- Hungary -
Péter Závada was born in 1982, he is a poet, playwright, translator, musician, PhD student in ELTE’s Esthetics Doctoral Programme. He published his first poems in Jelenkor, since then he’s been publishing continuosly. His poems appeared in such literary journals as Élet és Irodalom, Jelenkor, Alföld, Holmi, Műút, Tiszatáj, Kulter, Szifonline, Irodalmi Szemle, Eső, Ex Symposion, Pannonhalmi Szemle, Zempléni Múzsa, Szkholion, Bárka and Helikon. Translations of his poems were published in several international literary anthologies and papers such as Cordite Poetry Review or Modern Poetry in Translation. He also know from the hip-hop and slam poetry scene of Hungary by his bands Akkezdet Phiai and trAnzKaPHka. Since 2010 he has worked as a theatre dramaturg and playwright, and took part in the production of more than 30 theatre performances to this day.
“(...) the author leaves his poetics behind, and with his new tone and reimagined engagement, he moves from the narrow pop-authorial reference ensemble “over-connoted” by slam and hip-hop to the most oxygen-deprived ridges of conceptual high poetry.” –Soma Csete: A felhám apoteózisa —Hozzászólás Závada Péter kötetéhez (The apotheosis of the epidermis — Commentary to Péter Závada’s collection of poems) 2. Műút, 15 May 2018
“The coherent and intellectual language of Péter Závada’s book of verses, in addition to aspiring to construct new worlds, does so by also addressing a poetic tradition that does not belong to the immediate predecessors; the language of the poems in the volume is not akin to the dominant lyrical styles of expression of the 2000s or 1990s, but rather enters into dialogue with the most significant works of modern and late modern poetry.” –Gergő Balogh, Beköltözni a zuhanásba (Moving into the downfall), Alföld, 2018/1
“The volumes are apparently both a conscious construction and a complete new beginning; they can be considered as new stages in an organic process, but at the same time they are also a kind of definite break with the existing corpus.” –Balázs Kerber, Testföldrajz (Body geography), Műút, 3 April 2018
“Lest we be deceived: Závada, though increasingly skilful, is still only pulling the strings of poetry's antechamber before our eyes.”- Soma Csete: A felhám apoteózisa — Hozzászólás Závada Péter kötetéhez (The apotheosis of the epidermis — Commentary to Péter Závada’s collection of poems) 2. Műút, 15 May 2018
“The virtue of Péter Závada’s new volume is the thoughtful and imaginative intellectual background and the powerfully created atmosphere, but sometimes it is the overabundance or over-consistency of this atmosphere that is the source of the problems.” - Balázs Kerber: Testföldrajz (Body geography), Műút, 3 April 2018
“Gondoskodás is a volume detailed with a rich semantic-poetic synthesis, transparent in its construction, with repeated poetic forms manifested in the “process of drawing”.” - Enikő Anna Ágoston: „ahol a geometria esemény” (“where geometry is an event”), Műút, 28 June 2022
“(...) one of the most attractive features of Roncs szélárnyékban is the philosophical attitude combined with the imaginative, the joy of landscapes, imagery and mosaics. The repetition and constant redefinition of visual motifs also render the poems part of a great movement, a great ordering, which ensures the possibility of multiple, reinterpretative receptions.” - Balázs Kerber: Testföldrajz (Body geography), Műút, 3 April 2018
“But does this intricate hydrography and design of flow-throughs, overflows and crossings show a pattern? Does following and unravelling the nodes and threads of the conceptual web bring the reader closer to some kind of solution, or does it create a labyrinth in which one can only wander, not exit?” - László Sinkovicz: Nyelváramlás, szövegtektonika (Language flow, text tectonics), Műút, 17 May 2018
“Roncs szélárnyékban reaches back to the poetic language of Újhold (New Moon), tabooed in the 2000s, to renew contemporary discourse with certain elements. And the epistemological orientation of the volume does not imply metaphorical representations with closed structures, but recalls the techniques of surrealism in the organisation of images.”- Georgina Kiss, Aspektusok és hiátusok — Hozzászólás Závada Péter kötetéhez (Aspects and hiatuses – Commentary to Péter Závada’s collection of poems) 4. Műút, 22 May 2018
“Roncs szélárnyékban, while constantly foregrounding its impressive poetic-rhetorical layering, also asserts a powerful thematic-conceptual dimension: its central theme is the human cognition.”- Gergő Balogh, Beköltözni a zuhanásba (Moving into the downfall), Alföld, 2018/1.
