The work Four Phases of the Moon by the established author Ksenija Premur, although the author herself calls it a collection of poetry, is actually written in the form of a poem. It is a story written in verse that brings excerpts from life in a postmodern manner. These fragments form a whole that leads us through the history of the lyrical subject, telling a story of love. The author, as the title itself says, leads us through four phases of change – four types of love. The first is the phase of sinful love, the second of unfulfilled romantic love, the third of friendly love, and the fourth is of a person’s love for himself. This time, the author decided on a completely new approach to the topic of love – the author teaches us about love, but also encourages the reader to reflect on their own understanding of love. As the reader reads this poem, it does not seem to him to be fictional, something that is foreign to him, but he immediately empathetically surrenders to the text. The first phase “About the new moon” is a story about jealousy, deception, about love that could not succeed due to its character. It is a dark love that takes place on the streets of Zagreb, in a public place, but in fact it is a love hidden from everyone, forbidden love. It is love that is not really love at all, but an eternal walk on the edge, a repeated challenging of destiny that ends like this: “that you repent for every word / that you said on that fateful day / and I’m leaving / going far […] and I change my hair color / going on a long journey”. The second phase “About the first quarter of the moon” tells the story of love that “should have been” realized in the full sense of the word, but fate did not permit it. Others intervened in the love between the two people, the family intervened and thus created an insurmountable obstacle to that love. “About the full moon” is the third phase that speaks of friendship. In this part, the key is the metamorphosis of love that the author offers us by combining the second and third phases. It is made clear that the main actor, along with the lyrical subject, in both phases is actually one and the same literary person. Although the second phase is a part dedicated to pure, beautiful love, it does not end happily. However, this love experiences a transformation that completes it and thus grants it its full splendor. “But even today / I call you every day / and never a better friend / never a more memorable interlocutor / and a dear confessor / we have crossed the threshold / old age has entered the great door”. “It dawned / a new day / of a new decade / all good and beautiful.” With these verses begins “About the moon’s last quarter”, a story of self-love. Giving oneself the opportunity to reconcile with destiny is also interpreted here as a kind of love. Despite and precisely because people go through different emotions through life, loves and hates, phases and changes they are human beings, they have to go through eternal changes in order to reach ultimate happiness and lasting peace. The author demonstrates this with the following verses “and my life is beautiful / and woven to my measure”, but also with “I ask heaven / just one thing more / to gift me / a happy death / an easy departure / from this world / for my soul to touch / gardens of paradise / and stay there forever.” The author points out all aspects of love, not just the beautiful ones. When talking about the dark sides of love and the suffering it brings, she does not fall into pathos, but very realistically describes the events that are a kind of symbols. Ksenija Premur shows maturity in writing and in experiencing emotions that she expertly turns into poetry – this is indicated by the motives of growing up, maturing, aging, but also the motives of overcoming the past, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The newest collection of poetry by Ksenija Premur entitled Sun at the Zenith, as a faithful reader who follows the work of this already established writer, I would call the peak of the author’s poetry. It is an extremely deep intimate love poetry, and the collection is written in one breath; the entire collection can be read as a single poem. To begin with, the peculiarity of this collection of poems are the titles that are formulated as imperatives (e.g. remember, give to me, fall, wander, etc.), which indicates a kind of conversation between the lyrical subject and a man unknown to readers. This conversation is actually a monologue, and the gradation of feelings from the beginning to the end of the collection implies unhappy love – the first song is titled wait, and the last one forget me. The conversation, i.e. the collection, begins with the following words: “just wait and everything will come / like the golden sun at the zenith”, it begins with optimism, hope in love, and ends with “I await the break of dawn / for you to forget me / and never look for me / because the gods just / played with us / (…) / under the sun at the zenith”, that is, it ends with the end of love. The sun at the zenith, which appears in the first and last poem, is a symbol of both opposites – the beginning and the end, but also of eternity, a motif that also appears with opposing motives (eternal paradise, eternal life, eternal oblivion, eternal struggle, eternal ruin). Eternity is a dialectic of both extremes, an eternal shift between optimism and pessimism, good and evil, waiting and forgetting, giving and taking (“and history repeats itself / in the end everything repeats itself / as variations on the theme of eternity”). However, eternity is a category reserved only for immortal phenomena such as love, but for mortal beings the aspect of temporality includes transience “because what was yesterday / today is already past / and what is now is doomed to pass.” The collection brings a whole range of feelings, such as sadness, melancholy, longing, joy, hope. It is love, which is the central motif and theme, that triggers all these feelings. This love is described as fated, regardless of the imperatives, as something that the one who is in love in no way can control. To rein in and explain this love, the author invokes gods and goddesses, transcendent beings who may have access to knowledge that could be helpful. However, the last poem reveals that the author’s attempt failed – love failed: “and you keep chaining me / with newer and heavier shackles / I can no longer wear them on my chest (…) so forget me / as if I never was”. This time also, a biographical note is unavoidable – particularly, philosophical expertise introduces philosophical, religious and historical concepts into the collection (cosmos, destiny, Horace, Jesus, Colossus of Rhodes, Apollo, Botticelli, etc.). Similar to previous collections of poems, the author draws inspiration from the seascape (rocks, waves, sand, seagulls, fish, etc.), and a special role is played by the motif of the gaze mentioned in the titles of the poems (observe, look, the pupil of the sun, look at the turbulent world, your gaze, persistent gaze, etc.). In this way, the motifs of a gaze and eyes, i.e. of the sight, as the most important human sense, point to the significant importance that the author places on visual hedonism, the splendor of nature and the bodies she describes. With the help of exceptional inspiration, creativity and insight, the author succeeded in writing a very special, innovative and unique collection of poems – a collection that is at the same time intellectual, philosophical, natural, intimate and love poetry. Therefore, this collection is intended for all those who were/are happily or unhappily in love, or better said, for all those who have emotions, all lovers of poetry.
Rains in April. To Međimurje and My Father is a collection of poetry by the established poet Ivan Sokač. As the title of the collection suggests, the poems in question are topographical poems that are related to Međimurje, but at the same time they are imbued with intimate themes. The collection is primarily characterized by descriptions of landscapes, especially Međimurje, but in the background are strong feelings that are, among other things, driven by nostalgia for his homeland: “Heart without land / desolate and alone. / Like a child without a mother / who is far away.”; “I have no home, nowhere.” Along with nostalgia, the theme is the return to one’s homeland, but also alienation from the homeland: “I have become a stranger wherever I am,” which includes elements of oblivion and departure. The poet frames the entire collection with motifs related to water, which symbolizes life, such as streams, rivers, seas, oceans, rain, etc. Through the oppositions of light and darkness, day and night, heaven and earth, laughter and tears he touches on the variability of the world. The poet emphasizes the spiritual aspect of man by thematizing the human soul and mind, and deals with the universal themes of man’s position in the world, meaning and meaninglessness, and the search for meaning. The poet pays special attention to rhyme and rhythm, but also to stylistic features, especially lively metaphors: “Day after day / of edible shame, / tears the time hungry without a soul.” Regardless of the predominance of landscape, the collection is intimate lyric poetry. Sometimes it’s about addressing “her”: “I just remember when I lie down / that you are my treasure.”, and sometimes addressing himself and his own emotions. The high degree of self-referentiality (“I will translate this poem as well.”, “It’s just a poem. It hurts while I’m writing it…”) is manifested by the author’s self-awareness of his own perspective as a poet, as evidenced by the very title of the poem “Poet”. The author describes the life of the poet and the source of his inspiration in a sincere manner: “A poet without sorrow is not worth anything. / His days and words are in vain. / And the pen and the thoughts he uses.” The key feelings that guide the poet in his writing are sadness and melancholy, but also love: “I am not the only one living in me. / But someone else who loves and breathes.” Because of all the above, the collection is a very complex reflection of the poet’s spirit motivated by the search for his own meaning of life. With the help of this collection and through empathy with the poet, the reader can embark on the path of self-knowledge.
