- Hungary -
Réka Borda was in born in 1992 in Szeged, and currently lives in Budapest. She is a poet, writer and design theorist. She has published one volume of poems in 2017 and a novel in 2022, and was nominated for several awards and prizes in Hungary such as Margó Prize and Horváth Péter Literary Scholarship. Translations of her poems were published in international anthologies and papers (Versum Online, Helikon Review, etc.). Member of the Society of Hungarian Authors and represented the Hungarian literature in the Society’s BE(p)PART educational project and Versopolis on international level.
“Réka Borda's first volume was published in the l!ve series of Scolar publishing house, with a plethora of messages, both terrestrial and galactic, from which it is impossible to choose what is a hoax and what is not. [...] Hoax is characterised by round, closed, strongly structured texts, but within the textual world there is a process of dismantling and construction. The author guides the reader with a confident hand and a remarkable technical skill towards dozens of dead ends: subject-maze, space-time collapse, Pythagorean theorem, overall uncertainty. [...] Hoax is a highly artistic and elaborate volume, the pieces of which deserve to be examined in more detail individually.”
Éva Horváth. A megmagyarázhatatlan történetek szivattyúként vonzzák az űrhajókat (Inexplicable stories attract spaceships like a pump). Jelenkor: 61/5.
“The author often makes use of one of the most promising post-modern poetic techniques, the so-called “diffusion of meaning”, i.e., the multiplication of meaning. The essence of this is that, instead of a linear conveyance of meaning from one sentence to the next, the tone of the poem is mediated by the kaleidoscopic network of relationships between the sentences and the aura that is created here. In the case of the author, the voice of the poem, which is thus self-fulfilling, is further individualised by the bizarre use of language.”
Gábor Bereti. Az elválasztás játékos gesztusa (The playful gesture of separation). Tiszatáj: October 2019
“In the case of Réka Borda’s Hoax, only two of the above are important here, one is its hopeful virality and the other is that we should pay attention to it in time. It has all the makings for the former, since, as with really big and unexpected successes, word of mouth can spread about how good the volume is. [...] It is a rich, strong and important volume, and I must stress that I think it is the best first volume of 2017.”
Sándor Attila Pál. Képzeld el (Picture it). Élet és Irodalom: LXII/15.
“In Borda’s first volume, the poems are in a predetermined place, (also) interdependent in the web of interpretation, and a certain degree of background knowledge is required for their creation as well as their reading. Traces of over-writing or over-aestheticisation occasionally crop up, but in a compact, established poetic world and a way of speaking like that of Borda, they do not distract the reader from interpretation. The multiplicity of themes, materials and settings, the movement and the interplay of public and private life in the poems, leave no room for monotony. For me, has been quite a leap - for those who do not agree, the lack of it will be a leap instead.”
Júlia Kustos. Építsd újra a világod (Rebuild your world). Új Forrás: 2018/3.
“Besides the composition of the volume, the use of images is perhaps the most remarkable feature of Réka Borda’s poetry. It is natural that a concept that draws on motifs of the holographic world, deception and illusion, also opens up the possibility of creating new and strange metaphorical webs.”
Ádám Sebestyén. Egy megtévesztő világ újrateremtése (Rebuilding a deceptive world). Ambroozia: 2018/2.
Those sat in the dark / A sötétben ülők
You turn off the light and sit on the stool.
Your mum and granny do dishes in the kitchen,
fifteen years ago, wearing the company aprons.
From outside they can't see your rice-grain body
shivering in the bed that was your dad's husk, too.
Today the moon's eyelashes
on the walls are unusually long.
She flutters them, and the Tisza
gushes from her lids. Grandpa catches
catfish at four in the morning,
emptying them at your feet. Once he joined them
and so the neighbour fished him out
before he drifted all the way to Serbia
amongst the polythene jellyfish.
Out in the lit room of the cottage house
the topic of conversation is dikes and cables.
Two foxes: one's been walking upright for years,
the other's slouching to all fours.
You understand why it's you who has to lie in the dark:
so the Sun can circle above them, the bugs around them,
and they can watch the news on telly, and each other's
furs, as they work them thinner strand by strand.