“The difficulty of empathising with such texts is subjective and depends on the reader. However, despite their difficulty, the poems remain clearly universal.”- Attila Papp, A távollét kegyelme (The grace of absence), Bárka 2022/2
“Péter Závada’s Gondoskodás is one of the most exciting pieces of contemporary lyric poetry due to its autonomy of perspective, linguistic and intellectual complexity, and captivating sensitivity. I can only recommend it.” –Gergő Balogh, Mintha egy őszi szó lennék az igazságra (As if I were an autumn word for truth), Alföld, 2022/4.
Sinking / Süllyed
The prettier the coastline,
the deadlier it is;
so you used to say.
This time of year,
the pulmonary patients
from the sanatorium
come here for their
It gets cold at night,
cold as the relative tense.
We sit in silence,
as if by the coast;
and then I think of
those water rescue dogs
that stop you swimming.
And how I can’t stand
when something sinks.
Mortar / Mész
There is little doubt that all forms of limestone, including some of your bones,
were once in solution in the sea, mother.
So said the illustrated magazine I read, sitting next to you at the hairdresser’s,
the dome of your dryer humming reassuringly. Natural processes gave you
form, and little creatures helped secrete you. Rainwater, high in carbon
dioxide, ate away at the earth’s outer crust, it said, and I concluded that
you’d been washed into the sea as a big wave of highly concentrated liquid.
The humming of the dryer was like the murmur of the sea. Sometimes, there
was so much limestone in the water it was deposited as lime mud. There’s
still quite a lot about, even deep underground. You’ve been building up all
this time. Limestone is good for building with; whitewash is made from
builder’s lime. When you died, dad told them to make the house all white.
Builder’s lime is mostly limestone; calcium carbonate, by another name. You
are made of little crystals of calcium, mother.
Heated to a thousand degrees centigrade, or thereabouts, you separate into
carbon dioxide and calcium oxide. The carbon dioxide is your soul that passes,
what remains is the solid calcium oxide; burnt lime.
Dad and I took your burned-up bones and your immolated blood and softly,
softly as a pagan mason sacrificing to his mother earth, mixed you into our
mortar to make it set; although you were there already.
Every brick we laid that day
Space for time / Hely az időnek
There is a shore where it is now
a few minutes later. There, I already know
where this street leads, whose end I cannot see
It runs into an alleyway perpendicular to the sea
into which confused seagulls drift time and again
never more to find
their way back to the water.
On that shore, the houses, like sunflowers,
turn unnoticed, following the light,
and the darkness that descends all at once
re-christens the squares each night.
There, I already know that I am the incarnation
of hours, and there's no room
for the time that keeps piling up. What is still to come
crowds out what is passing.
I stand, always between two events.
I hold them apart, not letting them
collapse into each other.
My hand smooths against the wall of the future.
It closes, unsuspecting, around the cold handle
of the door I'm about to open.
Maybe it does know something
I don't even suspect.
It reaches all by itself where it has to,
every day outwitting death for me.
I do not end with my skin.
I cross my boundaries like
the sides of a trapezoid, I overflow
The outside world touches my body,
seeps in at the pores. I watch
the disturbed undulation of your chest,
the mass of the moon draws
to itself the unsettled sea.
Then, only the obvious sky.
the solitude of a mast without a sail,
and the bushes, as they force the bay
Words would pronounce us, but we keep sticking in their throats.
Piling up on the breakers
of a stutter.
Oedipus / Oidipusz
You are the landscape
your fingers the bone-narrow twigs of the trees,
your barren hillshead peak
crowned a fortress
by the setting sun.
Mis-fortunate old man,
stumbling from wall to wall
of your hollowed eye-sockets,
trembling hand outstretched.
