On a Forbidden Star

I was born on a forbidden star. From there
driven ashore, I trudge along the sand.
The surf of celestial nothingness takes me up,
and plays with me, then casts me on the land.

Why I repent I do not even know.
It is a puzzle buzzing in my ear.
If any of you should find me on this beach,
this sunken beach, don’t run away, stay here.

And don’t be scared. Don’t run away. Just try
to mitigate the suffering in my life.
Shut your eyes and press me to yourself.
Press me boldly, as you would a knife.

Be reckless too: look on me as the dead
look on the night, seeing it as their own,
your shoulder there to aid my weaker one.
I can no longer bear to be alone.

I never wanted to be born. It was nothingness
who bore and suckled me; with her I started.
so love me darkly. Love me cruelly. Love me
like the one left behind by the departed.

by János Pilinszky

‘On a Forbidden Star’ is copyright © János Pilinszky. It is reprinted by permission of Worple Press from Passio (2012), translated by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri.

Notes from Worple Press:

János Pilinszky (1921-81) is one of the great European poets of an extraordinary generation: that of Paul Celan, Zbigniew Herbert and Yves Bonnefoy. Like them he grew up to a world physically and morally devastated by the Second World War and the Holocaust. Ted Hughes described his achievements and stature thus: His “greatness” […] is not a greatness of imaginative and linguistic abundance. It has more to do with some form of spiritual distinction. The weight and unusual temper of his imagination and language derive from this.’ In Passio, Clive Wilmer translates from Hungarian in collaboration with George Gömöri, whom he first met in 1971. A Hungarian poet himself, George Gömöri belongs to the generation that felt Pilinszky’s influence. Over the past forty years Gömöri and Wilmer have translated work by more than twenty poets, and introduced many British readers to the poems of Miklós Radnóti and György Petri. Many of the poems here are taken from Pilinszky’s second book, Harmadnapon, published in 1959. Find out more about Passio by visiting Worple Press’s page here.

Worple Press was founded by Peter and Amanda Carpenter in 1997. Since then they have published a wide range of authors, including Iain Sinclair, Joseph Woods, Elizabeth Cook, Beverley Bie Brahic, Clive Wilmer and Kevin Jackson. They published the selected poems of the acclaimed American nature poet Peter Kane Dufault for the first time in the UK (Looking in All Directions); this was followed in 2007 by Kane Dufault’s To be in the same world. Peter Robinson’s The Great Friend and Other Translated Poems was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for Spring 2002. This impressive backlist was augmented in 2012 by three significant titles: Passio: Fourteen Poems by Janos Pilinszky from Clive Wilmer and George Gomori; Riddance by Anthony Wilson; and the republication of William Hayward’s cult novel from 1964, It Never Gets Dark All Night. Over 2013 and 2014 new titles include work from John Greening, Michael McKimm, Peter Robinson, Mary Woodward and Sally Flint.  More information can be found on Worple Press’s new website and Facebook page.

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