Prague Writers' Festival highlights: the poetry of Miloslav Topinka

Miloslav Topinka, photo: CTK

This year's Prague Writers' Festival, which has now come and gone, but left a lot to be thankful for and a lot to remember. Not least was a meeting of poets Miloslav Topinka and Zbigniew Machej on Theatre Minor's stage for a reading of their work last Wednesday.

Miloslav Topinka,  photo: CTK
In the busy and flashy schedule of the 14th annual Prague Writers' Festival one might almost be forgiven for overlooking a "quiet" afternoon reading of work by Czech and Polish poets Miloslav Topinka and Polish Zbigniew Machej - almost, but not quite. Visitors who stumbled in along with poetry fans "in the know" on Wednesday were glad this one did not slip away: readings that merged the human with the cosmic, in Topinka's case, and the pristine and lyrical in Machej's. But it is on the work of Miloslav Topinka that we'll focus now: on the day he was the first to appear, asked to speak about his latest collection of poems - the existentially-titled "Rift" or "Rupture", for which he received the 2003 Seiffert Award. He was also asked by Oxford scholar Jim Naughton to describe poetry's place today.

Zbigniew Machej,  photo: CTK
"In this age poetry has lost its meaning - art in general has lost its meaning - and for it to say anything substantial about this period it must reinvent itself. The rupture or rift, is the tearing open of emptiness - testing what can be done with the language. Rupture can be a tear in space, in the space-time fabric, it can be a rift in one's self - the hole one falls into. It is also, ultimately, a break in language."

Jim Naughton noted that in Topinka's view poetry was touching the unknown, the almost indescribable - following Mr Topinka's reference to a famous quote by Arthur Rimbaud. Certainly those are qualities present in "Transformation", one of the poems in "Rift" that alternates from the deeply personal to the cosmic. Listen now to "Transformation" by Miloslav Topinka, read by Professor Jim Naughton at this year's Prague Writers' Festival.


by Miloslav Topinka


human transformation and bodily transformation

becoming awake

transformation of perception

it is only a moment

man touches upon those outermost boundaries

the horizon

have a new skin

a new body.



translucent outlines

form dependent on attraction

pressure on a body

with higher pressure would be more constricted

confined into a shell, into a spiral

strange tension, gripping of space

passageway through tunnel, through death

Fall through blue and pink-tinged sky,

suddenly all goes silent.

Only spindles or rather


of light.

That was poetry by Czech poet Miloslav Topinka and we'd like to remind our listeners that in coming days we will be featuring still more highlights from this year's writers' festival, including work by Michael Hofmann and Robert Irwin.