The Night Drive to Jerusalem. Selected Poems 1964–2018 is a collection of poems by the Slovenian writer, poet, translator and publicist Lev Detela, who emigrated to Austria in the 1960s. The collection is divided into eight chapters that are analogous to the titles of already published poetry collections: Childhood Misfits, Moving Into the World, Unhappy Communications, The Period of Energetic Madness, The Fire of All Things, Fate, The Italian Journey, and The Night Ride to Jerusalem. This collection provides an overview of a wide and long-standing poetic opus, providing insight into the development and evolution of the poet’s works in terms of style and content. Lev Detela successfully managed to separate himself from his contemporaries with his unconventional style that resists tradition and promises each reader a unique and interesting experience. At the content level, the poet embarks on a very demanding endeavor and at the same time manages to capture the general problems of the human condition and humanity itself, but also the specific context and problems of Slovenian society from which his art originated. A rich thematic range will allow each reader to find a new view of the world for themselves and within themselves.
Published in 1977 by Obzorje in Slovenia, it was not until 2021 that one of the most important collections of poetry by the poet, essayist and translator Vinko Ošlak, titled Seismograph of Senses, was translated into Croatian. The collection is divided into nine chapters: Homeland Sketches, Morning, Horses, Visits to Tisnikar, Pollution of the Earth, Waste, Pollution of Reason, Pollution of the Cross, and Pollution of the Heart. With short poems written in short verse, the poet presents a critique of the modern world and the relationship between nature and man, which, for example, can be seen in the following verses: “The flower asks: / – What is concrete? / The crow answers: / – It is a gray stubborn substance, / which hardens man’s desires / in the mould / of poisoned times.” Special emphasis is placed on the technology, ie its critique, which is reflected in the choice of motifs: “machine”, “springs”, “steel”, “concrete mixer”, “electric current”, “iron”, “nails”, “chains”, “oxidation”, etc. The collection starts with predominantly dominant motifs of nature and moves towards the increasingly gloomy ones, as the titles of the chapters themselves suggest. The collection is permeated with Christian and biblical motifs, and the entire collection is dominated by the motif of blood, but also by the motif of light. Thus, the ambivalence between the nature symbolized by light and the man who suffers because of his own actions, that is, the historical moment in which he finds himself, is emphasized. Pessimistic views of the world are manifested in the verses: “Murder: / the idea of the world…”, “We looked too much at the ceiling / and did not see / how our feet / wandered more and more.”, “Around the corners / lie rotten words, which people in a hurry / carelessly uttered.” etc. Furthermore, the author, as can be seen from his biography, who due to the political and economic situation migrated from Slovenia to Austria, takes a critical stance toward socialism and its consequences. The author shows disharmony in post-industrial society by merging seemingly incompatible terms and phrases, eg “iron apple”, “gilded frame of tucked in freedom”, “Elderberry flower / is the letter of the world”, “Grave and cypress / are the measures of everything:”, “Through forests carried by an electric current”, etc. By combining abstract concepts with concrete, physical procedures, he points to contradictions, for example: “Superficial greeting / crawls in the slime.” The very title of the collection Seismograph of Senses speaks of the depth of sensibility and feelings that arise when reading this poetry. The author tries to make the reader aware of the change that modernity has brought, which is taken for granted, without thinking. This collection is a reminder of the possibility and need of man’s return to nature itself.
Sails on the High Seas (2021) is a poetry collection by Ksenija Premur and includes poems from 2006 to 2020. The collection includes poems from six previously published collections From Coast to Coast (2006), Madrigal for Summer (2008), Shards of Chinese Porcelain (2010), Dreams of the Naked Body (2012), Lighthouse (2018) and Vineyards at Dawn (2020). Since the collection contains an opus of more than 15 years of creativity, this is also reflected in the diversity of themes, motifs and atmosphere. The collection From Coast to Coast is dedicated to existentialist thinking about life, death, destiny, etc. Although the collection begins with sadness, pessimism and melancholy, it ends, as the subtitle “And three more – for children and those who, fortunately, have not yet grown-up” suggests, in hope and playfulness that culminates in the final love poems dedicated to the Silver Knight. In Madrigal for the Summer, the poems deal with mostly love and erotic themes and are often connected and incorporated into descriptions and metaphors about nature. They are imbued with the author’s already standard philosophical vocabulary and motifs of nature, such as the sea, water, flowers, etc., and special attention is paid to the human body, desire and Peter, a mysterious character that runs through the entire collection. Shards of Chinese Porcelain, on the other hand, generally have a more satirical tone, the theme is predominantly social, and almost every poem is geographically located. It deals with consideration of social arrangements and poetic descriptions of everyday life that take place in parallel with intimate and love themes, all interwoven with motifs of nature. Dreams of the Naked Body, as a kind of lyrical philosophical discourse, questions the relationship between mortality and immortality, eternity, God, the cosmos. The poems are enriched with mythological and biblical motifs, toponyms and lyrical descriptions of cities and nature. The Lighthouse reflects the author’s shift from love and erotic themes to metaphysical themes that focus on eternity, time and the relationship between heaven and earth. The expansion of the author’s focus from the intimate and reflexive to the metaphysical is accompanied by a simplification of the poetic expression itself, which turns to the philosophical, removing the superfluous in favour of its subject matter. The Vineyards at Dawn collection is dominated by motifs such as dawn, which reflects the author’s shift from a philosophical vocabulary to more picturesque landscape motifs, but the roots of philosophical thought remain. This is indicated by the very motif of vineyards and grapes, which are presented as a place where heaven and earth merge, a place that connects the physical and the metaphysical. The value of the Sails on the High Seas collection lies in the diversity that promises to enrich the reading experience with each re-reading. This is a collection that is read at intervals because it provides the reader with a whole range of emotions and impressions, and it is suitable, precisely because of its diversity, for almost any occasion.
Poetic collection World and World, Podlogar’s fifth individual collection, comprises a trilogy on the poetic exploration of the world and its expression following a tradition, starting with avant-garde poetic movements (beginning of 20 century). After Million Seconds Closer (2006) and Merry New Ears (2010), World and World is an attempt, an experiment how to metaphorically encompass philosophical differentiation that has been a focus for many thinkers. Yet, neither the language nor the approach by the poetic self to the world are focused on the philosophy and its vocabulary; the poems were not created through the prism of literary modernism which is particularly interested in the topic, but through various procedures (polyphony, graphic images of poems, citations, etc) poems express not only the difference between the self (I) and the world (philosophically: the being and the self) but also between the worlds, words, viewpoints, emotions and other. The collection World and World was published thanks to the support of the Slovenian Book Agency.
FROM COSMOS TO DEATH Let’s open the window and breathe some fresh air of ever contemporary poetry by one of the greatest Slovenian poets and a representative of literary Constructivism, Srečko Kosovel (18/3/1904, Sežana – 27/5/1926, Tomaj). A 160-pages selection of Kosovel’s work, titled OPEN 0.2, interweaves poems and poems in prose, along with selected thoughts from journals, letters, essays and lectures. Kosovel’s manifesto To the Mechanics!is at the core of the work. The selection comprises various literary genres and styles the author used in his creative work: from an avant-garde constructivist and socially engaged poet, aware of the meaning and the importance of art and critically pondering over the society he lived in, to an expressionist poet and velvety lyric, who tended to withdraw to the homeland mountains escaping the buzz of the contemporary world, looking for solace in solitude, love, yearning and hope in a better world, a world of love, truth, justice and ethics. The pocket-size book is intended for readers to carry it around, anywhere and everywhere, and read the lines that are ever contemporary, current, Slovenian, European and eternal, as Srečko Kosovel believed himself to be. The collection was published by Constructivist Society (Društvo Konstruktivist) from the town of Sežana. Kosovel’s poems and other reflections were selected by Mateja Kralj, the custodian of Kosovel’s memorial room in his birth house in Sežana. The design was created by a painter Simon Kastelic. The translation of selected poems and other texts of Open 0.2 into Croatian was provided by Ksenija Premur. The book was published in November 2020 in cooperation of Constructivist Society and Lara Publishing from Zagreb.
