Straight Labyrinth

János Pilinszky in the Poetry, Music, and Thought
of Three Hungarian Artists

March 20, 2022 at 3 p.m. EDT

a Zoom event hosted by Diana Senechal
and the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers

Thanks to everyone who came to the event! The original description is below. Here is the video of most of the event (you need to sign in to Zoom and use the passcode zAwt7!e6 to see it).

“Throughout the event, I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a special moment, a rare occasion when different elements (poems. music, talk) come together into something precious and delightful and whole.” — Veronika Kisfalvi (Montreal, Canada)


Pilinszky, music, poetry, discussion, all in one! Please join the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW), our host Diana Senechal, and our three featured guests—the poet Csenger Kertai and the musicians Gergely Balla (Platon Karataev) and Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly (Platon Karataev, Cz.K. Sebő)—for an online discussion, recitation, and performance honoring the Hungarian poet János Pilinszky (1921-1981). You can download the basic program. We will leave time at the end for your questions and comments.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about Pilinszky and to listen to our guests in conversation, poetry, and song. Diana Senechal will interview the guests about Pilinszky and his role in their art and thought; the discussion will be combined with recitations of Pilinszky's poems and performances of the guest's own work. The event is free and open to the public via Zoom. (See details below.)

Pilinszky is known around the world for his intensity and brevity of word, his grief over the Holocaust, his solitude and longing for home, his combination of Christian faith and despair, and the translations of his work into English by Ted Hughes, Géza Simon, and others. But his poetry goes far beyond these descriptors.

What makes this event special is not only its bilingual nature, not only its emphasis on an extraordinary twentieth-century Hungarian poet, not only its combination of discussion, poetry, and music, not only its featured guests, but the ease with which the audience will be brought into Pilinszky's work. By focusing on a few poems—discussing them, reciting them, and presenting translations of them—we hope to leave the audience with something memorable, to which they may later return.

The event will be in English and Hungarian; no knowledge of Hungarian is required. We cordially welcome anyone interested in poetry, literary translation, songs and songwriting, Hungarian language and literature, or Pilinszky himself.

Questions? Email diana at straightlabyrinth dot info or follow the event on Facebook. Any updates about the event will be posted here as well. To calculate the start time in your location, go here.

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 836 1914 7743
Passcode: 235523

“Pilinszky added a dimension to our lives (all our lives, now, the life of poetry), he enriched us with want, with being lost, the dearth of existence pared down to the bone. The extraordinary catharsis of his poetic power arched over such dearth. It would be good to look now into those places to which he opened a breach, look in through the inner doors of the ante chamber, to those places where destruction is spread out like the sky.”
—Ágnes Nemes Nagy, "János Pilinszky: A Very Different Poet" (1981), translated by Rudolf Fischer

“Egy dimenziót csatolt hozzá Pilinszky az életünkhöz (most már mindnyájunk életéhez, a költészet életéhez), meggazdagított a hiánnyal, elveszettséggel, az egzisztencia csontig, képletig letisztított ínségével. Költői hatalmának kivételes katarzisa ilyen ínségre boltozódott. Most volna jó benézni oda, ahova ő nyitott rést, benézni az előszoba bentebbi ajtaján, most volna jó oda, ahol a pusztulás úgy terül el, mint egy égbolt.”
—Nemes Nagy Ágnes, "Valaki más" (1981)

Pilinszky image credit: Pilinszky János, Szép versek 1971 (published 1972). Photo # 44.
Photo of Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly by Pál Czirják, published in
Kortárs Online.
Photo of Csenger Kertai by Dénes Erdős, published in
Photo of Gergely Balla by Márton Ficsor, published in