Works and Free Associations. 1   Diane Sophrin - New Works and Free Associations. 2

Diane Sophrin’s latest solo exhibition at the Ferencvárosi Historical Museum in Budapest, runs from September 14th through October 14, 2017. The opening ceremony took place on September 22nd.

This newest body of work is comprised of three interconnected projects: the Wetted Scrolls Series, Postcards from Attila József and Dialogs with Attila József. The latter two relate directly to the poetry of Attila József (József Attila in Hungarian name order) one of the most famous and beloved Hungarian poets of the 20th century. This poet, although not so familiar to the English speaking world, is astonishingly pertinent to our world today. 

These works, along with my comments and the poems of Attila József ás well, can be found on this site here, and here. The image of each work is linked to it’s own page where the relevant poem can be read in English translation as well as the original Hungarian. 

The opening lecture was presented by Dr. Ferenc Takács; critic, literary translator, literary historian, associate professor at ELTE’s Department of Anglo-Saxon Studies, and President of the James Joyce Society of Hungary.

György Orbán, founder of the Ráday Könyvesház Bookstore, publisher and littérateur gave a poetry reading of Attila József’s Breath of Air .

Tamás Baranyi, cofounder of Budapest world music band Anu Mauri accompanied himself on keyboard, singing Attila József’s Oh Heart, Be Still and Qumashtra, one of his own compositions.

 

 

Diane Sophrin Exhibition Installation

 

 Diane Sophrin Exhibition Installation        Diane Sophrin Exhibition Installation

 

Diane Sophrin Exhibition Installation        Diane Sophrin Exhibition Installation

 

 

 Ferenc Takács lecture

 

Ferenc Takács lecture

 

 György Orbán recites Attila József

 

György Orbán recites Attila József

 

 Albert Kováts, Painter's Association President

 

 Diane Sophrin and Albert Kováts

 

 Tamás Baranyi performs Attila József

 

 Tamás Baranyi performs Attila József

 

 Diane Sophrin Exhibition Opening

 

 Diane Sophrin Exhibition Opening

 

 József Seregi, Julianna Vízi, Csaba Asztai

 

 Diane Sophrin, György Orbán, Ferenc Takács

 

 Albert Kováts, Diane Sophrin, Gábor Homolya

 

    

 

Gábor Szabó, Diane Sophrin    Takács Ferenc, Diane Sophrin

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 12

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 12

Dialog with J.A. - 12

Mixed-media on stitched, gessoed paper.
41″ x 34″ (105c x 86c)
2017

 

 

This large format mixed-media piece draws from József Attila’s controversial writing entitled A Collection of Free Associations In Two Sessions, or Szabad-ötletek Jegyzéke két ülésben. HIs audacious writing inspired an increase in the scale of my work, pushing the use of handwritten text as form-generating source material to a more developed level.

The Free Associations, written by J.A. in the context of sessions with his psychiatrist and quite raw at times, was long seen by many as being outside his body of verse. However, as I pulled excerpts from this long piece of experimental writing, working the fragments of phrases and words into my Dialogs, the free-flowing process of association at the core of so many of his poems was clearly recognizable. In Free Associations, József Attila offered himself up as object, to be penetrated with the same excruciating vision he so often directed towards the external world.

A full English translation by Tamás Baranyi can be read here in pdf format.

The original Hungarian text can be found here online, or here in pdf format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 11

 

 

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 11

Dialog with J.A.- 11

Mixed-media on stitched, gessoed paper.
28″ x 11″ (70c x 28c)
2017

 

Fire is Now White
by Attila József

Console the tormented twilights, my loved one too belongs to them
Dolefully writhing with her sorrowful flames
She is running before me, I kissed her and now time is sinking around us in profound silence
And I’m trying to hold on to it in vain
On the blazing surface of agony
The lights are on in the graveyard
Our tears are rinsing black crystals
We have no words that we could utter
Our remaining dreams are now incinerated
Only the dark hopes of murderers are left shining
Foolishness is dashing before us on an express train
All our birds are now wing clipped
Innocent like the white foreheads of pebbles
I’ve always called her Ria
We have nothing not even straw mats but they are still grabbing them from underneath us
Our celebrations are lying about unconscious
Sing, pure sorrow
I’m lying down here, the Moon will be my headrest
Sing, pure sorrow
I’m lying down here, the Moon will be my headrest

Autumn of 1924

Translation by Tamás Baranyi

 

 

Most Fehér a Tűz
József Attila

Vigasztaljátok a szenvedő alkonyokat, közéjük való kedvesem is,
szomorú lángjaival zokogva kergetőzik.

Előttem szalad, megcsókoltam s az idő nagy némasággal elsüllyed
körülöttünk,
de üres kezemmel hiába kapkodok utána
a fájdalom vakító felületén.
Temetőkben világít a villany,
könnyeink fekete kristályokat mosnak,
nincsen szavunk, amit kimondhatnánk,
elhamvadt maradék álmunk,
csak a gyilkosok sötét reményei világítanak még.
A butaság expresszvonaton robog előttünk,
minden madarunk szárnyaszegett.
Olyan ártatlan, mint a kavicsok fehér homlokai.
Én mindig Riának hívtam.
Gyékényünk sincs és mégis kihúzzák alólunk,
ünnepeink ájultan hevernek.

Énekelj tiszta szomorúság,
lefekszem itt, a hold a fejemalja.
Énekelj tiszta szomorúság,
lefekszem itt, a hold a fejemalja.

1924 ősze

 

 

 

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 7

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 7

Dialog with J.A. - 7

Mixed-media on stitched, gessoed paper.
28″ x 11″ (70c x 28c)
2017

 

This large format piece draws from József Attila’s controversial writing entitled A Collection of Free Associations In Two Sessions, or Szabad-ötletek Jegyzéke két ülésben.

 

A full English translation by Tamás Baranyi can be read here in pdf format.

The original Hungarian text can be found here online, or here in pdf format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 9

 

 

DIALOG WITH JÓZSEF ATTILA – 9

Dialog with J.A. - 9

Mixed-media on stitched, gessoed paper.
41″ x 34″ (105c x  86c)
2017

 

 

This large format mixed-media piece draws from József Attila’s controversial writing entitled A Collection of Free Associations In Two Sessions, or Szabad-ötletek Jegyzéke két ülésben. HIs audacious writing inspired an increase in the scale of my work, pushing the use of handwritten text as form-generating source material to a more developed level.

The Free Associations, written by J.A. in the context of sessions with his psychiatrist and quite raw at times, was long seen by many as being outside his body of verse. However, as I pulled excerpts from this long piece of experimental writing, working the fragments of phrases and words into my Dialogs, the free-flowing process of association at the core of so many of his poems was clearly recognizable. In Free Associations, József Attila offered himself up as object, to be penetrated with the same excruciating vision he so often directed towards the external world.

A full English translation by Tamás Baranyi can be read here in pdf format.

The original Hungarian text can be found here online, or here in pdf format.