Poet Goran Gluvić has published four collections of poetry, all of them met with great success, in which he spoke in a particular poetic way. Each of the collections brought new and fresh poetic charges. The same goes for the last collection, Steps in the Rain. Through a conglomerate of various poetic forms, from a classical sonnet to a simple song-like poems, he expressed his views of the contemporary world and the space of a human of our days; a space of a primarily own body and soul as a core and a point of breaking. New poetic thinking is expressed through words in a new and utterly independent manner: as if through past memories and ironic thinking a certain distress due to human powerlessness in contemporary, real world is expressed. A human and its existence are frozen solid from scepticism in the wild pace of the world, thus, amid the wavering of helplessness, a poet discerns an island, in the irrational yet emotional horizon, a potential of salvation – love. Certain immanent scepticism did not vanish from erotic ecstasy and chosen pleasures of the poet: if not otherwise, it is clearly visible in renouncing comical, auto-ironic approaches; a certain amount of ecstasy is embedded in the real grounds of auto-reflection. It is in real sense modern, open poetry, appropriated for a certain circle of readers who tend to avoid contemporary poetry over its deep diving into the depths of hermeneutical layers of the language. This is poetry for hedonists of aesthetics, for those who are partial to sceptic auto-reflection, humour, paradox, wittiness. In other words, poetry fully immersed into the contemporary times, critical and open-minded when it comes to the past and thus anchored into the descendents of Slovenian poetic heritage of past decades.
A new collection of poems by the poetess Ksenija Premur, „Vineyards at Dawn“, comprises several longer poems: Vineyards, Crack of Dawn, Dawn, Sunrise, Daybreak, Moirai and Earth and Heaven Merry at Dawn. The collection is a continuation of author’s previous work „The Lighthouse“. Basic dichotomy in the work is the relationship between the time and the eternity, between heavenly and earthly. Just like in “The Lighthouse”, the author continues to write in a very economical language now fraught with, not so much philosophemes, but profound imagery, light metaphysics in which the relationship between the heaven and the earth is the fundamental axis around which the author creates rows of cycles one reads in a single breath. The very titles of poems clearly indicate author’s inspiration – the dawn, the daybreak, the sunrise. Images of vineyards and grapes are not random – they are symbolically represented as places where the heaven and the earth meet. In the poem “Vineyards” there is a personification – grapes are chanting “a song / of the sky and the earth / and the sea in between”. The same poem mentions the sea located in-between, while later there is a highlight “where only / cerulean skies and blue seas / rule”. It is exactly the image of vineyards “and strive from the earth / towards the sky” that evoke the symbol of verticality, just as the lighthouse was used in her previous collection. The state is depicted in philosophical manner of “between being and not-being”. In the poem “Crack of Dawn” we can find an opposition of a dawn and an evening, the beginning and the end of a day. Premur provides impressive imagery, synaesthetic experience of awakening of the nature, blossoming, twirling winds, rendered in frantic pace trying to emulate the magic of the beginning, as if this were cosmogony. The author perceives the movement of seasons: “and ruffle the surface / of the deep blue sea / everything is decorated / in richly elaborated necklace / the sky blossomed in peonies”. On the other hand, a crack of dawn is the time when crickets take a rest after “they stayed awake throughout the night”. In these hymn-like lines the author manages to create a magnificent description of everything waking up and intertwining, the moon and the trees, the sea and the seagull, before the town gets completely awakened. The light overpowers the darkness in a Manichaean sort of way, “a new day” has embraced and cradled around everything, repeating itself until a new dawn: “everything comes to a day / at a crack of dawn / at a sunrise / at a daybreak / at a dawn / in the light of a new day”. The subject poem does not seem to be connected with any place at first, however later it mentions Euphrasian Basilica. The temple is situated in the town of Poreč, in Istria (Croatia) and its parts become integral part of the poem. This is mostly notable in references to early Christian mosaics and renderings of Jesus Christ. Through epithets of sacrality, divine light, tranquillity, a particular atmosphere of the sublime and solemnity is created. Here we also find another motif to be dealt with later to a bigger extent, and it is a theme of wedding. At dawn “a great wedding party of the earth and sky” is taking place and they will be crowned with a “magnificent ring”. Here the author uses a hyperbola to represent the passing of time, which is particularly interesting (“of all world clocks / ticking away / our lives”). There is a special bond between the high sun and the sunset, the ebb and the flow, the birth and the death. The latter is the foundation, the ultimate law we must all obey, the law of movement of time that goes “round and round”. At the crack of dawn a being is born thus metaphorically symbolising the start of a human life. The poem “Sunrise” is an epitome of epiphany, a description of the creation of the world in a day, a magnificent metonymy. In a hymn-like elation everything has been encompassed – flowers, seas, all beings “from a tiniest ant / to a lion / the king of all animals / and brisk otter / making dams and ponds / in a blossoming countryside / twigs trees mud / no word suffices / to describe the whole world / in a single breath / at a sunrise”. The author reintroduces synaesthesia in this description; there is a merger of pictures, sounds (birds chirping), scents, colours (flowers); there is an opposition of darkness (“of dark deep seas”) and light (“sun … breaks the shackles of the night”). As I have already mentioned in the introduction, Ksenija Premur also writes powerful love poetry where she poeticizes the yearning for the loved one and the sorrow for the lost love. In this collection we can also find poems telling us about the memories of love; the author immortalizes sad moments when “yet another wonder / vanishes in the past”. A lover is metaphorically represented as a “sailor of my heart”; other hyperbolic images are introduced again (“sun explosion”, “as if you wander / all over the oceans; there is also author’s recurring motif of mazes, in particular Greek labyrinths: “for it is dawn / and in long steps / the Minotaur strides / waiting for me in our maze / with a dawn of a new day / blossoming“. Another captivating element is the chorus – „you are worth / inventing” – repeating in several places. This is a detachment of the heroine describing a post festum of love gone by, as well as the irony reflecting the unsteadiness and disappointment: “you are drawn to another journey / alas, they are so long”. The poem “Daybreak” portrays “eternal love of the earth and the sky”. Interestingly enough the author is inspired by the Bible, especially by the Song of Songs. The cycle of joining and separating lovers has been poetized again in a personified image, wedding and splitting, the end of one and the beginning of another daybreak. Again, just like in “The Lighthouse”, there are allusions of Japan, a land of the rising sun, and Hiroshima disaster, a tough historical legacy, has also been incorporated. It is exactly through the imagery of the progress and “a man is diligently / building up a new world” that the land is being rebuilt into a land of “magical scents”. The good conquers the evil, “a new song is born / a new daybreak”. Regardless the eternal motion, no day is the same and this is exactly what the author wants to point out. She wants to emphasize the power of a man to change, to create a new world, like a diligent worker, which is pretty Nietzschean. The poem “Moirai” is a reminder that Greek mythology has always been author’s source of inspiration. They have been incorporated as the theme of “Vineyards at Dawn” – life and death, time and eternity – a fabric of life woven by the three Fates. The question whether human beings are born to die and turn into dust, or are meant to life forever is still open. There is no unique comprehension – “who would know / in Moirai’s weaving / of life and death”. The last poem in the collection “Heaven and Earth Marry at Dawn” is the finale. Premur uses jargon related to drama. She lists expressions such as choir, tragedy, introduction, in order to dramatically poeticize the marriage of heaven and earth, wed by the god himself, with pagan gods also being incorporated. Through gradation the author is depicting the elation of the festive occasion, the awakening of the nature at a crack of dawn. The wedding is a symbol of creation, but also an ode to humanity as the drive of creation for humanity harbours the divine sparkle, and their works are proof of human power and force of creation, symbolized by “Botticelli’s Madonnas” as mentioned in the poem. In the end Ksenija Premur has managed to devote, in these un-times, a true ode to a man incorporating both earthly and divine dimensions. Thus with this collection the author continues her poetic expression and keeps supporting her humanistic ideals and aesthetic beauty.
