Folyosó is now three years old. The class that inspired it has just graduated; the pandemic, which gave it its initial urgency, has subsided, at least for now. What is Folyosó for, and why does it continue? I usually answer that it means a lot to students at Varga and beyond; that it gives them a place to write for an actual readership; and that it provides a forum for a range of forms, themes, ideas, and turns of phrase.
All of this remains true, but there is more. First, it comes as a joyous surprise when students submit pieces on their own initiative: that is, not within the context of an assignment. Several prolific contributors, including Áron Antal and Lilla Kassai, have kept Folyosó richly inhabited over the past few years. Last autumn, Milán Galics submitted his poem “Season of Death,” which deserves many rereadings. This time, the independent submission comes from Zalán Nagykovácsi, whose poem “Silent Reflection” is featured at the top of the Spring 2023 issue. This introspective, meditative poem drew me in with its rhythm and sound, its mood, and its rhymes that lead into surprises of meaning.
Second, the journal is closely connected with our study of literature. Whether directly or indirectly, the writings draw on influences from Shakespeare to Faulkner. Literature in English language class need not be an afterthought or frill; it is through literature that students encounter the possibilities of language: fresh expression, wit, risks of form, and something that matters, something that must be said.
This year, one of my classes read and discussed Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Fish,” which begins, “I caught a tremendous fish” and ends “And I let the fish go.” We looked closely at the words, the detailed vocabulary, to figure out how the poem moves from the starting point to the end point. Toward the end of this discussion, we compared the poem with Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” (in the translation of Stephen Mitchell). The whole discussion went well; I was just starting to wrap things up when a student raised her hand. She had more to say. She pointed out that in Rilke’s poem, the speaker perceives the beauty of the torso right away, whereas in “The Fish,” the perception of beauty comes slowly, and eventually becomes so overwhelming and complete that when the speaker lets the fish go, it is with no regrets.
It is not only that kind of insight, but also that kind of urgency—having something to say even after class is technically over—that keeps Folyosó going. Even when these discussions do not end up in Folyosó, they are in the air, and something about them will wend its way here.
In his Nobel Banquet speech, delivered in 1950, William Faulkner speaks of “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself,” which, according to him, are the only things worth writing about, the only things that can make good writing. Anything else lacks urgency, according to Faulkner; anything else skims the surface. My students in Class 12.C read and discussed this speech in one of our last lessons together. We spoke of “the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” The last concept, sacrifice, has particular meaning for students, since they know well that no matter what anyone says, it is impossible to have or do everything. At some point one thing must be given up for another. Our sacrifices shape us and take place even when we don’t see them. Even setting words on paper or the screen involves sacrifice, since one thing must be said instead of another.
Even so, worthy writing can do something other than contend with universal truths: for instance, it might play. Play itself could be a universal truth, but by it tosses such dictums in the air. Play can relax and stretch our formulas, our sense of what must be. Its fun needs no justification. Folyosó’s playfulness has brought cheer and liveliness to many a day.
The writings in Folyosó come from students trying out their style and ideas in a foreign language. For this very reason, they make for meaningful reading: here are young writers finding their way, sometimes to their own surprise. We are fortunate to have many talented contributors not only from the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, but also from the Lycée Sainte Pulchérie in Istanbul and (on one occasion) Columbia Secondary School in New York City; their writing has been featured in our international contests.
The next issue will come out in November 2023—with the results of our new international contest, the theme and rules of which will be announced in September. Until then, we wish you good reading. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at diana.senechal at vargaszolnok dot hu.
Founder and Editor of Folyosó