Translated from the Czech by Stephan Delbos & Tereza Novická
The roofer is a lightning-lacerated man
On legs of rags
His speech blunt
A terse yes mostly
Hair never combed
You would think look a baker
Who bakes square pies
His arms mimic a tight-rope walker’s and the flight of dragonflies
The sun his daily doctor
Like a red wasp
Never gets far
Quick to perspire
All day he hands orange envelopes to the sky
Vítězslav Nezval (1900-1958) was perhaps the most prolific writer in Prague during the 1920s and ’30s. An original member of the avant-garde group of artists Devetsil (Nine Forces), he was a founding figure of the Poetist movement. His output consists of a number of poetry collections, experimental plays and novels, memoirs, essays, and translations. Nezval frequently traveled to Paris, engaging with the French surrealists. Forging a friendship with André Breton and Paul Eluard, he was instrumental in founding The Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia in 1934.
Stephan Delbos is a New England-born writer living in Prague, where he teaches at Charles University and Anglo-American University. His poetry, essays, and translations have been published internationally. He is the editor of From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology (Litteraria Pragensia, 2011). His collection of visual poems, “Bagatelles for Typewriter,” was exhibited at Prague’s ArtSpace Gallery in 2012. His play, Chetty’s Lullaby, about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, was produced in San Francisco. He is a founding editor of B O D Y.
Tereza Novická, a native of San Francisco, moved to the Czech Republic in 2000. Currently a student in the American Literature graduate program at Charles University in Prague, she also serves as assistant director for the annual Prague Microfestival. She has translated a number of Czech and Slovak poets into English, including Ondřej Buddeus, Jan Těsnohlídek, Sylva Fischerová, Lenka Daňhelová, Martin Skýpala, Vlado Šimek, and Pavel Novotný.