As if your eyes looked inward,
into your skull,
your gaze wandering down the aisles,
the parallel rows of seats
drawing you in
as somewhere on stage
the body's vanishing point combusts.
And whichever way you turn, there
a potential life is made
of the mosaic pieces of your curiosity
as - gently cracking -
the layers of perception
separate out into planes
and slide, one over the other.
It was you, waiting
in the shadow of the rustling,
the forest's lungs,
like a stuffy birdhouse,
filling up with noise.
The augur counting eagles
all day long,
forgetting again and again
where he'd got to.
The tempest fluting through
the hole drilled in your ankle,
teaching your limp to dance.
And the mountain kneeled,
It was you I saw
in the desert of the eye,
where time, locked into the grains of sand,
had scratched the lens of the wind.
I saw the fingers
of the shrubs weep darkness.
The bark of the argan trees sweat night,
and a caravan cross
the knife-edge of the horizon.
The silhouettes of the backlit bodies
tautened, like paper figures
in a fire,
and the face of the Sphinx,
like a petrified scream, floating
silent above the dunes.
You wanted to see what was hidden,
what withdraws into its own shadow.
Your blindness now is the night of the cosmos.
The eye is lost
in the radiant magnitude.
Family Album / Családi album
It's not the generosity, but the sense of proportion
you find surprising, the sun scattering its light
and shadows before you:
two kinds of seeds for the hungry birds.
Like an arrowhead, you're yanked out
of observation - you find yourself
amid the darkening murmur. The night takes one last
deep breath, pulling away from the shore
Breakaway days, cast out of
the continuity of our plans,
in the blindspot of our foresight: such was August,
the summer's singeing our fingertips.
You can hear the trees sobbing in the garden,
their unmistakable counterpoint
knocking on the windowpane: the bony fingers
of departed grandparents -
no one gave them keys when they changed the locks.
The shadow of the word is an imagined space
the shape of the floating
blocking out the light.
flee the page
like little black earwigs,
chewing holes in the eardrums,
nesting in the brain
- their chorus never more to stop.
There's nothing for it but
to move into this freefall
and inhabit its
We stripped off the plaster
of hollow talk to find ourselves
face to face with our forgotten selves
walled into each other.
The sponges of our eyeballs - soak the view
in colour and form:
cut-out shapes where the things should be.
Like stickers into an album -
what'll you paste in them?
Where's your handicapped brother?
On the patio? Who left him out there
in the rain?
No one thought to bring him in
he just sits there, rain falling
in his mouth, like a fountain,
birds drinking from it.
The Forgiveness of Sins / Bűnbocsánat
The noise of the cleaning machines is like that
of the men in the confessional come by bus from town.
What if they stopped talking one after the other
eventually, they would make a chorus of silence.
There's a few split seconds of delay
between my right eye blinking and my left.
So with time the piers of the bridges
in my mouth loosen.
The apsis closes over me like the shell of a husk.
My doubt is the axis around which this temple revolves.
That which I have never confessed piles up,
nearing, but never reaching, the point of being said.
The Visit / Érkezés
These words, too, we have now threshed
the treasured fibrous wheat of thought
and what was left, at the end of that,
as it does every winter.
You can feel the warmth of
the stables-cum-summer kitchen in your bones
but who knows who's cooking here, the soup is cold,
and you were far too liberal with the salt
The leaves of the trees have gone black:
ruined teeth in the snowstorm's mouth.
And the branches of our disquiet are too thick and dark
to let anything we could call consolation
shine through them.
Requiem for Steve Irwin / Rekviem Steve Irwinért
Lagoons turn into coastal lakes.
Salt water, over time, turns fresh.
The future of a dominant species
emerges from the vegetation.
When you set off in the Range Rover for Lakefield
National Park, you leave behind
the dry season - drought has dried
the riverbed into a desert of cracks.
But the mangrove swamps still give off
the homely smell of putrefaction.
A teeming variety among the branches,
a rich taxonomy of families,
in the nests.