Vinko Ošlak, born in Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia, in 1947, started writing already in his childhood, and soon afterwards he was translating from English and Esperanto, and later from German. He has been writing in Slovenian, Esperanto and partly in German. The most comprehensive part of his work are the journals he started writing in Slovenian, but has lately switched to Esperanto. All that material has yielded only two books in Slovenian and one in Esperanto. He has issued over 40 books translated into Slovenian, Esperanto and Croatian, and as many translated from English, German and Esperanto. His beginnings were in poetry, whereas later he switched to essays, prose and philosophical and theological works. His first collection of poetry, Seismographer of Emotions, was published in 1997 by Obzorje. His second collection, Go and Search, was never published in Slovenian language apart from several poems published in magazines and on the radio, but was completely published by Publishing House Lara in 2012, in Croatian translation by Ksenija Premur. In 2020 the same collection was published bilingually, in Slovenian original and translation by Ksenija Premur. The feature of Ošlak’s literature in terms of the content, regardless its literary genre, is what’s called “searching for God” in Russian literature. In terms of style Ošlak’s poetry features the commitment to the message over the form, poetic figurativeness in his prose, method of the paradox as a route to the synthesis closing to reality in his essays, while his journals feature revelation of the meaning of small scenes, events and superficially irrelevant people taking a stroll between ‘the home and the world’. Vinko Ošlak has been living and working in Klagenfurt, Austria, with his family since 1982.
Promise Land is a new collection of poems by Lev Detela, a poet and a writer, born in Maribor in 1939, who has lived for over half a century mostly in Vienna, while writing in both Slovenian and German languages. The author has been granted multiple literary awards, and some of his works have been translated into numerous languages. Promise Land is divided into nine independent parts. Audience is introduced into the collection through Postcards from two Homelands, indicating the duality of Detela’s experience of being torn between Slovenia, where he was born, and his adopted homeland of Austria, and the world. The collection works as a comprehensive whole despite touching different topics and contents occurring on author’s numerous journeys throughout the sunswept Mediterranean, to the Northern Africa, to Mount Sinai or to the Canary Islands, as well as the contradictions of his experiences in warm Greece or Egypt, on one side, and snow covered countryside in Czech Republic along the river Vltava, on the other. His feelings from those journeys is what the author transformed into poems which is a fundamental drive of his whole poetic creation. Egyptian rhapsody is a cycle of poems, particularly comprehensive and interesting in terms of history and culture, and fraught with innumerate notes on ancient pharaohs and contemporary social aspects of troubled Egypt. Detela’s lyrical narratives, with immense existential connotations in added notes, reveal almost encyclopaedic framework of significant historical essays and cognitions. This is especially featured in the cycle Los Volcanos about the Atlantic, volcano-struck island of Lanzarote in 1730, and even more so in the titling poem Promise Land. The whole collection won the first prize in the literary competition by a magazine MLADIKA from Trieste. In this exceptionally spiritual poem the author clearly and vocally reaches into the contemporary issues of terrorism, civil wars and related emigration crises endangering the peaceful development of the world. The poem was created upon visiting the Christian monastery of Saint Catherine’s under Moses’ mountain of Mount Sinai.
At the bottom of Janko Ferk’s records there is a moving sensation of observation, yoked by a „sharp razor of a mind“ and a plethora of other surprisingly coined images. Thematically speaking he raises a warning about going from the ivory towers to the arena of life: “one / is philosophy / and elated peace / the other / is life / and its struggles / for our bread”. In this almost essayistic expression a fate of a poet and a fate of a man are acquired, ranging from the intimate to the public, from the birth in time and space to the existence in the eternity. The purpose of the poetry is of course to overcome this duality, to blur the borders and to try to speak from the whole and from their point of view, regardless of how insignificant they may seem, even about the most visible extremes. This is why opposing or complementing pairs are only theoretical aids used to rationalize those elements, otherwise irrational and elusive in any other real poetry.
Despite these widely elaborated basics, gaining additional dimensions in author’s work, Ferk’s early work is focused on the type of writing that can be most aptly called death turned into words. With no self-pity and confessionally speaking the death is inevitable; we often seem to find patterns of incantation in these lines, as if the chanting of the names of the death might set us free.
In terms of death as the subject the author later indicates other realms as well. With the same approach of distance and detachment he critically discourses on morality and the lack thereof, occasionally looking at the world through the glass of Cankar or Kafka, and, along inner pliability, showing immense lingual, metaphoric and rhetoric proficiency.
In some poems the author copes with more concrete space and time, and we are faced with a combination of fierce criticism and firm self-awareness. This is no philosophical determination of abstract phenomenon but a record of the experience. Thanatos is joined by Eros. If death is described scantily and ornament-free, love is acknowledged lusciously, like a rite, like a great baroque mass service.
The diversity of Ferk’s lyrical poetry is not only fraught with content, but also expressed through the form and style. Changes of tenses and cases, the use of various speaking perspectives, combining conceptual and visual languages, detachment and expressions offering flexibility, especially because these changes show no sign of compulsion or lust but come naturally and smoothly. A poet is looking around, determining his position in the world; he walks right through the experienced death into the noble love. Simultaneously, like a sage from the Far East, he is sitting quietly and thoughtfully near a raindrop mirroring the cosmos.
Poems by Janko Ferk speak to all of us as they touch the human existence and are therefore most authentic poetic expression of present times.
For Janko Ferk the poetry represents a certain “Way of the Cross” to the final destination, but what this destination is? “a spirit of life / not a spirit of death”, the author says himself. Yet a living being must meet the death, reach the end hurryingly, and so do youth and beauty. Does this general human fate encompass wider, common, social, national destiny? It does as clearly stated in Ferk’s poems.
Janko Ferk is primarily engrossed by an individual, with all its quotidian snags. He says “one / is philosophy / and elated peace / the other / is life / and its struggles / for our bread”. It is also visible in Ferk’s images of angels with broken wings, of divine music as a mortal dance, of emptied glasses of joy, of spring trumpet sobbing, of a still-born child by Adam and Eve.
As opposed to the above, Ferk’s poetry only harbours sensations known to humans – suffering, child’s play, gentleness, pain, love, a man’s being wedged between social and cultural norms. The poet says: “dreams / are my history”.
Ferk’s poems vocalize author’s engagement in protesting against fears, wars, atom bombs, manipulations, estrangement as well as the chords of a hurt national pride.
The layering of the truth, the essence from the visible, the shallowness and redundancy are fundamental for Ferk’s poetic quest. As soon as we think we have found Ferk’s salvation formula “the salvation only comes from love / the gentle and soft music” he crashes the hope by stating “not even that”.
The language of Ferk’s poetry is surprising; contemporary as it is condensed and economical with words, but on the other hand almost classical although with no punctuation.
Janko Ferk is not the bearer of the doom; he is a sober judge searching for the real truth of the world. He writes it down upon seeing it, imprints it into our terrestrial crust thus leaving his trail behind.
Ksenija Premur’s poetry is intimistic, and critics list the features of her poetry as clarity, precision, impressiveness of straightforward images intertwining in poetic reflection, while the poems are being described as permeated with erotic and reflexive character. However the collection of poems titled „The Lighthouse“ brings forward poems leaning more towards metaphysical subjects than intimism and inner life of a lyric heroine. We might even say the fundamental dichotomy is what questions the relationship between the time and the eternal, the heavenly and the earthly. The choice of a lighthouse as a symbol of verticality is not random – it is a sign-post but also a connector between the heaven and earth. Ms Premur purifies her expression by removing all redundant images, turns to philosophemes, and her poems resemble short poetic disputes on the relation between the eternity and mortality, on the immortality of the soul. After reading the work it is clear the main subject of the collection is the Time. The poem “Celestial Clock” is what gives the main clue. As a basic opposition there are earthy and heavenly clocks: “tick-tock / tick-tock / beats the terrestrial clock / the death hour; / the hands of the celestial clock / slide around into a perpetuum mobile”. The eternity is beyond human’s reach; it is being revered in poems, and the elapse of the time shows the relentlessness of the mortality, with the constant reminders of death, memento mori.
Psalms and Cycles by prof.dr. Janko Ferk is a peculiar collection of poems, bringing, like biblical psalms and their eternal wisdom, profoundly vivid and impressing poetic images of eternal concepts of life, love and death. Their straightforwardness, with no redundant verbalisation and poetic patina, is their most impressive feature piercing directly into the transparency of poetic figures which plainly and directly address the eternal issues of human existence. And like the Bible, that infinite and unceasing source of inspiration and comfort, it sends an invitation to the readers: embrace the life, which is also the final verse of this above all valuable and spiritual collection of poems, inspiring and inducing any reader who reaches for this book to contemplate. Not only do we find the inspiration of Ferk’s opus in perennial philosophy where the author finds his source of traditional poetry at a universal level, but he also impresses us with the ease and wisdom he weaves into every verse, every stanza, and every poem. This is author’s poetic credo, and in this book he unfolds in a multilayered fan of deep meanings and everlasting questions about the human existence, as well as the eternal pursuit of the purpose and meaning of existence.