From outside they can't see those sat in the dark,
while from inside they watch through net curtains,
as children carved from woodland animals,
among cassette-thickets and wardrobe-oaks,
are terrified to kick off the quilt and ask,
who's sat on the stool, why are they watching.
You realise, the skinfish is rolling around
in front of you, when all of a sudden,
like with memory loss, the bulbs
burn out. You sit on the stool, staring
at the chewed-on pillow. The number of times
it was smoothed out, so others wouldn't think
you'd been there.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner
The acropolis shell / Az akropoliszi kagyló
A shell preserves the murmur of its birthplace.
People say. If you press one to your ear,
you can catch the chatter of dolphins,
and the impact of an airplane crash.
You shake it, the transceiver crackles.
Voices of the young mix in the ether,
the device embraces and releases them,
like a ray does a plastic bottle, taken for prey.
Suddenly the drumming of the throats
is distorted, as next to them, bombs,
uprisings and revolutions explode.
You shake it again. And now persistent
airliners buzz and hum above the garden.
Lying on your back you follow the trails
left by the white fins. You take a picture as
they whump into the puffy pillows
shaped like sea monsters.
If you hold the shell away from you,
the buzz in your ear stays. Jamming waves
that put out so long ago they've devastated
the banks of your internal auditory canal.
Sluggish currents clash together
above an acropolis built from rags.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner
I saw our leaders / Láttam vezetőinket
I saw our leaders kissing and cuddling
under their neckties; the hot soup
went cold as they sealed the mouths of their herd,
while they wallowed in their palaces; a few of them,
woolly, followed him out onto the terrace
of the conference hall, and I'm sure I know
who smoked their cigar naked behind the shutters;
as they filed down, willy-nilly,
the columns in the afternoons, and had the workers
build concrete pyramids; in due course the youngsters
decorated the walls with hieroglyphs; according to legend
accursed were the buildings that the graverobbers
from time to time came to strip;
to mourn my grandfather's lungs,
into which sand was sprinkled, and I saw
the desert sprawling over the hospital
with the cactuses that struck root
in throats and kidneys; from time to time
stormclouds swell between the lightbulbs,
and they water those that will die anyway;
to play with pinwheels while they held
their mum's hand; and to sing about tulips
beneath the pleated skirts, in order to drown out
the folksong of those on the fence's far side;
there are nights when our leaders retch side by side,
yet it's the downstairs neighbours who suffer the smell.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner
The Olympics / Olimpia
Your little sister missed the Opening Ceremony
when she ran to the bathroom. She pulled down her panties
and burst into flames. She screamed for your mother, whose terror
set your sister’s face to burning as well.
So they stood, face to face, your sister and your mother,
your sister, panties at her ankles, your mother, mouth agape,
and the hotel was flooded with the smell of smoke.
The world hadn’t changed, but in your sister’s
knitted brow you discovered
the features of the gods.
They went swimming, your sister and your mother.
Your mother, between rhythmic breaths,
explained to your sister, this is how it will be.
That your sister sits on the edge of the pool
while she swims. Next time they will switch,
and then your mother’s panties will scorch the earth.
This is how it is, this girly thing about which the boys,
you, are not permitted to know.
The Olympics were well underway
when the two of you went hot-air ballooning.
You stepped into the basket, and over
the buildings you flew. The hotel roof dwindled
to the size of your nail, and the dog walkers
gazed up at you wonderingly.
It wasn’t the heights, but your sister’s face
that scared me, the pain
that in the rising wind had set her on fire.
She had never been so captivating,
yet you turned your head,
as boys do, and in your embarrassment
began to pray.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner
Camping / Sátrazás
There is no opening line to camping.
That I journeyed to Balaton and believed
I could get a good rest – laughable.
I listened at length to friends,
a crackling woodpile, burned in the wine’s fire.
Their laughter turned sharp, then dull,
until the lowing of cows lulled me to sleep,
carried from Abraham Hill on the wind.
Stupid to think on a late summer’s night
the cold wouldn’t nip at the skin.
