Support the translation and editing of Walt Whitman first Leaves of Grass (1855) so that this D.I.Y. Brooklyn Edition (1855) can after more than 160 years awaken also the Czech reader toward a more perceptive and courageus life.
Author: Skovajsa a Stinka
My Whitman story
In the times of Trump and digital dementia, it is good to meet this wanderer, who by his “written voice” awakens the reader out of indifference and apathy and urges him or her to restore the miraculous contact with fellow beings.
I have been working on Whitman's work for many years, and I have described his ethos in detail in my book Psaný hlas (Written Voice) published in 2015. Since that same year I have been translating his wildest book, the first edition of the Leaves of Grass (1855), which does not yet exist in the Czech language. Leaves 1855 is a vast lexical mass and I work with it to move the whole body of present man and woman and reconnect with all the other living creatures.
I am very lucky to be able to collaborate on Whitman with a musician, writer and editor Hana Lundiaková, whose songs and books I love and whose musical and linguistic feelings help me to make the Czech Leaves move and dance. With regard to the color, nature, sensual and erotic character of Whitman's poetic text, Hanka aka Stinka is the happiest choice.
Whitman has had an – overall – positive influence in my life, and therefore I want to convey the strong voice of the first Leaves also to others. I only translate the authors who speak to me. I translated Henry Miller’s Essays and published a number of other translations in magazines (D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Wolfe, Bob Dylan, Denise Levertov, E. M. Forster, Ann Beattie, etc.). I compared Whitman with Henry Miller in my doctoral dissertation Psaný hlas (Written Voice). Whitman's voice also sparked my current departure from literary studies to song folkloristics.
Why the First Edition of 1855?
The written voice of the first edition of Leaves 1855, compared to the later editions of Whitman's collection, is the book with the most radical ethos and the most spontaneous gesture. All previous Czech translations (J. Vrchlický, P. Eisner, Z. Urbánek and J. Kolář, I. Skála) are based on the deathbed edition of Leaves (1891-1892). However, the release of the first Brooklyn Leaves of Grass (1855) differs significantly from it. It is not only the newly translated Whitman's preface, which Whitman in the subsequent editions of Leaves cannibalized into the verses of "new" poems, but above all, that the text, typographic and graphic features of the first edition of 1855 bear witness of the features of spontaneity, transience and appeal of oral speech.
This is to say: in the first 1855 D.I.Y. Brooklyn edition which we translate, Whitman most intensely "writes his voice": right here we wintess his joy out of his invention of free verse with its frequent mnemonic parallelisms such as the Bible, folk song or nursery rhyme. 1855 Leaves wants to make the reader, when reading the leaves – preferably loudly and strolling – realize God's spark in himself, other men and women, and also the mouse, and the leaves of grass around them, and they also live up to that that realization.
Whitman's 1855 poems are neither titled, nor does Whitman’s name appear on the cover or the spine, and Whitman did not seem to mind various contradictions, logical laps, vulgarisms. Later on in Whitman’s career, he added a large number of other poems, and was fonder of principle of a text enumeration rather than original parallelism. From a wild bard, he becomes a “man of letters” and "good gray poet". Not so, however, in the experimental D.I.Y. 1855 edition, where Whitman intuitively and urgently works with unintentional gests. Not only in this aspect of his action, he reminds one of the wonderful Czech graphic artist Vladimir Boudnik. Our translation tries to find a correlative to the spontaneous features of Whitman’s first Leaves of Grass (1855).