A bilingual publication (Slovenian and Croatian) of a post-modernism prose by Fabjan Hafner, a Slovenian minority member in Austria. The book was published with the support of Austrian Federal Ministry of Culture and Education and Trubar’s Foundation of the Society of Slovenian Writers.
Take me, water – the newest collection of poems by Fabjan Hafner, a stream of poetic images pouring out of a pen, in whirls of reflections and images, transforming from inspiring and opulent expression of the perception of the world and the fine, thin thread which unites the poet and the world, then separates them again from everything surrounding him, then back into the intimate world in which the poet reflects the reality through the prism of his own spirited dreams. This collection brings an extraordinary valuable, inspiring, experienced and reflected poetic perception of the world. With its streams it is going to inspire and carry away every reader who takes up reading this incredible poetic achievement. The book was published with the support of Austrian Prime Minister’s Office in Vienna and Trubar’s Foundation of the Society of Slovenian Writers.
The collection of poems, “Notes onto the Wall of the Earth”, comprises a compilation of the work by Janko Ferk which he produced between 1975 and 1984. During that period Janko Ferk remained true to his poetic mission which is interwoven with impressive and eloquent guiding principle of eternal and unavoidable questions of every man – questions of a life and death, of love and hate, of beauty and destructive urge to bring havoc. The book was published with the support of Austrian Prime Minister’s Office in Vienna and Trubar’s Foundation of the Society of Slovenian Writers.
“Winged Hum” is a collection of selected poems by Barbara Korun, not yet published in Slovenia, but prepared specially for the first publication in Croatia. This is a selection of poems from three poem collections by this author – a collection of poems “The Sharpness of Mildness” (Ljubljana, 1999), a collection of prose poems “Notes below the Table” (Ljubljana, 2003) and poems “Cracks” (Ljubljana 2004). A collection of poems “Sharpness of Mildness” has an erotic overtone, while the uniqueness of this poetic lettering lies in interweaving of powerful metaphors, sensitive directness and reflexive sharpness. A collection “Notes below the Table” comprises prose-poetic records drawing readers’ attention with unexpected turning points and luscious weaving of poetic reflections. A collection called “Cracks” has on the same traits of sensitive shrewdness, abundant metaphors and lyric hues. “Winged Hum” thus represents a selection consistent with lyric, erotic and metaphoric guiding of the whole poetic performance of Barbara Korun, a prominent representative of contemporary Slovenian poetry. The book was published with the support by Trubar’s Foundation of the Society of Slovenian Writers.
The century in which the feeling of jeopardy and anxiety of man grew even stronger is closing behind us. If we consider the heritage of the past poets, their yearning for the unusual, the perverted and the abnormal seems like child play. And it is understandably so. The reality has transformed the world into physical and metaphysical graveyard, and people into refugees who, in the hostile foreign parts, have had to relinquish their memories of homeland, language, rituals and dreams. It is no wonder that in the world of refugees artificial worlds have taken over, worlds to which we headed recklessly assisted by drugs or information networks. The feeling of jeopardy and anxiety in human hearts inspires the need for salvation. The past century has offered up a whole series of saviours and heralds of good fortune. Those who were genuine were pushed to the edge of social consciousness and power, while the others, the false prophets, have wholeheartedly maimed the souls, minds and bodies of individuals, tribes, nations. The foretelling of the end lingers on – as well as the salvation game, which is the main topic of this extraordinary poetry collection.
10 × 7 is a collection of selected poems by Janko Ferk he wrote in Slovenian and German languages. For his collection the author created a critical selection from a range of poetic collections he had received acclaimed literary awards. In Ferk’s verses wide horizons of experience and contemplation over fundamental issues intertwine and overlap, under the halo of a fine fabric of poetry “Death / you are / the fairest hue / of a black colour / to the ecstasy” in seemingly trivial, small things where he finds a well-thought purpose of living.
Translations of these and other poems from the opus by Janko Ferk have been published worldwide, predominantly in languages appearing in this collection – Croatian, English, Italian, Spanish and French. Some of the translators are renowned authors themselves, such as Ksenija Premur, Hans Kitzmüller and Leon Rinaldetti. An assortment of Janko Ferk’s collections of poems has been translated and published in Italy, America and Croatia which have been met with success. What makes this collection special is its multilingual quality which enables opening of wide horizons of reception all over Europe.
Čučnik’s fundamental poetic position is summed up in the following verse: “Of myself I give the most I can”. In each particle of space and time in a breath of his speech, labyrinths can split open. The poet sees the present more and more as an elusive minute “when someone appeared and left noiselessly” – so the poet, in order to be able to come closer to it at all, must cover long time spans which in this book are represented by voices from old photographs. This poetic articulation is capable of taking over any textual material that the poet happens upon (“casino of words, which flocked here before a thought happened to break them”) – from a message that he finds written in pen on the edge of a banknote (as for myself, I admit that, unlike Čučnik, I superstitiously copy such a note onto other banknotes – and Čučnik has copied it too: into a book), or a series of text messages sent to him by someone “as blessed as Dostoyevsky in the period of “The Possessed”, to verses by John Ashbery and Elizabeth Bishop. With this textual material the poet’s work establishes ever subtler structures where simultaneous depiction of different speeds of time seems significant.
Collections of poetry Poems of the Nothingness and A Gentleman Today are two books of poems that have been united in a single book where Poems of Nothingness precede A Gentleman Today in chronological terms. This is only a small bit from a substantial opus of poetry, essays, philosophy and literary theory by Iztok Osojnik. All Osojnik’s work are characterized by clear layout, straightforwardness and lucidity of images intertwining in the inner logos – a voice of the truth and clarity in experiences that are immediate, palpable and clear, while the fundamental tone is brightness and extroversion towards the world in everything comprising it. The basic guiding principle of Osojnik’s poetry is te truth, deeply permeated truth about oneself and the world which Osojnik experienced in various parts of the world. His master’s thesis, for example, was written while studying in Japan. He managed not to fall under the influence of Japanese tradition, but unconsciously the work, in the colours and straightforwardness, resembles a fabric of cultural boundaries and doors constantly swinging in and out thus letting in bright colours at the expense of the dark ones.
A collection of poems by Ksenija Premur From Coast to Coast is reflexive poetry that, in its visions of the world and nature, brings profound insights and experiences transforming them into short poetic images thus revealing intricate meanings of the seen and experienced in short verses which contributes to even deeper impressions on the readers, and so inviting them to a deep, comprehensive dialogue. There is no triviality or kitsch in this poetry, nothing is irrelevant or deprived of sense; it is a pure invitation to a spiritual union of a man and essence.
“A Madrigal For The Summer”, poetry collection by Ksenija Premur, is inspired by the new intimate considerations in the contemporary poetic production, and is marked by clarity, lucidity and impressiveness of clear images that intertwine in poetic reflection thus creating a strong aesthetic impression. The poems are of erotic and reflective character, and they bring author’s intimate relation towards powerfully experienced impressions which, in addition, imitate the melodic structure of the Renaissance madrigal harmony, as suggested in the title of the collection.
Čučnik’s fundamental poetry can be abstracted in a single line: “I do my best”. In every corner of space and time, in a breath of his speech labyrinths can spread out. The present comes to the author ever more as an illusive minute “when somebody came and left soundlessly” – therefore the poet, striving to get as close as possible, has to thematise other time spans using voices from old photographs, as rendered in this book. This poetic talk is capable of taking over any textual discourse a poet encounters (“a casino of words nested here before any thought may have broken them”) – from a message written in pen on the rim of a banknote (I do admit, unlike Čučnik, in my own superstition I really tend to copy such message on other notes – though Čučnik also copied it – in his book) or a cycle of text messages he is being sent (“blessed like Dostoevsky at the time of Demons”), all the way to verses by John Ashbery and Elizabeth Bishop. Using this textual material the poet establishes even more subtle structures in which simultaneous thematising of different speed of time is what I find important.
