Valek was born in Trnava in Czechoslovakia where he studied at the Bratilslava School of Economics. He was both a contributor and an editor of varous literary magazines, chief editor of Mlad tvorba and Romboid. He became Secretary and then Chairman of the Slovak Writers Union, and was a State Prize Laureate. In 1968 at the time of the Czechoslovakian uprising he became Vice-Chairman of the Czechoslovak Writers Union, and in January 1969 was made Minister of Culture in the newly created Slovak government following the intoduction of the federal law system in Czechoslovakia until 1988. It was mainly down to him that many writers banned in the 1950s were suddenly rehabilitatated due to a so called normalisation period, where their was a sudden unbanning of proscribed books.He was quoted as saying " that in culture it is not possible to excommunicate. "
Gradually out of the old stalinist ways a new cultural scene and identity arose. He was certainly a contributor to a new positive devolopment of Slovak poetry though still dedicated to the Communist cause. His own poems owed a particular debt to the meataphysical poets.
When you find yourself hanging from a wire
With your feet dangling in the wind
You will grasp
That these are only further steps into the void.
So stop your antics now, the fair is over
And you have sold yourself while still alive...
You were always an ass, galloping in a suitcase,
You were always shut in,
Wound up with a key,
And bearing your burden, were yourself borne,
Though in a different direction.
This is the very mechanism of motion,
This is the celebrated scene of the fool
Who makes his entrance to convince himself
That he is not yet here,
And on returning, sees that he has not departed,
And so he sits there weeping on the steps
Crying out in despair in the midst of the roaring laughter of the
'For God's sake who am I, where am I hurrying to?'
Time flows like flour from a sack.
You might have made a handsome corpse,
You could have lain in the grass and peeped under the skirt of the
Nursed a cricket in your ear,
Grown golden to music,
You might have been quoted,
They might have named a confectionary after you...
And what are you?
Nothing. A few bones. At best
A thing occassionally needed in anatomy lessons.
You're already falling apart,
You and this old umbrella, forgotten here,
Nothing, but mere skeletons in a dark cupboard...
Nothing! Darkness, dust chalk!
The poplars and weeds reveal themselves gradually, and the
The earth is torn apart, the continents draw apart...
And where were you, homo sapiens?
Must we go on with this? Must we keep coating you
With silk and varnish?
O black umbrella,
Loss of memory,
Darkening of the sun,
We fall, exhausted runners in a race, we spit out bloodstained
Abandon them, we strangle ourselves with our own hands,
Expose the sex of a juvenile word
Before the mirror
Willing to sleep out the night with every better poem.
We envy one another, hate one another.
Just as you swallow your beefsteaks, so we gulp down our own
In order to behold a butterfly
Fluttering in a bunch of roses.
We write, we write,
The last underskirt of the night is long agocovered with
And nobody knows what poetry is.
Some people fefine it
As an accepted plan for the termination of virginity,
As theinterrupted intercourse of emotion with reason,
But that's a fatal mistake!
Poetry walks in a chequered shirt
And spits on good form!
From the viewpoint a comet in the head
And a moon under the fingernails
May be quite suitable for a poem,
But poetry issomething else, my masters!
It begins the moment
You become aware that the skeleton in you has stirred
And is reaching into your pocket from inside, probing
Te year, month and day of your birth,
Te colour of your eyes,
Your distinquishing marks...
That is the time of a poem.
Tremble, for there approaches
An embassage at white heat hisses
The merry-go-round of the trees whirls and whirls...
Everypoem has its time,
But the time of a poem is shorter than you think.
Ah, aquamarines are cold,
Your eyes, orange flames, hurt me!
Your brow, fragrant, sunburned skin,
The rope round your throat. That whiteness, the complexion
Of lilies of the valley, and of knives!
Hush, now, yes, I know it,
You,too, have wept
Into the tresses of salesgirls from a perfumery.
You were rich then,
And they loved you!
Good day, young lady!
The texture of honey gleams about you,
The delirium of saliva,
And where is the poem?
We have none!
Ah, aquamarines are cold!
Poor poet,who robs
Treasuries and churches
The faithful ox dragging the plough of words!
With Andromeda on your lip!
Now and then you will be hissed off the stage,
You'll go to the fire,
All the shames of the world will find their requittal in you,
And the sum of them will be added to your burden.
Your humiliatins will be mustered by the first rank and the
And the first will enter into the second
To complete them, themselves by them completed.
O, tender member!
Your name is seed squandered,
Your pregnancy will never yield to the cry of the new born.
You will be spat upon,
And the woman you have loved will be there to see it,
Her eyes narrowed to slits
That will weep razor-blades under your feet...
This isn't like that time
When, drunk with whatever music of whatever chance flesh,
You vomited into the decolletage of the new moon!
Where is the woman who has not undressed in the pupil of your
Translated by Edith Pargeter