Psát okem na zeď cely… Črta k vězeňské lyrice Václava Renče
Writing with an Eye on the Jail Cell Wall… An Essay on the Prison Poems of Václav Renč
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This article presents an analysis of Václav Renč’s lyrical poetry from the period of his imprisonment by the Communist regime in 1951–1962. From Renč’s extensive collection of prison poems (including such lyrical-epic compositions as Cinderella of Nazareth, first published in book form in 1969; Prague Legend, 1974; and Loretan Light, 1992; as well as several poems collected in Meeting with the Minotaur, 1969) we take a look at the nineteen poems Renč included in an anthology of his works from 1941–1962 under the title Lark Tower (1970). To the section of lyrical texts from the years 1951–1962 the poet gave the title Without Echoes. In particular, the study focuses on how Renč’s lyrical poetry from the period of his imprisonment builds upon his previous critically acclaimed poetry, simultaneously aiming to address the question of what makes this work unique. The unique quality can be found in the formal precision of the texts, which represents the poet’s effort to maintain his moral integrity and identity while in prison, while at the same time, by virtue of carefully constructed allusions to the verses of certain poets with whom Renč had worked as a poet and translator before his imprisonment, strengthening his sense of inner freedom. A key starting point for the aesthetic composition of the prison poems is the combination of various expressive and often elementary contradictory motifs, perspectives or attitudes, a process typical of prison poetry in general. In Václav Renč’s poetry, this initial moment is re-envisioned on the principle of the so-called lyrical dichotomy, which, on the basis of subtle gradational and compositional techniques and intersections, connects distinctive opposites into subtle poetic images. However, this is not the expression of a selfcentered aesthetic game, but an attempt to articulate — and cope with — a new and exacting life situation. In this way, Václav Renč’s poetry, which had always been characterized by its compositional and figurative rigor, would later become more austere in its semantics, at the same time gaining in intensity, depth and reach.
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