My poetry is open / to natural occurrences. This sentence, in a way appearing unintentionally in the poem A Pocket in the Heart written by Ana Pepelnik sounds rather ironic, although it is really true for the most of the readers of her first book as they know her as a poet who is a kind of naively open for the substance of mundane experience and consequently for all kinds of lingual stains and inaccuracies brought by the very experience. The readers will surely be surprised by the density and precision of the poems from the second book where she rejects her (undoubtedly curious) concept of the first book to – along all of the skills she acquired in the meantime – deal with writing no longer counting on a discount whatsoever but quite contrary she gets involved in active dialogues and arguments with movements predominant in contemporary Slovenian poetry or gaining on importance nowadays. Ana’s poetry is attentive to what is within reach, but also casually brings in what is out of that range. This is what her poems are like – Ana like any other girl eagerly writes about flowers, sweets and clothes, yet she is no stranger to cosmic perspective, seemingly taken over from Kocbek, but perfected in an original way: All that is / unforgettable and gloomy. Just like the universe.
A collection of poetry titled Fragments of Chinese Porcelain by Ksenija Premur nurtures her roots in the best groves of modernism and new intimism as witnessed in her earlier published works – collections of poetry From Coast to Coast and Madrigal for the Summer. In the collection Fragments of Chinese Porcelain Ksenija Premur introduces a poetic world existing simultaneously at the levels of dreams and reality, a favourite motif the author used in some of her prose, particularly in short stories. This collection of poems was inspired by a movement of new intimism in conteporary poetic production, and is characterised by clarity, lucidity and impressiveness of clear images intertwining in poetic reflections thus creating a powerful aesthetic impression. Poems have erotic and reflexive character, bringing intimate relationship of the author towards deeply experienced impressions of quotidian reality and her broken “fragments”. Subconscious flows in profound self-reflection mirror a double world of “me” and “un-me”, inner and outer, subjective and objective, and all that, as the title of the collection implies, in “fragments”, random observations, lightly implied suggestions, irrelevant trifles and mundane images melting into a colourful mosaic that sustain and unite deeply experienced moment of poetic reflections. This collection undoubtedly comprises melting of author’s profound philosophical contemplations of fundamental questions of existence that cannot be expressed in any other way but in “fragments”, cut-outs and reflections of the reality in a cunning poetic subject of experience and expression. The author uses Chinese porcelain in the very title which implies her long-term studies of Eastern philosophical traditions she reaches for even in her poetic inspirations.
The latest poetic collection by Uroš Zupan, one of the most prominent poets of a younger generation in Slovenia, titled “Slow Sailing”, unlike weary melancholic atmosphere of contemporary poetry, brings concrete hands-on, life experience – immediate, clear and deeply felt – of a poetic self that brings life and in its peculiar and affluent individual letter transforms an imminent, life-experiencing cognition into an open dialogue with the world surrounding the poet. Thus Uroš Zupan uses banal trifles of a quotidian life – television commercial programmes, short journalistic reports, unwashed coffee cups – to create his own unique world where he spreads out a specific poetic landscape which the poet paints with vivid, extrovert, communicative, sometimes provocative, but always, remaining true to himself, explicitly lyrical language in which every item in the objective world can become an object of subtle, poetic reflections thus enabling a world where the object world reflects in the mirror of metaphors and hidden, encrypted meanings a poets reveals by close inspection and then turns into a language through lyrical passages and an abundance of polysemantics at various levels of poetic expression.
In poems by Barbara Korun. cracks, apart from the mundane senses (I am burning, burning / at the stake of emotions), have completely opposite connotations as well – a crack in the sky. In the ambivalent co-existence of eros and bios the two poles refer to the crack between sexes. The crack is, in a nutshell, an empirically-lucid notion of the “entrance” that has opened up for stepping into the lyricism and its experience. Through it the author reaches for the core of real life realities, bringing them up from the stupor and turning them into poetry. The result of this poetic procedure is that, for example, a landscape as a domineering frame of author’s feelings and contemplative comprehensions turns inside out and enables the author, at her will, to choose unknown, completely poetically inner relations – most emotional objects take over their reflections as abstract changes, and vice versa, pure abstractions become real.
A lyrical collection “Black Swan” by the highly extinguished Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun, a worldly renowned and acknowledged poet whose work has been translated into almost every European language, brings some novelty to poet’s creative work. In enumerating a plethora of words in a nimble, brisk and skilful gesture there emerge separate words which then are read in themselves as if in a mirror, reinstating a discourse, but never falling into a trap of turning into romantic, symbolistic metaphoric expressions. A word is being read, put next to another, entangled into a metonymic sequence, and a brisk judgement of their effects is being replaced by futile and desperate self-searching, expressions of poetic subjects, quite a frequent wavering when it comes to big categories such as life and death that mostly melt in pardoning of those using them and only rarely in poetry. Unlike previous Šalamun’s poetry in which things were self evident, in “Black Swan” they reappear in their perfect monolithic, metonymic beauty, in its reality where authentic usage of poetic material unburdens the speech which keeps stumbling against self-pardoned poetic subject of this poetic collection by Tomaž Šalamun.
Tone Škrjanec is certainly one of the most interesting poets nowadays in Slovenia, both from literary and sociological aspects, despite the fact he belongs to the generation of the 1970s, and from poetical aspect. Like his generational counterparts Iztok Osojnik and Jere Detela, Škrjanec was predominantly influenced by American Beat poetry and through it by the poetry of the Far East. Far Eastern influences on Škrjanec can be traced on the formal level and on the substantial plane. It is exactly this experience we can draw from his renowned focus on details and ethical and poetical orientation. Unlike most of Slovenian (for that matter, European) poets of the twentieth century who, in their works, strive to become lords of the world or even distort it in accordance with the rule of so called dictatorship phantasy, Škrjanec depicts the world thus we may state that his poetical credo is not “to have” but “let it be”. Tone Škrjanec is surely one of the leading poets of his generation.
Jakob’s fundamental poetic procedure of assembling or collage should be interpreted in accordance with poetic credo of absorbing and reflecting the world in poetical, impressionist images. Jakob does not resort to assembling technique in order to manipulate the world or the readers but in order to capture trifling moments and occurrences so that he can render them in their uniqueness and thus differentiate them from everything else in a poem of opposing moments and occurrences. Jakob’s poetry is therefore a poetry of an attentive beholder, though simultaneously a beholder capable of abstracting anything that is, both for his poetry and his readers, a bounding realisation. Therefore in his poetry we find lines such as “The life goes by as if we are / Gone / And we comply”, or “Sometimes the night shrinks back / And there are lips, moist and pure”. Ethics, a feel for details and atmosphere of a poem, as well as a subtle usage of assembling technique, all feature Jakob’s poetry.
The book A Panicking Man by Milan Dekleva is an attempt to dive into a poetic soul of Anaximader, into his panoramic look reaching the truth and reality of our moment. Karl Jaspers said the following about Anaximader: “An immense impression Anaximander leaves on everybody springs up from a wholeness of his thinking. It is similar to awakening of western mind, dissipation of a foggy cloud. It is getting brighter. Through a new way of thinking, Anaximander immediately realizes the simplest, something no one dared to think before him. The very beginning is exciting. There a man distances from himself and the world. A sovereignty of thought grows – daring, limitless, and as opposed to mundane, traditional and transparent, it ventures awelessly to imagine what is initial and seemingly the most absurd. “A Panicking Man is a poetic entrance into the labyrinth of the beginning. A look of wondering in infant’s eyes, wise for its naiveté and naïve for its wisdom. A search for the general, reviving individual and wholesome, is a categorical imperative of poetry that has never subdued. A panicking man, already in its title, unifies both meanings of a Greek word: pan and panic were born from the same restlessness. Panic overwhelming a man with nihilism of search for power is everything (pantos) what we have.
