The poet Milan Ohnisko was born in Brno on the 16th of July 1965. After an early departure from secondary school (in 1981) as well as the Central Librarian School in Brno (in 1982), he held several different manual jobs while running his own publishing company, Ohnisko, and later his own bookshop. He worked as an editor at Petrov publishers until it closed in 2005. He lives in Brno.
Ohnisko is not an artist of the poet-primitivist variety who views the world through rose-coloured spectacles and anticipates a joyful future or fairy-tale happy ending with optimistic hyperbole. Even though some of the floors of his poetic temple may resound with model aesthetic rhymes (“Když jsem dnes / venčil pes”) and in one of his poetic confessions – characteristic of primitivism – the author writes, “Co věděl Seifert / taky vím! // Zakrýval sliznici / hazukou lyriky / ladil hladil – / o dno nezavadil” [“What Seifert knew / I know too! // He concealed the mucous membrane / with a coat of lyric poetry / he blended and polished – / he didn’t glance into the depths”], Milan Ohnisko is not a poet who would feed his poetic exclusively from inner sources; he is not an unambiguous artist of the inner model who is resigned to the external world and creates in a coarse Dubuffet style, even though the author confesses that “cítí se dost mimo / už od dětských let” [“he has felt like an outsider / since his childhood days”] and has often searched for “ještě jiný svět / za slupkou z jevů / jenž nelze pochopit” [“another different world / behind the skin of appearances / which cannot be comprehended”]. Milan Ohnisko is an artist of two domiciles; it is even quite possible that he occupies three poetic dwellings at once, as in one of his poems he brings to a single table the personification of “me, me and me”, from whose trinitarian mouth the lament reaches the reader’s ear, “jak vratká chatrná / jak síto děravá / je něčí identita” [“how unstable / full of holes like a sieve / is a person’s identity”]. Also, on an analogous level we may be astonished by the number of professions which the poet has had in his life: a brewery worker, brick worker, stagehand, water-meter reader, warehouse keeper, site watchman, reporter for the East European Information Agency, health food salesman, publisher, occult literature salesman, night watchman at the Brno Art House, book seller, proofreader and external publishing editor. In addition to this, on another analogous level we can take pleasure in the minimalistic formula with which Ohnisko – the eternal lover of “building, lighting and maintaining fires, constructing dams in brooks and an insubstantial model in ontology” – succinctly characterised his debut work Obejmi démona! In the author’s own words from the dust jacket, it is about “a spectacular parading of the incoherent themes we might find in architecture, music, marital theatre, autoeroticism, dog howling – and last but not least – the micro-romantic desire to be a bacteria.” The reviews of Ohnisko’s late debut – it was published when he was thirty-six – generally held it in high regard. For example, the regional reviewer Dora Kaprálová concluded her paean with the apt analogy that “sometimes it is worth waiting in seclusion and not reeling off collection after collection like deer droppings, which become stale in an instant as they lack the richness of vision.” In Vepřo knedlo zlo aneb Uršulinových dnech, Milan Ohnisko finds himself at the same crossroads of genre and language as in his debut. In this book his poetic routes branch off in the vertical plane, sometimes towards cramped grotesque miniatures which, quickly “outlined”, have an immediately explosive effect (“Tajemný / stvořiv / klikyhák // se mi dnes / na pleš / vysral pták”), and sometimes into expansive narrative compositions – free and attached verse – which seldom lack a story, or at least a fragment of one, and which as a rule are concluded with a punch line (e.g. in the poem Včera v noci). On a horizontal level Ohnisko’s writing moves between extreme humour which is formed by the language itself and extreme humour which we form with language: from verbal juggling of the type “Není pravda, / že mne / nic nezajímá: / mne nic zajímá! // Co víc: / mne nic mne // A jednou mne / i rozemne…” and macaronic tongue twisters, distantly influenced by, for example, the philosophy of Andrej Stankovič’s poetic labyrinths, to comic situations in which the outsider, that Godly clod, doggedly and touchingly fights his quixotic battle with the windmills of the mainstream world. With Ohnisko there is a touch of the magic of Wernisch’s banalism of the 1980s (e.g. in the poem Vizita), a touch of gentle poetic impressionism and Monet-like miniatures (“Večerní červánky / hoří v oknech / protějšího domu…”), a touch of Gellner’s decadence and the carefully cultivated neodecadence of J.H. Krchovský (“Nevím mám-li / nač být hrdý – // chóry vran / kýty dam / Ducha van… // a úlevné své prdy”), a touch of Chlebnikov’s zaum (the poem Nutkavý pilinář), but also of remembered and relativised primitivism, of innocent rhyming jokes, as well as of the also remembered and relativised spontaneous poetic sublimation of inner traumas and demons and existential despair. Milan Ohnisko’s poetry is as colourful as a peacock’s tail. This is perhaps because he moves with a certain swagger between all four comic postures: naivety, irony, humour and absurdity. But above all, despite all the author’s haste, awkwardness, clumsiness, edginess, restlessness, etc – be it inadvertent or formulated – it is as honest and pure as crystal. In connection with this, the previously cited reviewer Kaprálová said of the poet’s debut work that, “even with these stupid nursery rhymes, rhyming collisions and travesties, something stretches out ‘beyond’. From seemingly infantile or, on the contrary, coldly calculated texts, something greater is created, which almost unwittingly turns into poetry.”