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OP-ED: We need our poets more than ever

An archived photo depicting Václav Havel at Wenceslas Square. Photo: Wikicommons.

OPINION

Today is World Poetry Day, so here is a poem.

By PHILIP J. HEIJMANS

In this time of political uncertainty, we who stand as spectators are always on the hunt for answers. It is deep in this sentiment where many of us take solace. Whether it be in the words or depictions of artists and writers, or just the people around us, we yearn to not feel alone and to rest assured that despite the fog of hysteria that there are things in this world we still know to be true.

It is perhaps then no surprise that the very existence of these notions are often met with hostility by oppressors who wish to see those very sentiments extinct. And why not? They are notions, no matter how seemingly inconsequential on their own, that can inspire and change the course of our history.

Indeed, we are not alone. Today is World Poetry Day, a time for us to celebrate those who in the greater sense lent themselves to the cause of understanding.

Among the Czechs, there was perhaps no greater known contemporary in the fight for the liberation of thought than Václav Havel. As a writer, philosopher, political dissident, and politician, he would leave behind vast collections of work penned under the threat of a violent communist regime that are eerily applicable today, decades after he and this relatively small country shook off its oppressors and shouted to the world with open arms that we are one in the same.

We can only hope that given this disturbing tide of nationalism that has sought to roll society backwards that there are enough good people willing to fight for what they believe, as Havel did.

For World Poetry Day, we at Bohemist honor the work of Václav Havel. We hope you will enjoy his now famous poem, “It is I Who Must Begin.”


It is I who must begin.

Once I begin, once I try —
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
— to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
— as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.

Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.

 

About Bohemist

Bohemist is an upstart news outlet serving the Czech Republic. Feel free to write us at editor@bohemist.cz.

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