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Critical Article On Kurt F. Svatek’s Book Of Poems--- Don’t come too close to the shore
essay [ ]

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by [kksrivastava ]

2010-07-23  |     | 



Reviewer: K.K.Srivastava



On reading Kurt F. Svatek’s book of poems, DON’T COME TOO CLOSE TO THE SHORE, a collection of more than 150 poems (translated into English by Carla Kraus, Stephen Kim Badzic, Robert B Rhia, Ernst Karner, Kurt F Svatek) on a host of wide and varied facets that, inter alia make life, I am reminded of Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Murderers in the Rue Morgue” read with Edgar Poe’s essay The Poetic Principle where he lays down three obvious distinctions –the Pure Intellect, Taste and The Moral Sense that influence composition of poems-long or short. And in the story he prefixes a preface where he avers that an analytic mind has “the whole air of intuition”. Both these facets as brought out by Poe, I feel, play a vital role in a writer’s creative impulses that, at least in some cases and sometimes if not all the times, involve taking of risks with imageries and format, riddled with conflicts between reason and passion, respite and travail, nostalgia and despair, essential preconditions for producing wonderful pieces of verse. Enlivened by innovation, Svatek’s works, stupendous by any standards, open a new world replete with thoughts and feelings and as readers travel on the paths woven by this collection, they are sure to be welcome by a sort of mixed feeling which will be with them for quite a long time—a hall mark of lasting literature. There is as much human endurance in these poems as there is durability and there seems to be no wavering from the conviction that a professional poet with huge reputation like Kurt Svatek is doubtless familiar with multi-cultural requirements of readers cutting across all continents. He relishes critical temper in his poems as much as he enjoys careful arrangements in his poetic endeavours. Svatek is truly imaginative employing both the technique of analysis and intuition and he also fulfills all the requirements of the Pure Intellect, Taste and the Moral Sense.

Kurt F. Svatek, an educationist and poet of renown, with 45 collections of poems, has his texts included in around 500 national/international magazines and in 196 anthologies. His poetry has brought him 133 prizes that inter alia include the Accademia del Fiorino (Italy 2009), Conselho Mundial dos Teologos (2007 Brazil), The Order of International Fellowship, The Order of International Ambassadors (USA), Olympic Medal of Peace (Athens 2004) . Selected as International Man of the Year in recognition of his services to literature in 2005 by USA, he was awarded International Peace Prize in 2003 by United Cultural Convention. He is member of the London Diplomatic Academy, the Academy Thea Athina in Athens, the Accademia Tiberina in Rome, Academy of Letters, Raleigh USA etc. His name has been recommended for Noble Prize for literature several times to Swedish Academy and in 2010, his name is recommended to Norway for Noble Prize for peace.

Time continues to puzzle poets and writers. Samuel Beckett’ Waiting for Godot is a wise commentary on absurdities of time as, for example, one of the characters, Vladimir talks of such an absurdity when he tells Pozzo and Estragon,” All I know is that the hours are long …….but has it not been straying in the night without end of the abyssal depths? (Act Two Waiting For Godot) Svatek is also beguiled by time’s absurdities that he so aptly expresses in his poem After Many Hours

“The day stopped flowing
And coloured the words black.
Even the wind was silent,
Because every second was
“Celebrating Sunday-
Pushing the borders
To yesterday and Tomorrow
Far from itself.”

This short poem treats time as continuum where the poet links past with present and future and tries to portray the mixed feelings time imparts to people the way Angel Gonzalez, the poet from Spain has done in his poem Yesterday-

“Yesterday was Wednesday all morning
By afternoon it changed
It became almost Monday,
Sadness invaded hearts
And there was a distinct
Panic of movement…….”

The inseparability of different threads that make time haunts Svatek and in these threads he not only sees the anomalies (panic of movement) (Far from itself) time bestows on human beings but also time’s immutability. “Every second was pushing the borders to yesterday and tomorrow….”

In another poem Sensuousness, subtlety of life vis a vis self is exquisitely described. Svatek’ mental vitality pulsing through his creations gets continuous sustenance from the abiding features of body and self and delves deep into the intricacies that mirror world’s body and individual self.

“To plunge the world
Into one’s own body
And to start a journey
In images of one’s self.
Always again,
Until the drums go mute
Only the simple melody of a flute leads now
Through the tunnel of sensuousness
Into the glowing ego.”

Or he rightly points out in To Depart in Oneself,

“Life is no longer a vain search for warmth
People don’t possess each other
Instead they go together
As a flame that passes through another flame.”

Both these poems, read together, startle readers in as much as these on the one hand, put forth the indecipherable nexus intertwined between self and body of the world and on the other hand lay stress on the need the modern civilization growingly feels now—the need to iron out differences: collective differences at that, and pave the way for moving together, as nations to ensure smoothness in continuation of civilization. Svatek’s dilemma is the dilemma of a civilization that has witnessed innumerable onslaught on itself and now it is it’s turn to wait for elixir that will give it much needed bliss. Svatek through his poems exactly does the same work.