Slovenian writer Vinko Ošlak (1947) started his literary journey as a poet. In 1970s his collection of poetry A Seizmograph of Emotions was published by Horizons publishers. Within the series Poetic Leaves featuring paintings by Jože Tisnikar Mladinska knjiga published Ošlak’s cycle of poems. At a certain stage of his creation, Ošlak shifted his interest towards prose, essays and philosophical and theological writing. A collection of poems Come and Search was written in a classical sonnet form, and Ošlak’s poems are not merely a playfulness of words but also an emotional and contemplative message addressed to the readers. Ošlak’s poem is true to a minor, more fragile being suffering from the injustice and for whom the nature is not inclined to. Ošlak’s collection is permeated with Christian ethos and stand views through Gospels, just like his other works, both in prose and poetry.
Pasadena, a tri-lingual collection of poems – in Slovenian, German and Croatian languages – is a melting pot of the three most intertwined yet most opposing elements of human essence: life, Eros and Thanatos. In this collection of poems the Austrian author Janko Ferk philosophically deals with issues we are troubled or enraptured by on a daily basis… or not touched by at all. We all respond to these issues in our own ways, while the author does it through most subtle verses he completes through an inspiration by a Californian city he had never seen. The poetic credo of this particular poetry is a relentless and steady pursuit of the beautiful and elated, or of quotidian and unmemorable things we find in the poem about a prison cell where a life is fading away “on a piece of a musty bread / and stale water / where the punishment is the ultimate seal of a human life”. From the existentialist view of the purpose life, the longing turns out to be a distant echo of the collection. The collection was translated into Croatian by Ksenija Premur.
The collection of poems titled “Dreams of a Naked Body” belongs to the movement of new intimism that the author, Ksenija Premur, has nourished throughout her whole poetic work, in particular in her two collections of poetry “From Coast to Coast” and “A Madrigal for a Summer”, published with the support of the Ministry of Culture. In this collection the author subtly engages an erotic relation in the reflection towards the whole reality, starting with the most banal quotidian trifles to essential questions of existence thus opening up horizons of new experiences and self-reflections. Thus the author re-examines the horizons of contemporary poetic expression, occasionally introducing direct and profound narrative which contributes to the dynamics of this collection, creating a particular and unique poetic world. This dynamics of flowing, ranging from subtle states of mind and self-reflecting to almost realistic reflections of reality, is most certainly an exceptional feature of this collection of poetry which tingles your attention and draws you into the world of author’s peculiar experiencing.
The collection Stars, Traps is featured by a casual subtitle in a single word – Poems. It has an “outward” orientation into a wider global and social space, enlightening it with cosmic and ironically critical “cold objectivity” between the first (The First Star – “caught into a solemn universe”, quote) and the final poem (Snowworld – “no hope is left / for the lost world”, quote). The core of his winter verticality is the poem The Sevenheaded in multiple parts where Detela, in exalted, expressive sequencing and repetition of syntagmas of free verses, develops a kind of a memorial service (“when is the service to be held”, quote, Chapter 2) for a chopped down yet indestructible seven-headed tree (“The tree is eternal”, quote for The Tree). Already in the introduction of the poem he asserts individualistic isolation of the my(s)t(h)ical tree erecting “itself on the self / in the middle of spaces” (quote). The verified and concrete (visual-auditory) value of the concept of a tree has been “vividly” experienced – as words in various languages (it particularly corresponds in German with the prose narrative Ein Baum, ein Traum from Detela’s book Die Merkmale der Nose, 2005).
In a row of collections of poems by Lev Detela “twin” collections were published in the same year – Stars, Traps and A Light on a Crimson Shore which despite their basic apocalyptic visions are simultaneously the peak of author’s so-to-say “vitalist brightness”. The Brightening, as already implied by the very title A Light on a Crimson Shore, is a striking conceptual innovation in a sequence of the titles of his previous collections, mostly gloomily coordinated (e.g. What the Night Said; Café Noir); here, of course, there is no naïve or populist cheap optimism whatsoever. A reference to an anonymous star in the first poem of the first collection is the initial poem A Light on a Crimson Shore comprising a thematically oriented and a kind of a baroque subtitle Ballad Elegies and Romance SMS Epics, determined by the introductory dedication of Love (in a Single Sentence). The poem with a musical vocabulary in its title and twelve lines announces the subsequent cycle A Short Potamology yet in Twelve Études. It is quite obvious from the inner, intertwined connotations of the both titles that the author, although his collections might somewhat seem “spontaneously chaotic” at the first superficial glance, builds up his literary-textual cycles with the precision of a composer. From a thematical point of view potamology (a scientific study of rivers) refers to author’s environment-conscientious dedication to water (in Stars, Traps it is the tree), in other words to the rivers as archetypal symbols of arrivals and departures. Therein the author speaks up in the first person narrative about the interwoven net of the phenomenon of a river and human love (river reference converts into a human narrative: “There by the river I shall put my arms around you”, 6; quote)
Tone Škrjanec is certainly one of the most interesting poets nowadays in Slovenia, both from literary and sociological aspects, despite the fact he belongs to the generation of the 1970s while his first collections of poems were published in the 1990s, and from poetical aspect. Like his generational counterparts Iztok Osojnik and Jure Jakob, Škrjanec was predominantly influenced by American Beat poetry and through it by the poetry of the Far East whose influences on Škrjanec can be traced on the formal level and on the substantial plane. It is exactly this experience we can draw from his renowned focus on tiny details and events. Influence of the East in Škrjanec’s works is evident at the fundamental level – the level of ethical and poetical orientation. Unlike most of Slovenian (for that matter, European as well) poets of the twentieth century who in their works strive to become lords of the world or even distort it in accordance with the rule of so called dictatorship fantasy, Škrjanec primarily depicts the world. Or rather, his poetic credo is not “having” but “letting be”. Tone Škrjanec is surely one of the leading poets of his generation. In accordance with the above credo what we also need is to understand his basic poetical procedure – montage. Škrjanec does not reach for this particular technique in order to manipulate the world or the reader but in order to show tiny excerpts of time and occurrences and display them in their uniqueness, thus simultaneously in their distinctiveness from the rest, rendered in a poem of opposing moments and instances. Škrjanec’s poetry is thus a poetry of a vigilant observer, but also an observer capable of abstracting an obliging cognition from the observed both for himself, his poetry and his audience. Therefore it is not a surprise we find declarative verses in Škrjanec’s poetry – e.g. a verse from the poem A Hole in the Sky: “it needs to be written down for what comes today / is valid for tomorrow.” Ethics, sense for details and atmosphere in his poems and subtle application of montage technique are essential features of Škrjanec’s poetry.
Many pieces of work from Detela’s opus comprise his so called avant-garde literature – mostly experimental, with a touch of symbolical, grotesque, fictional, Luddite and occasionally almost hermetic expressionist elements he uses to transform human existential and fundamental dilemmas into words, in his particular ways. These structures feature most of Detela’s poetry. In all of these stages, so different and in many ways utterly opposed levels of Detela’s poetic development, the author has experienced a whole range of discernible individual characteristics of his whole opus up to the present. In terms of topics they substantially exhibit a critical strip down of a society and an individual, whereas in terms of structure and style they feature the shocking and the provocative that keep turning into new extreme images in each stimulating and aesthetic stage of author’s creational process. It is exactly these most prominent features of Detela’s poetic creation that, in some of his works comprising for example Greek Poems, turn to more intimate, somewhat subdued and more sophisticated shades of his very colourful polyphony of his poetry. Greek Poems witness to author’s new poetic procedures as in 2008 Detela published four books in Slovenian language – a novel in two volumes and two books of poetry. This collection of poetry is a kind of a sequel (mostly in terms of the content, not so much in terms of the expression) of his previous collection The Light on the Crimson Shore as it was similarly created on a journey and partly in Vienna in later stages as a reflection of poet’s experiences while vacationing in Greece. Most of the poems in the collection are of ambient and reflexive nature, whereas some border onto miniature essays shaped into poems (The Donkey), while others pour over author’s emotional and reflexive impressions to visual stimuli from his immediate environment into poems.
