Přeškolíme fotry mutry
Přeškolíme fotry mutry
Cestoval slavný baryton
Cestoval slavný baryton
Cestoval slavný tenor
Cestoval slavný bas
Dala jim dala jim
The one-l lama
(Jiří Weinberger with help of Věra Bořkovcová)
Jedno Bé má
Myself, I rather like the bat
Netopýr, má milá, to si piš
If you are wondering who wrote this poetry and ingenious translations of the "untranslatable" poetry of Ogden Nash, your wait is over - meet Dr. Jiří Weinberger, a Czech exponent of "nonsense" poetry, writer, poet, translator, playwright, actor and lastly a mathematician and Czech expert on project and risk management (see e.g. www.timing.cz).
I had the opportunity to interview Jiri in Prague, just before Christmas 2004, in the Office of his firm TIMING Praha in the Prague YMCA building. In early December, we also attended a performance of Jiří's play "Ach ty plachty" in the historical Brevnov building U Kaštanu (music by Michal Vích, directed by Jiří Langer).
Jiří, how did you get started writing poetry - when did you begin?
My first attempts at poetry writing were just after I finished Charles University in Prague, around 1970. I felt really addressed by the the writings of Edward Lear, as well as by the writings of Christian Morgenstern and also Jiří Suchý and Jan Vodňanský (not to forget my Czech inspiration). Much later I got to know the poems of Emanuel Frynta and, in fact, those are what I like best from the Czech sources. Inspiration from these sources and genre never left me and permeates all my writings, plays and texts.
What is it that draws you to "nonsense" poetry?
Nonsense poetry is known for two important attributes - " hravost" (playfulness) with words and meanings (sometimes well hidden) of what is written. Nonsense poetry is not mere " žvatlání" (word play) but the words and rhymes have to have a certain meaning and convey certain ideas, often "behind the scene". This is what challenges the author, yet allows him to innovate with rhythmic variations and structure of the poem.
Your poetry is often very rhythmical, one can almost sense the syncopated music played under the verses, do you feel same way?
Absolutely, my poetry has a "beat of words", but often people feel the "beat of the rhythm" in the poetry and I am often asked to write lyrics for songs. In fact, twenty four years ago I started collaborating with Michal Vích, a talented composer and the results of our collaboration are several CD's with our songs and several plays we do with our small ensemble. Before the co-operation with Michal I had written some dozens of songs with Václav Lahodný, some of them I like till now.
I did not realize that you, Michal Vích and your group also perform your plays. Where do you perform and who is your typical audience?
Yes, we have had a very active live theatre program; I am not sure about the future. Of course, our theatre performances are not done in the classical "large stone theatres", but in much smaller, intimate venues, where we can establish very direct contact with the audience.
One of our plays was written for children's theatre - I find that children often better understand our poetry and that they sometimes react better than adults. Our performances do not have any story line and they have a progression of ideas and meaning which lead to a conclusion, often "a Lesson to learn" or something new to learn, for ex. rhyming words, completing sentences or finishing a statement. Jiří Langer, develops our play performance based on the consensus of all actors and use of text and music. His "scénická montáž" (scenic montage) develops the gradation of the play to a conclusion.
Jiri, this is really exciting, tell us about your other projects?
Well, I have just recently christened with Pragoline Publishers my new bilingual prose book on our beloved Stromovka park - Jakápak smůla (What Bad Luck). It was a a nice collaboration with an American editor, Susan Van Metre, and has illustrations by Petr Herold. What Bad luck stems from my personal experience in the park (the transformation is big, anyone would hardly recognize the true-life story I had experienced).
The book offers a good way for Czech children to improve their English by reading Czech verse and its translation (or vice versa, if you are e.g. an American living in Prague who wants his children to learn Czech. My other personal challenge, is to translate the quite difficult poems of Ogden Nash.
I am working on these translations with Prof. Vera Borkovec from Washington,
DC., who was the first one to christen me "the Czech Ogden Nash" in
an article she wrote for Literarni noviny. There are those who said that Nash
is not translatable and I am off to prove otherwise.
Thank you, Jiří and good luck in your future plans, what are these?
I guess that the future means always-new beginnings and I am sure that, as far as writing and acting are concerned, that a new, principal restart is just ahead of me. I am looking forward to this necessarily unknown challenge.
(Books, poetry and CD's of Jiri Weinberger and his team are available for purchase
by writing to Frank Safertal, 5529 Whitley Park Terrace, Bethesda, MD 20814)