Poet and essayist, recipient of the Czech Literature Foundation prize. He was born in Brno on 19 October 1941.
After military service (1962–1964) he worked as a tutor in a reform school, he was a contributor to Plzeň Radio, a surveyor and a fireman. In 1966 he became an insurance agent for Česká pojišťovna (Czech Insurance), where he worked for more than twenty years. He worked with Czech Television creating portraits of poets. He has been writing verse since the end of the 1950s. In the 1960s he was a major figure in the Brno underground and many of his works were published in samizdat form. He lives alternately in Brno and Strmilov.
He made his literary debut with the collection Ploty (Fences, Mladá fronta, 1962). The collection Zachránci ptáků (Bird Saviours) was ready for publication by Československý spisovatel in 1968, but an interdict by the Communist Party prevented it from coming out. The poet published the second collection in 1992 (after samizdat editions in the 1980s) – exactly thirty years later. It is called Reinerův výbor (Reiner’s Committee, Petrov, 1992) and it won the Czech Literary Foundation prize. It is named after the editor of the poetry collection, Martin Reiner, who selected and put together poems from eight manuscripts and samizdat collections of Kaprál’s works. “The content is surprisingly dense, conveyed with original imagery, a remarkable vocabulary, which in places touches on decadent poetry, although in terms of meaning the message of this verse is rooted in questions concerning contemporary man. There is much here which is left unsaid, induced, provocative, the poet does not set store by being unambiguous, he is searching and in doing so inspires the reader,” wrote Miroslav Tmé in a review of the book at the time. The same year also saw the publication of the collection Staré texty, nové texty (Old Texts, New Texts, Votobia, 1992) with a foreword by the poet Jiří Kuběna.
This was followed by Růžová cesta (The Pink Journey, Petrov, 1995) and Plané palposty (Wild Firing Positions, Host, 1998). “Not even in their proximity to myths do Kaprál’s texts stop forming his parallel world. Paradoxically, it is not a world of questions, but the search for answers to questions which haven’t even yet been put forward (and on this level, the text accuses us of the inability, or even the fear, to ask questions face to face with the answers),” wrote academic Tomáš Kubíček about the book.
In the collection Moje pojišťovna aneb v krajině arkádské (My Insurance or In the Arcadian Landscape, Větrné mlýny, 1998) Kaprál presents himself as a humorous commentator on the world of insurance and the clerks who make a living by it.
Then in quick succession Kaprál published the collections Ozvy kázání (Sounds of Discipline, Votobia, 2000), Glosy a maximy (Comments and Maxims, Votobia, 2001), Namol střízliv (Drunkenly Sober, Vetus via, 2002), Pádlo stálosti (The Paddle of Stability, Vetus via, 2003), Zeleň blankytu (Green of the Azure Sky, Vetus via, 2003) and Suché roráty (Dry Advents Mass, Klokočí, 2004). “In Suché roráty the author expands his asceticism, his tendency towards silence and towards an austere lyricism, to vault over the inhabitable inner-outer space of poetic existence, which would maintain the heat of an artistic fireplace, just as with the remains of the balance between the inconsistency and divergence of external phenomena and between concentrating on their metaphorical and metaphysical character and nature, embodied in the flow of a poem.” Four years later Hrubá mezihra (A Rough Interlude, Pavel Mervart, 2008) was published.
Zeno Kaprál produced no more poetry until 2014, when he published two collections – Říkadla pro tři holčičky a jednoho kluka (Nursery Rhymes for Three Girls and One Boy, Druhé město, 2014) and Uvnitř vně (Inside and Outside, Druhé město, 2014). Writer Arnošt Goldflam wrote of the book that, “He looks into the face of everyone and everything, including death. His language is rich, his images almost mannerist, laconically communicated, but sometimes he unexpectedly grips your heart. We don’t have many poets like Kaprál: he is unique in his breadth that ranges from profound spirituality to apparent banality. He now stands amongst the greats in poetry: we return to him, repeatedly affected by the strength of his words.”