It may be helpful to understanding the charm of the Czech people to note that they read 50 times as much poetry per capita as Americans. This may be because their poets, such as 1984 Nobel Prize winner Jaroslav Seifert, have spoken to the people in such magnificent ways during critical times that they have inevitably become household names. Seifert, raised in the working-class Prague neighborhood of Zizùkhov, sometimes worked as a journalist, but began as a proletarian love poet before founding the modernist Nine Forces group. Subject to the vagaries of politics, he became popular and much loved during the German occupation, when he wrote of his love of country and language, only to be vilified as bourgeois in the early Cold War era. For his part in the resistance to Soviet influence, Milan Kundera called the poet “the tangible expression of the nation’s genius.” Though he died in 1986, this genius who wrote of love and politics arrives here just in time, via recitations in conjunction with Scena Theatre, to celebrate a new collection edited by George Gibian, who’ll attend the reading and reception to follow at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (John Dugan)

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