A fanboat carves a path
through the sweltering anaerobic heat,
the hum of its propeller scattering
herons and darters
from among the aerial roots.
An isolated area. From the roots of the ferns
there's a view of evolution.
Those that found shelter in the mud and brackish water
have grown lungs
with which to blame you
for the dams, the draining of the swamps.
It's your fault. The mudskippers
still remember the massacre of the native-born,
their place taken by colonies of prisoners.
And the descendants of these former convicts
turn back the dinghies, even close to shore,
of the fleeing.
It's your fault. The mouth of the ravine
still echoes the screams of the murdered.
It tells of the Golden Age of Creation, when
formless space was delineated, resolving into material objects.
Things took form, damselfish were born,
and birds of paradise.
Every man is terrifying.
You'd rather be an anteater
in a catshark's dream.
You'd shed your white, middle-class skin,
hardening shame into reptilian scales.
You'd assume the outer covering of
a tortured region.
Oh, for some blond naturalists
to trap you 'mid ropes
quite near some holidaymaker's paradise.
Your empathy would acclimatise,
like the temperature of blood,
to the cold puddles; and time,
like the blood's circulation, would be reversible.
Shadows are the body's harbingers.
The vertical slit of the pupil floats
darkly in the flat, elongated construct of the skull:
an inert log in the eutrophic water.
Blind terror of dawn.
The vertebrae of a spine appear in the water
like a scattered archipelago.
A habitat shrinking into an individual,
a slimy mise en abyme.
But you're not one of them.
You will never know the
phenomenology of a tick.
The escape routes of guilt
lead you back into the body.
Those that walked in the footsteps
of the prehistoric reptiles left their own traces,
so that birds may now drink
the water gathered there.
Darwin, Comte, and Spencer have drawn you into
the one way street of phylogenesis.
But the mangrove swamps refuse to leave.
Barely audible splashes in the depths:
crabs scuttling in their muddy holes,
as the riverbank clings to the shrubs
so as not to be swept away by the waves.
Only a fraction of continuity reaches you as,
over millennia, dry land
gains ground upon the waters.
Portakabins / Karavánok
The routine of portakabins, metal fences
has dissolved into the disinfectant white of waiting rooms,
contoured reception desks, hospital-green sofas.
Habit has been replaced by a sort of determined
stubbornness, though as plans go, I would hardly call it
It was clear: if I carelessly give way to what
by its very nature crops up as temptation,
then a single rash decision can bring with it
a whole caravan of consequences.
I was hard-headed, at long last, determined, I knew
that if I grabbed that door handle
and pushed down, the room would explode
into the darkness: I step out, and immediately start
gaining mass, drawn towards the geographical centre of the forest,
memorable cracks radiating out, “branchstill”
the nakedness of noise.
Only I can be the hero of my poem
and this upside-down glass
on the chipboard table: furrowed alienness.
Or that layer of dust on the tomato, the
brownish, overripe spots of the peach
as they spread out in rings, like saltmarks
the bright green burgeoning mould.
Caring is what I do every day,
and that has nothing to do with
exhaustion, but the wood still remains stubborn
even as it readies to my hand.
Through the spade I see the ore,
the cathedral the quarry, and there's a wound
on the site of all creation.
I'm full up with the city, I long
to be back in a purer surfeit
where the wood is a kindly wastefulness, and rambling
is time frittered without guilt.
But instead, an end-of-summer feast, and orchids
a starry carpet of fluorescent plankton
on the front of the laser-wrapped basilica,
and product samples in the magazines, smart carbon alloys,
but what is most convincing in its purposiveness
are the geraniums and gentian, as history, like
a Baroque allegory, sprouting out of the ruins.
The slow decay of the copse is a chance
that I pass up, but it isn't only mine.
What I mark out in space: a swollen knot
my associations accrete. The heart of memory
suddenly collapses, the valley coils up around me.
Look, the marshalled markers of spring,
the obedient expanding circles of the wind, in the middle
a smaller central part surrounded by flowers.
Their smoothness stretched tight upon them, their roughness
pricking stubbornly out, the communicating vessels of the stalks,
the truth of the petals taking the place of the bud, now.