In 1936 the well known literary historian Arne Novák posited that in terms of literary importance Brno did not have much to offer. Moreover – he claimed that Brno had no lyric poets. All this apparently because “it lacks the more copious presence and amicable complicity of that most melodic of elements – water”. So, without a proper river, you can’t get decent lyric poetry. Arne Novák died in 1939. Had he been granted another two years, he would hardly have made such a statement. Not that Brno had landed a new and major river, but it did gain a poet. And not just any old poet, a paean unto itself. The poet was Ivan Blatný and the song of praise his Melancholické procházky (Melancholy walks) (1941). At the very least, from this date on we have to speak of Brno as a poetic city. There is nothing for it, after the publication of Melancholy walks no one may cast aspersions on Brno any more. Blatný showed just how much was slumbering in the setting of this “Moravian Manchester” or humble “Vienna suburb”. With his verse, he addressed the city, and more. He eulogized it.
What are we aiming to do here? To show what poetic potential is to be found in this city; and the many poets and poetic styles dedicated to Brno and its retreats over the years. The poets who wrote in Czech and German; those intrinsically linked with Brno through their lives and works, as well as those just brushing up against it in passing; authors who have long passed away, as well as those still living here. By using an interactive map, we seek to identify and show these places and link the respective poems to them.
So much for the first phase – on the web. The second phase will go to the sites themselves and set out the verses on inscribed panels; the aim being, that what these places have given to poetry should be returned – with poetic interest – back to them. This phase began on June 23, 2016 by installing the first panel (with the poem of Ivan Blatný) in Brno-Maloměřice.
How to get around? There is a three-tier structure here: places on the map link to the poems they have inspired, and the poems link – for the benefit of those wanting to know more – to the poets, their cameo biographies. You might simply set off from the Brno map and treat yourself to a kind of virtual poetic promenade; equally you might look around via the individual poets; and as a third option via the list of place names.
Jiří Trávníček and Michal Fránek, project authors,
Czech Academy of Sciences Institute of Czech Literature, in cooperation with František Schildberger