Writer, translator, editor, and teacher
Fulbright Scholar 2001-02
Alum of the month – September 2019
“Be focused, work hard, never shy away from a challenge — but also, learn to relax and enjoy your life”
If you are interested in literature you’ve probably already heard about him. He writes, translates, edits and teaches. As a Fulbright scholar, he was not only committed to his academic studies, he also volunteered during one of the saddest moments in recent U.S. history. As a great U.S. Government (USG) alum, he took no time at all in saying yes to our call, asking him to be one of the three mentors of our alumni creative writing camp. His group of alumni had a great time, and learned a lot about creative writing, as he was helping them to express their thought and feelings through writing. Meet András Gerevich, our alum of the month for September.
Please introduce yourself a bit and tell us what exchange program you participated in!
I am a writer, poet and literary translator, and also an educator, literary organizer and editor. In one way or another all my work is connected to writing. My fifth volume of poems in Hungarian will be published next year. I have worked for films and theaters, publishing houses and literary festivals. In London I worked on a poetry program for BBC Radio. Now I teach full time, mostly courses in screenwriting at the Budapest Metropolitan University and the American McDaniel College, and I mentor students who want to study in the UK and USA at the Milestone Institute. I was on a Fulbright-Soros scholarship at Dartmouth College in 2001-02.
Tell us about your exchange program experience!
I loved every minute of my time at Dartmouth. However, my stay in the United States took off with a tragic start. I landed in New York City on September 5, 2001, it was my very first visit to the States. I was planning to spend a week there with a friend as a summer holiday before the beginning of term, staying with an American ex-professor from Budapest whose office at the time was in the Empire State Building. On the early morning of September 11th, I was waken by a phone call, an acquaintance was shouting and crying into the phone telling me not to let my friend go to work. A few hours later, joined by Hungarian friends studying at Columbia, we took a bus downtown and volunteered at Ground Zero. I was there as a volunteer for two days, however, eventually there was very little that people like us, untrained students could do, so they sent us home. It was a very difficult and emotional time, but I was also amazed to witness the sheer number of people lining up to volunteer, people of all backgrounds and nationalities, it was an inspiring moment, seeing such a crowd join forces to help the victims and work for the right cause. Dartmouth is an ideal college, an Ivy League institution with its own skiway and a very lively cultural scene, a perfect place for both sport enthusiasts and writers. I was in a graduate liberal arts program, mostly doing independent work with professional writers and playwrights. My mentor was the novelist Alan Lelchuk, whom I met in Budapest the year before where he was researching a book on Raoul Wallenberg. Beside writing courses, such as oral history and literary non-fiction modules, I also enrolled in all kinds of classes of my choice. I ended up studying subjects such as classical Greek religion and even water management. In my free time I had the chance to travel a lot: I spent a lot of time in New York City, but also visited San Francisco, Montreal, Boston and Washington DC. I attended many theater performances and readings, meeting writers and artists, going to museums and exhibitions. Although my original scholarship was for six months, I ended up staying for 15, and graduated with a master’s degree. It was my second master’s, as I already had one from Eötvös Loránd University. I am still in touch with many of my professors from Dartmouth. I visited the college a few years ago when I was a fellow at the Yaddo artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, NY. I serve as a Dartmouth alumni ambassador in Budapest.
Please tell us about your job, what do you do exactly. How did you decide that this is what you want to do? What do you enjoy the most in your job?
Primarily, I teach dramaturgy and screenwriting for students of film production. Sometimes I teach creative writing, courses in fiction and poetry. I truly enjoy teaching. Some of my teachers and professors were the most important people in my life. I know from personal experience how important educational institutions and educators are in the decisions we make about our future careers.
I want to help the young generation develop their creative skills, teach them to express their thoughts and feelings with literary and cinematic tools, and help them launch their careers in the creative industries or the arts. As a writer, I have always been obsessed with communicating with words and language through writing. When I was a little boy my mother was studying in the USA on a scholarship. Later the whole family lived in Dublin, Ireland for a few years in the mid-80’s I grew up writing letters. First, to my mother, though I was so young I could only dictate them to my grandmother, illustrating them with colorful drawings. Later, from Ireland, I was sending letters to my grandparents and cousins, friends and schoolmates. I was already addicted to writing as a child. I could express my feelings most precisely through metaphors and poetry — I have been obsessed with poems ever since I could read and write.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career thus far?
For a writer or an artist every new project is a challenge as you always try to do something different than before and avoid repeating yourself. It can be very frustrating when you realize you have only reproduced a slightly altered version of your previous work. That is one of the reasons that I try to be active in different genres, not only in poetry, but also film and theater. Translating poets with very different voices is always a challenge I can learn from: I have worked on three books of Seamus Heaney in Hungarian, but also the modernist and experimental Charles Bernstein. Being involved in film and theater projects is even a greater challenge. These productions are the result of cooperation between at least a dozen people. Teamwork can be an elevating experience where you stimulate one another and your creative ideas complement each other, but it can also be a source of misunderstandings and conflict.
What is the proudest achievement of your career thus far?
It is always a pleasure to see my students win prizes at international film festivals. I am also proud to see students get accepted to Cambridge University and to respected international film schools. in 2016 I taught for a semester at the prestigious Vassar College; that has so far been the pinnacle of my teaching career. Regarding my own work, it is always a pleasure to connect with readers and audiences. Sometimes I receive emails from strangers about the impact of my poems on their lives. These honest confessional messages are the most uplifting responses for every writer or artist. Obviously, I am always grateful to receive professional reviews by critics, invitations to read at events, scholarships and fellowships. I love travelling and I feel greatly indebted when I am given the opportunity to discover different countries and cities and meet writers and poets at international festivals.
What are your current projects?
Frank O’Hara is one of the greatest modern poets; however, unfortunately, he is hardly known in Hungary. I started translating his poems in my university days over twenty years ago. Finally, this fall, a small volume, Meditations in an Emergency, will be published by Magvető Publishers, a cooperation between two Hungarian poets, Dénes Krusovszky and myself. I am also working on new translations of Walt Whitman for a bicentenary special issue of the Kalligram journal. American poetry is a bottomless well for lovers and translators of poetry. A book length selection of my poems has also been translated into English by a British poet. We worked in close cooperation. This book will be coming out next year too. I am working on a film script; and have at least a dozen other projects waiting to be finished.
Do you have any advice for future exchange participants?
Use your time, never waste a day. Sign up for as many courses as possible, never hesitate to connect with your professors. Participate in all kinds of activities the colleges and universities offer, meet people and make friends. Travel, explore the human richness and colorful diversity of the United States of America, discover its many layered cultural and intellectual landscape. I return regularly and there is always so much to discover and learn from.
As a leader in your field, what advice would you like to give to the next generation?
Be focused, work hard, never shy away from a challenge — but also, learn to relax and enjoy your life.