Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gabor Gyukics

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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Gabor Gyukics

gabor g gyukics (b. 1958) Hungarian-American poet, literary translator born in Budapest. He is the author of 9 books of original poetry, 6 in Hungarian, 2 in English, 1 in Bulgarian and 11 books of translations including A Transparent Lion, selected poetry of Attila József and Swimming in the Ground: Contemporary Hungarian Poetry (in English, both with co-translator Michael Castro) and an anthology of North American Indigenous poets in Hungarian titled Medvefelhő a város felett. He writes his poems in English (which is his second language) and Hungarian. His latest book in English titled a hermit has no plural was published by Singing Bone Press in the fall of 2015. His latest book in Hungarian was published by Lector Press in May 2018.
He received the Poesis 25 Prize for Poetry in Satu Mare Romania in 2015, the Salvatore Quasimodo special prize for poetry in 2012, a National Cultural Foundation grant in 2007 and a Füst Milan translator prize in 1999 and in 2017. Thanks to a CEC Arts Link grant, he established the first Open Mike and Jazz Poetry reading series in Hungary in 2000.

The Interview

What inspired you to write poetry?

Oh, I started late when I left Hungary for Holland at age 28. Then I had to do something in the new environment that consisted criminals and drug users among my friends. I had to get out. That was my first inspiration

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I don’t remember anyone specific, yet I had amazing lit teachers, both were women, no accident there, I guess. I’ve read a lot on my own at an early age mostly Hungarian poetry and international prose.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I wasn’t at all, there was no one around I knew personally in Amsterdam. However, when I arrived at St. Louis, Missouri there I’ve met Michael Castro who helped me get by in the labyrinth of verses and introduced me to contemporary American poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a routine unless you call routine sitting at a café or on a porch consuming coffee and red wine and scribbling done thoughts that come around. What I usually do when I have an urge is that I gather my notes and start playing with them, feel the words and phrases out. I can’t sit down and write 8 or 9 in the morning, that is for scholars and for those who take themselves way to seriously, no offense meant.

5. What motivates you to write?

Never thought about that. What ever happens, anything that catches my attention can motivate me. Sitting at home definitely doesn’t do that, unless I read a good book like let’s say a Pynchon who I discovered right after I learned to read in English. But, when I travel or walk around anywhere or sitting somewhere with open eyes or half open eyes, that could motivate me. What other poets write and how they live have never motivated me. I’m not a copycat.

6. What is your work ethic?

Didn’t know I had one.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Okay, first let’s think about who I’ve read: Hungarians unknown in the Americas: Attila József, János Pilinszky, György Petri, Rezső Keszthelyi, Miklós Radnóti, Mihály Ladányi. Haven’t read much by women writers because literature just like everything else are dominated by men, which is a shame. Later I found myself Russian women poets, and of course Bulgakov, Yesenin, Mayakovski, and read most of the giants of Russian literature. About the same time, I was introduced to French and Czech-German literature and of course mainstream American prose and dada. During communism Hungarian publishers published everyone who was famous, so anyone interested could find a good read.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Now, that is easy. Native American poets and writers I admire the most. What they had to go through to get where they are now, or almost there is unruly. White American and world poets and writers could read them daily and learn.
Otherwise, my all-time favorite American poets are the late Ira Cohen, Wanda Coleman and Philip Lamantia and I do like the works of Sharon Olds, Robert Pinsky, Will Alexander among many. The why is that these poets, including the Native writers go beyond poetry and able to grab what is out there. If anything, that is what I’m aiming for as well.

9. Why do you write?

Is there anything else to do? I mean if I found pleasure and harmony in being carpenter or an engineer I would ask the same question.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Well, I felt lost, I felt cold, I left my homeland, I left my family, left my past: that shot me to the direction of writing.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

As it might have become clear from my previous answers that I never ever had and never ever will have a poetry or prose writing project. However, I have translation project. I have an ongoing project of translating American poetry to Hungarian and vice versa. Have several anthologies out of such. As a matter of fact, at this moment I’m at the Hungarian Translator House resort in Balatonfüred where I’m working on a contemporary Hungarian poetry anthology for White Pine Press. The work of eight women and eight men poets will be transferred to English.

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