Ahoj! (“Hello” in Czech.)
I didn’t learn Czech when I attended the Prague Summer Program in July 2004, but I did write many poems.
I first read about the program in the bathtub. I saw an ad in Poets & Writers Magazine and was excited. I thought was that it wold be the best way to sneak in a trip to Italy (It was my first year living back in the States after three consecutive years of living in Florence, Italy. I was still experiencing re-entry culture shock.)
Of course, my four weeks studying Czech literature and writing poetry was more than a pit stop after visiting friends and feeling nostalgic in Florence.
Except for the food (I went after a visit to Florence, remember), the entire program was a dream. I took a poetry workshop with Marvin Bell and one with William Olsen. I also took a literature class with Petr Bilek that involved astonishing walking tours of the city. The city was surprisingly easy to navigate and almost everything was fairly inexpensive. I was lucky to receive a partial scholarship from the program and some funding from Sarah Lawrence College.
Between the two classes a day, regular lectures, exploring the city and some day trips, I had time to write. I would sit in cafes or in my shared dorm room and write poetry. Living in an unrecognizable world – a very different language and landscape – helps writers to hone their five senses. There is so much to notice and consider.
I didn’t find myself writing about Prague, exactly, and oddly the city, art, history or literature hasn’t shown up in my poetry the way that Italy has rooted itself in my work. But the experience of being there helped me to focus my work and consider new ideas. I’m very grateful to have had the experience.