"A dizzying vista opens before me."
Bronislava Volková is a bilingual poet, semiotician, translator, collage artist, and Professor Emerita of Slavonic Studies at Indiana University. A Czech exile, she lived and taught in the U.S. for over forty years, publishing extensively in Czech and English. She continues to publish bilingual books of poetry, conducts international author readings, and participates in many international poetry festivals as guest of honor and medalist. She currently resides in Prague. Her latest book is Where Everyone Leaves Never to Return, published in 2023 by Plamen Press.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Bronislava, what poems have you brought for us today?
Poetry Festival in Shchelkino (Crimea)
A place that means so much to many, and nothing to me.
A dizzying vista opens before me.
Unseen poverty hits our eyes.
People excited by friendship and opportunity to share their feelings
in poems and songs. To be seen and heard.
A warmth unknown in Western lands.
Subtropical flora. Picturesque corners.
And outside my window – a withered bush among the many others,
so buoyantly blooming. Stray cats and the sea.
Nothing works properly, a modicum of comfort unbelievable cheap.
Meeting people I might never see again.
Words that pass by my ears. Drinking tea.
If only I had love in my soul!
Smiles for everybody.
So many feelings pouring from so many different mouths.
The heart spilling out, that desire to live, one wants to drink from the bottom of words.
The heart shares of itself freely, generously, tenderly like a rose, like the blossom
of a host and so many other unknown flowers surrounded by bushes
green and luxuriant, embracing the breath of stray dogs and cats.
The heat in the air caresses the body, forgiveness comes easy.
We wander through sparsely lit streets among colored houses
and we try to forget our daily worries, fascinated
by devotion to poetry and intellectual conversation on Russian topics.
It seems that the participants of this literary pioneer camp are totally
charmed by the sharing of verses, of which they don’t tire till the late night hours.
Tender and well-meaning souls interlace with sardonic intellectuals
and all of them put their whole heart into deeply felt words.
Rhymes swarm with patriotic pathos filled with hope
in a better future for Slavdom which will be unconditionally
united by mutual love under the leadership of more spiritually advanced, Russian soul.
True, there is generosity here and love without borders and the softness of women.
History is imbodied in every fate and its horrors are not forgotten.
The brevity of reason is sometimes hard to swallow.
An Armenian and a Jew together fit in this strange collective,
even the occasional Ukrainian, Belorussian and Bulgarian find their place here.
A Czech-American will attract listeners’ attention, but will she be heard?
The West is not here.
The sea is kind, protective, loving and gentle these days.
Variation on the Theme of Weariness
Why write – why rock in the hammock of words
that pour onto paper and get mixed up in thoughts
smudged like the bold letters
of muddled texts so many in number
we cannot read them all.
We will write a treatise in the hope that it may
interest someone and someone will want
to take part in it, perhaps even translate it into
other languages, so that it will spread
to other worlds and enrich them by its point
of view, by its brand of ardor, by its
It is then necessary to put it into textbooks and turn
it into a film, because today that is the best
way to camouflage a thought or a word
as if it weren’t even a word, as if it were
an image or a plot.
You've been listening to the poems of Bronislava Volkova on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.
Note from Bronislava:
"I would like to introduce today my new book Where Everyone Leaves Never to Return, which has been written primarily in Czech, but also in English and published by Plamen Press in Washington, D.C. in 2023 with a rare book alternative version accompanied with my collages by Explorer Editions. It is a book moving between this world and the other, a book of parting with loves, with passion, with animals, with youth, with foolish beliefs etc. It is also a book of coming to oneself, as well as playful shifting of perspectives on various concepts of life. The book has been written in the span of about five years, since 2016 till 2021 and it is my twelfth book of poetry. Since 2000, I have been writing and publishing my poetry bilingually and with my color collages. The book is available through the publisher, electronically as well as published on demand. Plamen Press is distributed by Ingram."
Bronislava Volková is a bilingual poet, semiotician, translator, collagist, essayist and Professor Emerita of Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, where she was a Director of the Czech Program at the Slavic Department for thirty years. She is a member of Czech and American PEN Club. She went into exile in 1974, taught at the Universities of Cologne and Marburg in Germany and subsequently at Harvard and University of Virginia in Charlottesville in the USA.
She has published eleven books of existential and metaphysical poetry in Czech and seven bilingual editions illustrated with her own collages. She is also the author of two books on linguistic and literary semiotics (Emotive Signs in Language, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 1987 and A Feminist’s Semiotic Odyssey through Czech Literature, Edwin Mellen Press, N.Y., 1997), as well as the leading co-author of a large anthology of Czech poetry translations into English Up The Devil’s Back: A Bilingual Anthology of 20th Century Czech Poetry (with Clarice Cloutier), Slavica Publishers, 2008.
Her scholarly publications include topics of Czech poetry, Czech popular culture, issues of exile, gender, implied author values and emotive signs. Her poetry has been translated into thirteen languages. She has also received a number of international literary and cultural awards and participated in a number of international poetry festivals around the world.She has also periodically done extensive exhibits of her collage work.
Books of her selected poems are currently available in English, Russian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, German and Spanish. Recently, she has published a book Forms of Exile in Jewish Literature and Thought (Twentieth-Century Central Europe and Migration to America), Academic Studies Press, Boston, 2021, available also in Open Research Library and in Czech translation in Nakladatelství Pavel Mervart, Czech Republic, 2022.