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The page of Zambor, Ján, English Reception

Image of Zambor, Ján
Zambor, Ján


From more traditional beginnings of feeling and the picturesque Zambor has become a modern poet reflecting on the essential situation of a human being. The themes of love and death dominate him which have contradictory meanings with a permanent confrontation of subject in conflict with the external world. He understands love as a fundamental purifying value, for which it is always necessary to fight. Conflict also penetrates the traditional themes of home, family and birthplace, which are a point of departure and certainty filled with new meaning from the complex contemporary world. In the collection Beneath the Poisonous Tree a new element is evident in Zambor’s work – that of irony and self-mockery which indicates the author’s ability to reflect on his owns feelings and work from a bird’s eye view. The mythical motif of the tree allows him to express multiple meanings of life within its various forms, wonder and even magnificence, but also the poison and hidden treachery.
It is a symbol of endurance, the ability of the lyrical subject to resist the storms of life and uncertainty. Thematically Zambor embraces the relative fullness of human life through the fundamental stages on life’s road from the times of birth, changes in love, in the various forms of the ageing process and at the hour of death. There are also tragic undertones of misunderstanding and isolation.
In his most recent collection The Soprano of Rain Drops, the poet reacts to a brutal present with the gentleness of the form and protection of enduring human values – beauty, tenderness and art. He doesn’t view nature as a mere observer but through medium of human interactions and significance in the processes of its perception. Close to him is quiet and silence rather than noisy poetry. His work opposes the present “originating in spite of everything”. As a poet of classical orientation and exquisite taste he cultivates different genres, uses different rhythms, rhymes and puns. As a translator, chiefly of Russian and Spanish poetry, essayist and literary theoretician he is permanently in contact with the outstanding poetry of the world and with Slovak poets he knowingly uses intertextual connections, but the decisive point is the appropriateness of using a certain theme or meaning. As he himself observes, he is disgusted at the notion of being modish at any price, he seeks nobler values of permanent value in the world. Formal variety supports his semantic variation and expresses Zambor’s effort to function in the wider context of human existence, but also the ability to deal with any stanzaic or rhythmical form. He waits patiently for a while until his broken wings – a crucial motif in the collection – have grown in concert. A poem in his gift gains the form of virtuoso numbers, artistic documents on mankind at the turn of the millennium.

Ján Zambor stands out against the background of young poetry through the weight and meaning of the poems in his first collection Green Evening . The landscape of childhood (Zemplín) is made alive by the people close to him; parents, grandparents, and wife. He draws from the Slovak and the Russian symbolists, from Yessenin, yet his village is contemporary though it has not lost its poetic essences. Zambor can express the mood of full summer, the culmination of the year in nature and perhaps even better the atmosphere of pain and sorrow form the isolation or death of those closest to us. (Albín Bagin – 1978)

Zambor’s understanding of poetry is very close to the poets-craftsmen, the poets of special moments, who write in the moments of innermost concentration. A poem then really becomes an “act of spiritual cleansing”.
(Daniel Hevier)

Zambor is an exemplar of the post-revolutionary period of uncertainty in the 1990’s where the relationship of the individual to a larger human context is problematic. (James Sutherland-Smith)

In my view, the contemporary poem is a picture of mankind and the world (also cruelly analytical, hiding nothing) but at the same time it is an attempt at surpassing itself, renewal, an emergency call. Despite the broken world, there is still a drop of hope glittering which we can clutch as a drowning man grasps at a straw. We must illuminate the light within us. It is true that the trustworthiness of a poem expects the desire for light with the knowledge of darkness, i. e. crisis and chaos of the human condition.
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