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This report is taken from PN Review 115, Volume 23 Number 5, May - June 1997.

Letter from Slovakia James Sutherland-Smith

Years ago when I was still at university a poet-in residence told me that he liked to write on train journeys; the rhythm of the train and the solitude being conducive to poetry. In a recent issue of Poetry Review Ian McMillan wrote on different volumes on different train journeys. It seems that he had to cross his legs at Cheltenham, Neil Rollinson's work rather than the proximity of Cheltenham Ladies' College having had a tumultuous effect upon him. In East Slovakia I travel to different small towns to give seminars to teachers of English and so can neither read nor write whilst travelling. However, I can observe and reflect although I confess that here not a line of Neil Rollinson's crosses my mind or anywhere else for that matter.

Driving in Slovakia is still a pleasure although increasingly marred by the flashier nouveaux riches from Bratislava and Ko&sbrave;ice in German cars who unfailingly overtake on a bend just before a juggernaut appears in the opposite direction. In Autumn and Spring the routes over the hills and through the forest are lovely, in winter somewhat problematic but not impossible. The route to the west lies over a hill called Branisko on a road built by the Wehrmacht and forced labour in the Second World War. Soon this will become a by-road as a tunnel is now being built under the hill. However, for the moment, on the way down by means of successive hairpin bends there is ...


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