I sat upright to bundle up.
The words again turned sharp and dull,
but though I waited for the lowing of cows,
it was whimpering I got: bearish dog,
doggish man, mannish animal.
Pressing against the tent.
I’d never felt a wall could be weaker.
Every human of ages past alert within me,
the instinct that drove us from the wilderness.
I had a choice: burst from the tent and fight,
but if it’s a protective female, or a murderer,
who will protect me here, at the woods’ edge?
Who will tell the friends
not to feel bad the wine kept them from seeing
me get dragged into the woods?
And if I stay? I have to endure a shadow,
who knows when it will lurch into a frenzy.
I shrank into that narrow pupil
which searched in the dark for purchase:
a packaged sandwich, a striped sock,
a water bottle, whose unshakeable presence
could wrench me back to reality.
The noise subsided, the tent breathed relief.
I lay back down. Who would have thought
exhaustion conquers the fear of death?
To keep myself awake I wrote a poem in my head,
but no matter my gymnastics, I couldn’t find the upbeat:
If ever I lived, no, like a tent writing a poem,
no, there is no opening line to—
The creature came, wheezed, gurgled, stomped.
I thought of neither husband nor family,
I was taken between fearsome lines by the night.
Camping at Badacsony, sleepless assailant –
no opening line, low whimpering.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner
Night with the Prime Minister / Éjszaka a miniszterelnök úrral
I didn’t want a youth like this, I say to the prime minister.
Only the weak rant and rave, he responds, and turns out the light.
That’s just how he is: another time he says, a friend is an enemy.
But how can we sleep in each other’s hair
and still freeze every winter? We alone can lend the other warmth
with talk of cheap milk and the sparks of bitterness.
I’ll try to make it up to you, I whisper as I nestle beside him.
He never really loved me, but also cannot leave me. Between ten forty
and ten fifty at night I realize, I brought him on myself.
By eleven I amend this for society. Do you hear that, friends?
Here lies the man in whom our families suffer, give us back
our contours, this very stomach is consuming the tomorrow
which, I now see, we did not really deserve.
A silent good night, the prime minister says,
and pulls the blanket to his ears. Comforter soaked in fearful sweat,
tank top sucker-punched in the cellar, pajamas raped;
the bed is sagging with sweat. I, born in 1992, carry
in me the hatred of fate: the first slap on the bottom
and our dirty affairs cry out. Can I only be
what I was made to be? Sinful successor, waning Hungarian, a person?
In this order? Why could I not be, say, a line which encircles
the unscrupulous? Or the country penitent in its own cruelty?
I close my eyes. In case they’re gone when I open them: the law-black
century or the prime minister. Rather the latter. But I look at him,
and his sharp, Rubik’s cube features, and I am ashamed for not liking him.
I didn’t want this, I shake his shoulders, and he hugs my youth,
squeezes it, and falls asleep. He is a great man, but the wakefulness is greater,
and more powerful than that is only the what-if.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner
Nursery Rhyme / Mondóka
One, done, the thought ripened, to look from the screen
and not be blinded. For months I’ve been working
from early morning to late at night, lunch only sometimes, a bit of toast.
I still gained weight, but let’s not go there.
Two, thorn bush true pierces my side:
every minute, how many blessings of childbirth missed.
Three, you’re with me, evisceration. If only you were so
understanding for me to believe I was being forced.
This is overly girly, states my client,
and forgets to pay.
Four, milk I pour, I rub my stubbly calf,
and say nothing on the phone
as my mother laments the lack of grandkids.
Happiness is not in what you believe,
but in whom you believe. The line whines,
the clock ticks.
Five, fog descends, and I’m ashamed
of my empty room of a womb. How great would it be, here
a small car, there an entire life of self-sacrifice.
Six, belly goes burst, the driven-off families
jostle within, and still, the terrible hunger
I have. I wake, butter toast, and type.
Then comes seven, muddy be the days,
dirtied by work.
Eight, it’s vacant, my—
Nine, I wake, I work, I sleep,
and ten, ten, it’s night again.Translated by Owen Good and Austin Wagner