With more than twenty works in both poetry and prose under his name, Czech Republic’s own Martin Reiner is one of the most experienced participants of this year’s Prague Microfestival.
However, not only that his opus is extensive, he also has a long history in publishing with which he still earns his daily salary. Martin sees the main difference between writing and publishing in how much time and energy he invests into these activities. “I feel my writing as the principal activity. Despite that, I am the kind of writer who does not write regularly and does not write much at all. The point is in an instant preference. When it comes to me I do write first.”
Reiner’s experience goes beyond the world of writing. Having lived through the uncertain times of the late 20th century, his life was not a bed of roses. Reading his official resume will leave us flabbergasted as we come across Martin’s service in the military, participation in the velvet revolution, and even eight months of prison. “I don’t know, or rather, I don’t know how much it works at the back of my mind. One thing is for sure: the shape of one’s personality is kind of a base of any creative activity. And I know that those harder times did substantially help me build it.”
Martin writes both poetry and prose; however, choosing a favourite is an impossible task. “My head has got it, my heart doesn’t… I sort of really want to write prose which I actually do most of the time. But the poetry behaves as a virus, it is like Staphylococcus aureus that is present somewhere in my mind all the time and only when it reaches a critical amount (or is stricken by some special coincidence), it starts influencing me to the state of enlightenment known as writing poetry.”
Despite the vast experience, Martin admits to the daily struggles of an artist. “I am almost ashamed to say how it really is nowadays as I work on three volumes at once. One of them is a book of poetry to which I laid base some five, six years ago, the second one is a (probably quite extensive) novel with a working title Rome, and the last one which is supposed to be published first is … a surprise.” One thing that Martin has perfected throughout the years is his working environment. “In the course of years, I have learned something about where I should (or should not) write to be successful in the process, at least a little bit. First, I need to leave my home. My (golden!) kids, my (fantastic) wife, the civil job I do … everything that actually has its dominant possession of the particular space is simply preventing me from writing, which is above all the ability of deep concentration. My most successful novel The Poet was subsequently written in Bratislava, Třeboň, Krakow, Berlin, Brussels … And there is the second significant yet unusual thing. Once I am out of home, I am usually switching between the serenity of a small room and the riot of an evening pub. During the day, I work in an extremely sober mode on my computer. In the evening, I go wild using plain paper. For writing poetry, this method is essential; and more and more I am finding it to be the right one also when I am trying to write a novel.”
Considering how long Martin has been in these waters, I figured he had some secrets to success. “There is no advice that could make you a great artist. Do you want to publish a book? Well, that is the easiest thing in the world. You just need twenty thousand Czech crowns (in the case of poetry) and then you go and let the first printing house do it for you. But is this ‘a career’ of an artist? I don’t think so. A so-called career of any writer is just writing itself connected with an enormous effort to do its best. What was ‘a career’ in the case of John Kennedy Toole who never saw his brilliant book published? Who was rejected so many times and committed suicide as a ‘non-writer’. I don’t think that twenty published books make you an artist. I still believe that the ability to write a book is a gift from above. And one should use it primarily for an inner delight because that’s what the gifts are for. According to me, ‘a career’ of a writer consists (or should consist) in seeking of nothing less than a sense of life in writing and through writing. Regardless of how many copies you can sell and how many people will applaud you.”
Martin Reiner will be one of the many guests of this year’s Prague Microfestival. His expectations sum up the festival perfectly. “[I expect] the same as in any other case of reading: the chance to communicate with people via literature which is in the fashion I like.”