In another poem, Soundless, fragility of human existence arrests Svatek’s attention. The underlying idea in this poem is though the modern world is a reasonably well world the existence of human beings is still weak and worse than plants and trees. Svatek is seized with human conditions that are terrifying and much to the poet’s mortification, Gods are sleeping. In many of his poems humanistic propensities are raised that convey the message of love, peace and co-existence to the world.

“Existence is so weak
Bearing so little chances
Though even withering plants
Survive some time.”

I find impact of writings of Friedrich Nietzsche on some of the poems of Svatek. For instance, sentiments expressed in Soundless, also get proper treatment in the hands of Nietzsche who expresses the turmoil of his heart in his poem-Ariadne’s Lament—

“Stretched out, shuddering,
Like a half-dead thing whose feet are warmed
Shaken by unknown fevers,
…………………………
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
With all eternal tortures
Smitten
By thee, cruel huntsman
Though unknown---God.”

Nietzsche is far harsher than Svatek the similarity of ideas are difficult to amiss.

Svatek’s poems looking squarely out at the world, as a rule, provide a steady and life-enhancing direction to humanity. These come in various guises, several times depicting themes amid implications of truth and beauty as fused with mythical and modern elements.

In Beyond the Fog, the poet turns into a soothsayer and philosopher, obsessed with “many things in days of carelessness.” The depths of his thoughts put in simple language allow readers adequate scope to dwell in Svatek’s shifting images and consummate skills.

“A great many people, in secret,
Look for togetherness
Storms and winds have broken
Many things in days of carelessness.”

It this poem there is a sense of estrangement, disorientation and disappointment. Why people look, in secret, for togetherness? Svatek looks onto the prospects of contemporary world where days carelessness destroys so many prospects

Or as in Unrest-

“The room is much too big
there is virtually nothing in it.
………………………………
………………………………….
Is it a glass half full, a smile
Or simply warmth that’s missing?”

Importance of nothingness in otherwise full and prosperous world compels Svatek to enquire into an idea of emptiness. There seems to be an adherence to nihilism and desperation also seems to be self-flagellating. Absence of “warmth” renders a big room devoid of anything. It is the duality of human existence that runs through this poem. Though this poem does not offer much context, yet it offers a disturbing image.

I will pick up three poems-In No Answer, In Dances and In Everything where there is an overlapping of images of dreams, realities and time. First let us have a look at extracts from the three poems:--

In No Answer---

“ And it is true, that
If we have really dreamed
All our dreams one day
There only remain a few white stripes
Apart from that our coat is black
Like the one of the magpies.?”

In Dances---

“They are still there
Your innocent dreams from the past.”

In Everything

“Everything comes and everything goes
Everything talks and everything is silent
………………………………………..
…………………………………………
………………………………………..
Everything moves and everything stands still
Because everything is at the same time
A slight breeze and empty silence.”

Curious readers will sift through the wandering journey Svatek subjects them to and reach the accumulated scene of updated consciousness. The enigmatic dilemmas of life as portrayed In Everything are deeply delved into by the poet and read with “dreams of the past” readers are immediately drawn to compulsion to unite and dissipate. Absurd icons of contemporary life get revealed through these poems.

Quietness of Svatek’s poems is remarkable as these explore spaces-visible and invisible between various phenomenon perceived in this world. He is poet of the people, his poetic exuberance is valid for all generations and there is an unfailing attempt by this eminent poet to look at the harshness of human existence that he mingles with the rhythms of life through his poems. His style is meretricious and his thoughts come to him naturally producing a kind and degree of excellence which exist elsewhere too but rarely. An authentic image or cadence is easily noted by any reader. With unmatched sweep and intricacy, his poems with emotional essentialness and uninhibited articulation, feel the pulse of life the way it is lived and more importantly the way it should be lived. Darkness there is, will always be and a poet helps readers to grapple with the emptiness underneath such darkness. His poems come alive with images, tropes, structures and symbols which are quite integral to the meaning of these poems. His versification is quite smooth the most sounding- a labyrinth of sweet sounds. Precision, brevity and plain speech are hallmark of Svatek’s poems.Each of his poem shows his abiding interest in signifying the ways life can be come to terms with. Neither Svatek’s memory fails as he aptly points out in Yesterday Like Today

“But nobody would be so keen
To be included in the records of history
For only the dead have a history”

nor his words falter as mentioned by him in Allusions

“That there is no more to a word
Than it’s original meaning.”

He believes in fundamental freedom of human beings which they should be able to enjoy—how his poems tell that.

The best way to round off the review of this master’s book is to quote the whole poem titled Reflection

“The universe is mirrored
In a drop of water

And love
Probably in a tear.”



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