Gejza Horvath. Credit: Marie Schmerkova / MMB

Poesiomat Project Brings Poetry and Song To The Square In Front of Káznice

On Tuesday, 12 March, a Poesiomat was erected in front of the Káznice on Cejl. Reminiscent of a submarine periscope, this machine talks and sings when prompted, offering poetry by important Czech poets interned in Káznice such as Jan Zahradníček, memories of political prisoners, and also poems, songs and texts by contemporary Czech and Roma authors. 

The machine was installed thanks to the support of the City of Brno and with the contribution of the Brno-sever district. Mayor Markéta Vaňková also took part in the unveiling ceremony.

The new poetry machine was installed this morning on Bratislavska. Credit: MMB.

Poesiomat machines have been placed in public spaces since 2015 by the Piána na Ulici association, founded by Ondřej Kobza. 

“Poesiomat was originally intended as a jukebox containing only poems,” explained Kobza. One of the first of this type installed by Kobza’s organisation was in Brno, in the Otevřená Zahrada on Udolni. However, according to Kobza, the concept has changed over the years, and is now more focused on the memory of the specific location.

“Not only in terms of poetry – it can be songs, memories, stories,” said Kobza. “Each Poesiomat is thus a kind of amplifier of the genius loci. And specifically, the spirit of the Káznice na Cejla is really very strong.”

The deputy mayor of Brno-sever, Martin Glogar, agreed: “The location has a really strong genius loci – a place that breathes the past, but that also beats in the present, where the Czech line is intertwined with the German, Jewish and Roma. Everything is accentuated by the history of Káznice as a place of imprisonment of important personalities, poets Jan Zahradníček, Václav Renč, Zdenek Rotrekl and others. Poesiomat as such can spread the voice of prisoners even to this day,” he said.

According to Ondrej Kobza, the dramaturgy of Poesiomat can change regularly. Credit: MMB.

Mayor of Brno Markéta Vaňková welcomed the installation of the second Poesiomat in Brno, under the plane trees on Bratislavská. The council allocated CZK 250,000 for the realisation of the project. “I am very happy that young or budding artists will get a space to present here,” said the Mayor.

Local musicians and important names of Czech and Roma literature

Listeners of the Poesiomat can choose from 20 audio tracks, including the poem “Bratislavská”, written by the prominent Czech poet Jan Zahradníček during his prison stay in Káznice. Other poets featured who were also interned in the Cejl prison include Václav Renč and Zdeněk Rotrekl.

Poesiomat’s dramaturgy also includes important names of Roma literature, such as Andrej Giňa and the well-known Brno musician Gejza Horváth.

According to Kobza, the dramaturgy of Poesiomat can change regularly. “For example, we set aside one track as an open call for young Roma artists who like to create, for whom Poesiomat can serve as a medium to present their work,” said Kobza. For now, all the poems and songs are in Czech language.

Energy produced by the users themselves

The Poesiomat in front of Káznicí is the second poetry speaker in Brno, but the first to be operated by a wind-up handle. “Previously, Poesiomats were connected to the public electricity grid. Now they can stand anywhere, and the user produces the energy needed to play by turning the handle,” explained Kobza.

The new Poesiomat can generate its own energy. Credit: MMB.

“It’s much more fun, more interactive and at the same time very symbolic: first you have to put something of yourself into the Poesiomat to get a piece of the poet out of it,” he added.

Poesiomats are now installed in dozens of cities in the Czech Republic, as well as locations in Paris, Dublin, New York, and Astana in Kazakhstan.

For a list of locations and further information about Poesiomat, see

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