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The Conscience of Trees


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Zolt n B sz rm nyi (1951-), Romanian-Hungarian poet and novelist, was born and educated in the Transylvanian-Hungarian area of Romania. He had literary ambitions, but as a young poet he was harassed by the communist authorities of that time. He had no choice but to escape, eventually finding a new home in Canada, where he graduated from York University in philosophy and got a job with an advertising agency. After the fall of communism, he went back to Romania to start a publishing firm, Irodalmi Jelen K nyvek (Literature Today) and to resume his literary career. In addition to several volumes of poetry, he published three novels in Hungary, two of which also found print in Sohar's English translation: Far from Nothing (Exile Editions, Canada, 2006) and The Club at Eddie's Bar (Phaeton Press, Ireland, 2013). His third novel, The Refugee (2018), came out in Berlin in German translation. Presently he divides his time between Transylvania, and Barbados, between the business of running the publishing house (which includes the influential Hungarian literary magazine Irodalmi Jelen, online and in print) and work on his own novels and poetry. This poetry is quite current in approach and content but also reflects that special Eastern European angst that has accumulated in the collective consciousness of the region over its turbulent history. However, the alternation between free verse and formal style is entirely due to the fact that Hungarian language allows for an infinite variety of rhyme pairs and any form of meter, and much of contemporary Hungarian poetry is still produced in conventional form. For this book the selected poems were grouped not by style but by theme; the first part containing meditative poems, the second part devoted to personal/lyrical poems, and the third to poems inspired by or dedicated to other poets and writers. Various styles and forms are represented in each cycle; only outstanding quality and significant content were considered for inclusion. Paul Sohar (1936-) drifted as a student refugee from Hungary to the U.S., where he got a BA degree in philosophy and a day job in chemistry while he continued writing and publishing in every genre, including seventeen volumes of translations, among the latest being In Contemporary Tense, S ndor K ny di's poems (Iniquity Press, 2013) and Silver Pirouettes, Gy rgy Faludy's poetry (Ragged Sky Press, Princeton, 2017). His own poetry: Homing Poems (Iniquity Press, 2006) and The Wayward Orchard, a Wordrunner Press Prize winner (2011). Other awards: first prize in the 2012 Lincoln Poets Society contest and a second prize from Rhode Island Writers Circle prose contest (2014). Translation prizes: the Irodalmi Jelen Translation Prize (1914), T th rp d Translation Prize and the Janus Pannonius Lifetime Achievement Award (both in 1916, Budapest, Hungary). Magazine credits include Agni, Gargoyle, Kenyon Review, Rattle, Poetry Salzburg Review, Seneca Review, and others.


Perceptive, cultivated and inventive are terms that aptly apply to Zolt n B sz rm nyi's The Conscience of Trees. This remarkable volume of poetry is a transport for the reader, a journey across our planet filtered through the sieve of the poet's imagination: "I speak of this need with which I live / while the wispy sunrise silently / pours a new dream through the sieve." Complexity and variety course through the erudite arteries of this book. Poems flow effortlessly from the personal to the universal, then back again with the ease characteristic of a mature poet. As one expects from such sophistication, the blending of the two is often seamless: "Time's white canvas is fluttering above me, / and in the neighboring room / the radio keeps blaring . . ." and "I'm taking a walk along the Arno; / the facades of Florentine houses are reflected in the water, / like a collage of photographs / they bend in the softly ruffled mirror, / paying no attention to me. The river keeps crawling." B sz rm nyi's imagination is an active culture that produces some exceptional poetry. I invite you to enjoy the journey.

Alan Britt, Violin Smoke

Towson University

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