RED BANK: POETRY WITHOUT BORDERS AT RBPL

The second-floor reading room at the Red Bank Public Library (above) is the setting for this Saturday’s monthly River Read event, featuring Hungarian-born poet, theater producer and translator Dr. Gabor Barabas (below).

Audience regulars at the Long Branch professional playhouse New Jersey Repertory Company have come to appreciate the pre-show remarks given by the theater’s co-founder Dr. Gabor Barabas — introductions that are often illuminated by the retired neurologist’s recollections of his youth in his native Hungary, his fascination with the mythic popular culture of his adopted country, and his signature exhortation to “enjoy, enjoy the show” (to say nothing of those “deal of the century” subscription pitches).

An author, published poet and dramatist in “his own write” (he narrates his own poem “The Spider” in this animated short inspired by the late artist Louise Bourgeois) the NJ Rep executive producer has also garnered acclaim as a translator, with a specialty in the particularly challenging transition between English and Hungarian. On Saturday morning, March 11, the good doctor visits Red Bank Public Library as guest speaker on the topic of “Poetry in Translation.”

Running between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., the appearance is the latest in the monthly River Read: Words by the Navesink series of poetry and spoken word happenings, programmed and coordinated by Gregg G. Brown and Linda Muhlhausen in a second story space that once served as a bedroom in the historic home of Red Bank legendary local Sigmund Eisner. The monthly series — which relocated to the RBPL last year after bouncing around at various local coffeehouses and bagel shops for a few seasons — has established itself as a best-kept-secret attraction that’s drawn the contributions of noted wordsmiths from around the region; a study in relaxed good vibes, scenic views and an all-welcome Open Mic that  caps each Saturday session.

A few years ago, Barabas achieved completion on a project many years in the making — a first-ever comprehensive Hungarian-to-English translation of the poems of the 20th century writer Miklós Radnóti, published by McFarland in 2014 as Miklós Radnóti: The Complete Poetry in Hungarian and English. Featuring Barabas’s translations displayed alongside the original texts, the volume served to introduce many American readers to Radnóti, a Jewish-born convert to Catholicism who was conscripted into a work battalion during the Second World War — and who was killed by Yugoslav Communist forces during a 1944 death march. Many of his later poems, some of which are regarded as masterpieces of the Holocaust years, were discovered in a notebook on the person of his corpse, when it was exhumed from a mass grave in central Hungary. Still very much relevant in a time of increasingly emboldened anti-Semitism, Radnóti’s literary legacy was given a much-needed boost by Barabas, whose previous book (a collaboration with wife and Rep artistic director SuzAnne Barabas) was, curiously enough, a complete history and episode guide to the long-running TV western series Gunsmoke.

The Saturday session at the library is free of charge, with attendees encouraged to “bring a covered cuppa and soak up some inspiration,” and contact lindacjm (at) gmail.com for more info on this and other upcoming events in the series.