A poet and writer, continuing the Bohuslav Reynek tradition of Czech poetry. His poems have been translated into English, German, French, Russian, Polish, Spanish and Italian. He was born in Prague on 8 October 1962.
After graduating from the University of Technology he worked as a carer in an institute for the mentally disabled and in a retirement home, as an editor for the Velehrad magazine and he has written for the Revolver revue, Vokno, Literární noviny and Souvislosti.
His first poetry was published in 1989 in an anthology called Básně (Poetry, together with Bohdan Chlíbec and other writers). He made his debut with the collection Vlál za mnou směšný šos (A Ridiculous Tail Flapped Behind Me, Křesť. akademie, KDM and KRUH, 1994), where, with a slight distance, he criticized the spiritual vacuity of the age. The critic Jiří Trávníček labelled him a rustic metaphysicist; the motifs of a harsh landscape and biblical symbols are the starting points of Kolmačka’s work.
Two years later a new edition of this collection came out, followed by the collection Viděl jsi, že jsi (You Saw that You Are, Petrov 1998). “Riding bareback / the Indian passes through the village at dusk. The children who should have been asleep long ago / are perhaps a little frightened, / but with their faces pressed to the window / they are already smouldering inside, they are already burning / and their eyes widen / like wells without water, because there is no bottom.” A family is added to the landscape of Kolmačka’s texts – a woman and children, and although their house leaks and the snow falls through the holes in the roof, this is really a chronicle of the day, of the almost terse, everyday tasks that have to be carried out. A sewing machine, a radio, an electric heater; these are the machines which form his poetic backdrop.
His most intimate collection, Moře (The Sea, Triáda, 2010), was highly acclaimed by critics: “Gone is the weight and earthiness of the poet’s debut. More space is given by Kolmačka to the motifs which bind families in all their forms: the bleak, the anxious (‘Always on the run / fear that something will happen, / or that something won’t happen, / which should happen’) as well as the most intimate,” wrote Jana Seiberová in a review for iLiteratura.cz. Kolmačka has also been compared to the poet Petr Hruška.
Pavel Kolmačka’s most recent work is Wittgenstein bije žáka (Wittgenstein is Beating a Pupil, Triáda, 2014). It has a gently critical tone, where popular culture now appears alongside the traditional, rural, contemplative voice. Fifteen years previously, Kolmačka’s world had been set around electric heaters, but now mobile phones have entered into it. “WE HAD A CHILDHOOD. / We awoke once / anxious for no reason. We felt the cellar ghost / gliding through the ventilation. We were saved by pictures of Mickey Mouse.”
However, Kolmačka is not just a poet, he is also the author of the novel Stopy za obzor (Traces Beyond the Horizon, Triáda, 2006). Firstly he describes the life of the main character, Vítek Koblasa, through the eyes of a child and his memories, and later as an adult carer in a mental health hospital, whose own life is no more understandable than the patients’ realities in the hospital. “When Vítek’s housing-estate childhood is transformed into rural adulthood, it is not so much the difference between rural and urban lifestyles as a generational feeling of time wasted, stemming from a concealed Christian upbringing, passive resistance within the drabness and a hypocritical acceptance of the totalitarian regime. Defiance always remains under control. The result is a deformed adulthood, incapable of forming its own opinions or even its own life. Everyone is lost, without optimism and without hope,” was Milada M. Marešová’s characterization of the novel. The novel is rich in lyricism and poetry, as well as containing Kolmačka’s own experience of searching for God, and his life in the country with its clear rhythm of time passing. “Nothing is fixed and nothing is certain. Nothing is eternal, nothing lasts. Nothing is comforting and we are never home, nothing is bliss and nothing is joy, nothing is sweetness and there is nothing more than nothing,” says Vítek Koblasa.