Meet Raduza. She is my inspiration. A classic folk voice, a rockin’ accordian, AND she freakin’ yodels.
What the heck does Raduza have to do with anything at all? She’s a cathartic language lesson–you don’t believe me? Listen here: Plachta – Парус. Sometimes I listen very carefully and learn a phrase that I later use on Laco and he laughs at me because Raduza sings in Czech–and yodels.
Somehow, wrapping myself in the feeling of ‘the heart of Europe’ pulls me further into the language and gives me strength to push through the most difficult aspects of language learning, namely the glacial slowness by which it barely proceeds. So, if I can turn on Raduza and let her sing for me and find a little bit of love in Czech (close enough) or Slovak…I am edging closer toward my goal.
Laco and I have a bit of a custom that we established on our first visit to Slovakia: He reaches for the old hardback copy of Jaroslav Seifert’s poetry and reads it to me aloud in Slovak and line-by-line translates a poem or two or three. It’s a lovely, cozy way to be initiated into this new tongue. Check out Jaroslav (J pronounced like Y) on language:
Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.
In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlický’s death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.
Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.
Flare up, flame of words,
even if my fingers get burned!
A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on one’s finger.
But not even Puchmajer’s Rhyming Dictionary
was any use to me.
In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman’s smile and
That has been my destiny.
And I’ve been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.
* * *
How charming Jaroslav–I hope you catch her! As for me, now I have all three: love, music, and poetry. Filled with these I am sure to put on this Slovak language and maybe even one day I will wear it well.
Why not check out another piece of Raduza: Cestou Do Jenkovic
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to Minute Particulars by clicking on the Subscribe link on the left column.