Annual Poetry Day festival gets underway in Czech towns and cities under the slogan ‘Poetry Is Cool’

'Poetry is cool'

A nationwide Poetry Day festival is currently underway in dozens of Czech towns and cities. The annual event, celebrating the birth of the great Czech romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha, started Monday and will continue until November 21. The main theme of this year’s festival is Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.

The two-week National Poetry Day festival is taking place in more than 40 towns throughout the country, combining local events in schools, libraries and cultural centres with readings by leading Czech poets, including Petr Borkovec, Sylva Fisherová, but also by guest poets from abroad.

The event also promotes poetry in public spaces, displaying poetry on trams and buses in Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc and Pardubice and via poetry brochures in waiting rooms. Due to the Covid pandemic, there is also a number of outdoor events, including literary walks and activities for children.

Kateřina Rudčenková | Photo: Jan Zátorský,  Poetry Day festival

One of the highlights this year is the launch of a new English translation of Kateřina Rudčenková’s collection Dream of a Journey.

I discussed her book with translator, Alexandra Büchler, director of the UK-based cultural organisation Literature Across Frontiers, who first introduced Katerina Rudčenková’s work to the English-speaking world back in 2006:

“Her poetry stood out for me. It’s not easy to describe exactly why, but I think it’s her voice which is quite distinctive. It’s a voice which is unmistakably that of a female poet, but at the same time her references are to Central European writers who are mostly male.

“She also is someone who introduces a philosophical concern but at the same time she refers very much to the female body, to female desire. Her poetry can be erotic, but it also deals philosophically with issues such as death, sexual desire and erotic desire, which is not the same.

“So this is really what made her poetry stand out. The other thing was her language, which I really though was quite classical. She only occasionally uses colloquial expressions. So all that really resonated with me.”

Who initiated the publishing of Dream of a Journey?

Photo: Poetry Day festival

“I did. I offered the selection to a UK publisher, called Parthian. To my mind Kateřina’s poetry is really long overdue for being presented in a book. She has been included in anthologies, but I still thought that this wasn’t enough, that she deserved to have a whole book.

“I didn’t think it would be a good idea to do a collection because I think there are some really outstanding poems in more of her books. So I thought that selected poems would be the best approach and the publisher accepted.

“They received support from the Ministry of Culture, which obviously helped a lot. So this is how it happened and I am really very, very pleased to be launching the book in Prague today.”

The presentation of Kateřina Rudčenková’s new English translation takes place on Wednesday evening and Anglo-American University at Malá Strana. You can find more information about the National Poetry Day festival on their website,