Martin Solotruk

Slovakia

Martin Solotruk was born in Bratislava and obtained an MA in English and Slovak, and a PhD on American Poetry from the Comenius University, Bratislava, where he now teaches. His first book of poetry, Tiché vojny (Silent Wars), won the Slovak Literary Fund Best Debut Award in 1997. His second collection, Mletie (Milling), was published in 2001. It was followed by Planktón gravitácie (Plankton of Gravity), published in 2005 and Lovestory: Agens and paciens, published in 2007. Solotruk combines in his poems his socialist youth with the vividness of his grandparents’ vineyards and a strong sense of the Slavonic Byzantine heritage. He is also known as a translator, and his translations of the poetry of, among others, Ted Hughes, John Ashbery, Seamus Heaney and Charles Simic have appeared in book form and in magazines in Slovakia.

His poems appeared in several anthologies in Germany, Ireland, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, and the US, including A Fine Line: New Poetry from Eastern and Central Europe (Arc Publications, 2004) and New European Poets (Graywolf, 2008). He also translates poetry from English. His award winning book selections include works of Charles Simic, John Ashbery, and Ted Hughes. For his translation of Ted Hughes Crow he won the 2007 prize for the best artistic translation. He is also a Director of Ars Poetica International, a poetry festival and publishing house (www.arspoetica.sk).


Martin Solotruk’s debut collection of poems Tiché vojny/Silent Wars is built upon an analytically differentiated basis of perception and an observation of the subject from a variety of perspectives and levels in terms of sight, thought and writing. The subject’s everyday events and situations are recorded in a fragmentary and analytical manner; they are deformed and move away from the original empirical impulse, closing themselves off from any clear interpretation. Non-referential (autistically impermeable) reading is aided by the use of processive and abstract words, and the open poetic structure, which fluently controls thoughts and images without conspicuous connections. Motifs gradually emerge from the poetic content and their repetition underlines their significance. Motifs include cycling (pedalling and maintaining balance), one’s mother (as a source of harmony and a punishing authority) and cleansing rituals (water, bath, soap and soapy bubbles). There are also motifs of ‘drops, grains, bubbles, wheels, etc., which at the same time are [both] inseparable atoms and expanding galaxies, [both] cores and empty spaces’, suggesting the ‘idea and even the fractal dimension of the world’ (Jaroslav Šrank). Solotruk’s striking poetic language means that attention is divided into the situation of the subject and Solotruk’s method of extreme poetic writing, which is one of the forms of decoding the matter at hand as well as a way to code one’s own secrets.

 

Solotruk’s next three books – Mletie/Grinding, Planktón gravitácie/Plankton of Gravity and Lovestory: agens a paciens/Lovestory: agens and paciens – further develop the method of processive writing. Grinding and Plankton of Gravity present his way of ‘finding a meditative mode of the organic processive form, whose compactness ensures both a lexical and semantic [value]’ (Ľubica Somolayová). Poems in the form of lines are delimited by a spontaneous, organically growing text and the processive treatment (‘grinding’) of the impulse into a qualitatively new substance. The consciousness of the subject is opened up to all forms of reception (sensual, reflexive, egocentric, and ‘coming out of oneself’), and it transforms these into a new final product: a poetic text.

 

An alternation of method is presented in ten verbal ‘submersions’ in Plankton of Gravity. Here Solotruk more ambitiously records his reflections on the current processes of ‘the otherwise always heuristic venture/brain waves’ of consciousness. In addition to contrastive sensuality, this collection contains more emotional reactions. These are all the more present in Lovestory: agens and paciens, which describes a love relationship. Typical partner cohabitation is analytically broken down by Solotruk into unusual positions of the spontaneous and deliberate perception of words which do not usually have an emotional engagement or sensual or metaphorical value, yet which nonetheless bring forth nuances of erotic attraction and the spiritual bond between partners.