Vďaka, milé. Aj by ste si zaslúžili honorár: ak by ste sa pohybovali vmojich KH na fakulte, rád by som Vám venoval knižku.
You know who I mean. The middle-aged teacher of Slovak language history and literary theorist. Who other than Doc. PhDr. Braňo Hochel, CSc.? The editor-in-chief of the literary magazine RAK and the author of several collections of poetry and a collection of short stories called “Gombíky”, literary research papers and critical essays. Although I’m not the most reliable reviewer, let me offer you my humble opinion on his readings at the Malá scéna Theatre Club from a couple of nights ago. And let me tell you one thing: Mr. Perplex wasn’t perplexed at all. But I was!
I’m not trying to suck up to my teacher, but this man has a good reason to call himself a poet. Last Wednesday at the Literary Evening we were given a sort of a short walk through his literary career. Since then I have had this little tease stuck in my head. Probably because unlike modern poetry, where nothing makes sense and you have to analyze every single word to find a scratch of meaning, Mr. Perplex’s poetry is quite simple and very accessible.
The 1992 piece “Vo štvrtok a iné predbežne” made the biggest impression on me. The rhyming verses created the most beautiful sound play and presented the poet’s literary skills in a very good light. The sharp “t” and “r” sounds and consonant clusters like “štvrtok, štvrť na štyri, štvrť turistov” corresponded with the story of a “busy” Thursday. Spoiler alert! “Busy” here refers the Poet Society, a couple of bars and an unspecified amount of alcohol. After all, teachers are not so different from their students folks!
Of a more recent origin is the poetry collection “Mr. Perplex a jeho žiaci” (Mr. Perplex and his students). The main character, Mr. Perplex is more of a guide than a teacher to his students. Together they come up with short observations of society and history and offer some common sense and traditional wisdom. Each short story ends with a silver lining, which Mr. Perplex writes down in his book. Even if it may seem trivial and over-done, the unusual playfulness of Hochel’s poetry with just the right amount of archaic inspiration (Hugolín Gavlovič - Valaská škola mravúv stodola) still manages to capture the reader’s attention.
What I found the most amusing were stories from the time of his military training called The ABBA. When I heard the story of two generals pursuing a deserter to a traditional gypsy wedding in eastern Slovakia, I almost pictured myself there. Obviously, the generals brought the gypsy soldier called The ABBA back to the base only after a few shots of some home-made brandy. Or perhaps I should say they tried to get him back, for they had chained the poor man to a street car and forgot where they had left the keys.
Dear reader, I hope I got your hunger for poetry started and also that you will no longer judge a book only by its cover. Watch out for more of Hochel’s poetry at your local bookstore because a new collection of poems is coming out soon. And if you feel like attending some poetry readings, visit the Ars Poetica Festival starting on Thursday (18 Oct.).
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