Czech poet Ivan Martin Jirous, 1944 - 2011

By Harriet Staff

Ivan Martin Jirous -- a Czech poet and the artistic director of The Plastic People of the Universe, an avant-garde rock group banned by the country's Communist regime -- died in Prague last Thursday at the age of 67.

Better known by his nickname "Magor," which roughly translates as "loony" and derives from "phantasmagoria," Jirous trained as an art historian, but was banned from doing his work and became a legend of the dissident underground instead. He's remembered in an obituary from the Associated Press:

Before the collapse of communism in 1989, Jirous spent more than eight years in prisons for anti-communist activities. In prison, he wrote his best poetry, including "Magor's Swan Songs," a collection that was awarded the Tom Stoppard Prize — awarded to authors of Czech origin — in 1985.

Born September 23, 1944, in the town of Humpolec, Jirous studied art history before becoming the band's artistic director in the late 1960s. The brutal communist crackdown on its members in 1976 inspired then dissident playwright Vaclav Havel to draft the Charter 77 human rights manifesto.

Havel on Thursday described the death of his "friend for many years" as a tough blow.

"I'm glad that Magor lived to see the better times. He significantly contributed to make them possible."

Read the rest of his obituary here and find a good biography of Jirous here.

Originally Published: November 14th, 2011