Skip to main content

Jiří Orten

Jiří Orten (1919–1941) was one of the greatest writers of Czechoslovakia’s “war generation” and arguably one of the finest European poets of the twentieth century. On his twenty-second birthday, while crossing a street in Prague, he was struck by a German ambulance. A friend took him to the General Infirmary in Prague, but as a Jew, Orten could not be treated there and had to be moved to a different hospital. Two days later, he died.


What Is Prohibited

In October 1940, Orten wrote in his notebook a list of all he was not allowed to do. I’m not allowed to leave the house after eight in the evening. I’m not allowed to rent an apartment. I’m not allowed to move to any section of Prague othe [...]


Shrouded, stitched in silky white, they cry aloud all through the night and find such weeping not enough, the bird of guilt brings that sound here for our anxiety and fear. Once you were sweetest. You turned bitter hot. The wind compressed y [...]

What Are We?

Summer 2007 | Poetry

 What are we but runaways from tender executioners? Oh listen to the crowing cock of horrors! What are we other than a well overflowing? On the sheets of music, a gale is blowing. It turns songs inside out, and is done! The musical finale of ann [...]


The birds of prey flocked on the carcass. A miserable morning had already arisen. The blood said, I am running, rushing, yes, Listen! Devils were scissoring the air, thin sailing through the cosmos. O dear blood, if I can’t keep you in, do [...]

Black Picture

In vain the reins are jerking, the whip is striking air, it won’t hit you where you’re lurking, in vain the reins are jerking, God’s no longer there. God knows where he is, we’ll never learn; to fight for something, he went below; fo [...]