Worldwide literature, whether it is folk literature, i.e. legends, tales or narratives, or fiction by an individual author, is loaded with motifs of abducted women where mostly the forces of light are victorious, as it is the case with the collection of poems A Night Concert with the Hardheaded and Marjeta. Or rather – a prince on a white horse who, using his artfulness or shrewdness, only rarely his force, overcomes the creature that persecuted the maiden. The victory of light over darkness had, of course, educational, moral and ethic importance, even elements of catharsis, usually supported by the divine intervention. These motifs are usually wrapped up in a romance, or rather a grotesque-balladic package inciting fear and anxiety with the audience. Dynamic tales, created or concocted according to the laws of a classical drama usually culminate in a predictable ending, simultaneously rendering a profusion of twists, deviations or even reservations. A drama, based on Hamletian principles, is being played before the audience – here I refer to the spectacle on Elsinore fortress when actors act and simultaneously uncover the death of Hamlet’s father. A Night Concert, a dramatic verse poem by Lev Dekleva, is a performance or “an artistic display at the museum” with a lively concert of “surfers and rockers”, symbolically called Paranoia Band that paraphrase the legend of The Hardheaded and Marjeta in a contemporary environment. The whole event, as expected, is set in the night which, according to the folk tradition, has “its own might”, therefore we are not surprised by dreamy and phantasmagoric scenes filled with absurd “debauchery recklessly crawling up the marble steps”. Everything is embodied in “the remnants of an impossible / shifted into perilous forms” resembling an Ernst Bosch rhizomatic puzzle in an image of temptation. From the cacophony of sarcastic scenes and twists there emerges an allegoric vignette in the form of a chorus performed by the abovementioned band where “the forehead is hissing, the music screaming, the drum banging sharply”, while the voice is repeating “Marjetica, Marjetica, the queen of our hearts!”.
In Šalamun’s poetry, featured by its determined presence here and now, and simultaneously omnipresence and everpresence, fixation and doubtfulness imply a massive quake. The voice of Šalamun’s poetry is suddenly no longer acousmatic for it is, more than ever, marked by everything too human, i.e. by time and its dedication to the course of history: We shall be rejected like cats in the crates into the arms of God. Even though he is completely aware of his predestined presence (I shall grow tired and neglect myself. Save yourself.), there is something elegiac and elated in the way he accepts his responsibility. We may have been inclined to think of taking and depriving in his poetic creations, but the turn has come for giving and returning: Doing it in the city? Returning. Neither hurting nor killing. Returning. With time the lines of Šalamun’s speakers get clearer and brought into the world inhabited by other selves. With some of them, specially with those whose feelings or memories – they do not allow choosing – take them to privileged places, he establishes sincere relationships, filled with vulnerability. The world no longer rules over a timeless moment (I had (…) everything in the nature, yet timeless). Every moment is being re-established as a random point in a sequence where self in a polyphony silently brushes against the past. What is replacing former self-sufficient destruction and seizing, for their exemption from time they are not considered responsible, is the strength – withering away, yet necessary for laborious construction. Šalamun’s rejected self sees its former existence as a form of repetition resulting in (there are hints thereof) blazing love: Nights were strange. You stirred up my lungs. The repetition of beginnings transforms into the acceptance of the inevitable ending that is really worth efforts: Yes. Whales shall end up my life. I am giving it up for what I have tried out. I am giving it up for what I am trying out now.
The politeness and the cordiality are the features that attracted and inspired everybody who knew Milena Merlak Detela. In the letter dated 12 July 1967 Milena put down her thoughts: “What makes an artist? This side belongs to the one playing with art. It also belongs to the opposite one – a realist taking the known path… and finally there is an artist, a child, thinking and brooding to death over things others find self-comprehensive.” The contemplations of Teilhard de Chardin are close to Milena’s sensibility. In the early 1960s they spread all over Europe and inspired Lev and Milena Detela with the most exhilarated euphoria. Teilhard saw the future of the mankind in the cohabitation of science, sustainable development and Christian orientation. He believed it was possible to achieve the ultimate integrative point he called Omega. In terms of perception the greatest and the most decisive occurrences in Milena Merlak Detela’s poetry were the landscapes and the universe of Inner Slovenia (Notranjska County). Close by are Kras and the Cerknik Lake which dries out and floods, changing with the changes of the seasons, surrounded by the secrecy of the woodlands, the horizon above the fields, an undisturbed view of the sun and the moon. Milena was longing for those homeland fields her whole life. She knows the religious beliefs and traditions of her homeland well, both in quotidian and festive times. Prayers and traditional rites are ever present and led her to contemplations of death and what it turns into. Contrary to that, the world was boiling in the bloodshed of the war during German occupation. It brought death to Milena’s family and broke her father who lost his willingness to live anymore. The marriage to Lev Detela and the emigration of the couple to Austria denotes a journey into new insights expecting them there. In this new atmosphere, new elements emerge in Milena’s poems – mountains and valleys, water and fire, darkness and light, birth and death. Words and metaphors in Milena’s poetry often express judgement: let the solitude be punished, Cain’s age has elapsed, may the scorching sun disappear. In modern times the fundamentals elapse – the light, the breath, the space – while the trivial imposes and overwhelms.
A collection of poems „Palimpsests“ was called after a cycle of the same name Niko Grafenauer published in 1978 in „Troubles“. The poems from the Palimpsests have been written in the period from the mid-1970s, simultaneously with the development of the post-modernism in Slovenia. Prior to that, in 1975, Grafenauer published “Stuccos”, a poetic pinnacle and as the same time the ending of Slovenian modernism. A techno-poetic clinamen in “Palimpsests” is graded down, all the way until the deflection has grown so huge it has completely opened up with the poetic content pouring through a sonnet form. Firstly both sonnet tercets grow into quatrains, then the metric plan continues to grow wider or – through another method – in terms of the number of verses it shrinks and re-establishes the space for free poetry verses. Consequently “Palimpsests” are a way livelier in terms of the metrics. This lively quality reflects at rhythmical, semantic, emotional, existential and thematic levels. In a seeming opposition with the liveliness, the balancing of “Palimpsests” lies in the one-ness. The opposition is only illusional as the one-ness in Grafenauer’s poetry does not imply the usual contents – the one-ness of the world within which there is no rift between the truth and the illusion but between the appearances and the invisible, the reality and the secrecy.
Existentialist source, defining the experiencing scope of his poetry in the collection “Fading out”, is the best construed in several Grafenauer’s thoughts when he contemplates the inevitable loneliness and the focus, the only places where he can test out himself as the one comprising a plethora of experiences, perceptions, impressions, traumas,… At the same time he needs both the words and the language to build up the organic wholeness out of life experiences in order to vocalize his poetic voice. All of these would be impossible if the author did not speak from the very edge of himself where liveliness of his poetic expression settles down in the shadows that life casts upon the eternity. The other extreme, opening up in the notion of beginninglessness, is very closely related to what the expressions “Einsweh” or “nostalgia for the gone-by” try to interpret. It is quite obvious that Grafenauer’s existentialism, despite us being prone to “forget” the beginning and the ending, i.e. despite the dictature of the moment, neither can be avoided, which basically means that no matter what our own individuality cannot be surpassed and generalized into a condensed human “eternity”. Therefore that reality as “nostalgia for the gone-by” evokes true beginninglessness belonging to the origins without a man, who merely invented word for it, thus revealing the whole deception of an illusion of the universality of life. God, eternity, endlessness on one hand, and the individuality on the other thus meet with the beginninglessness in time.
Milena Merlak Detela, a poetess who died in Vienna in 2006, managed to create verses of intensive narrative power. The author who was born on 9 November 1935 in Ljubljana wrote her poetry in Slovenian and German languages. She mastered an incredible repertoire of various hues of poetic expressions. Her poetry harbours images of oppressive austerity and images of surreal logic of dreams (such as the poem Underground Dungeon). In some of her lyrics the author indicates to negative political and environmental reality. This goes mostly about difficult, sombre poems. They reflect the trauma over her father’s tragic death, her mother’s suffering over the loss of her murdered sons and the events occurring during and after the World War Two. The nature and the inner spiritual images, the myth and the history melt into a new world. The poetess creates persuasive verses whether she draws her work from the history (Carnuntum or The death of the Emperor Abroad; Alchemists in the Golden City) or whether she is extensively drawn by the world of visual arts (Otto Dix = Danse macabre / The Countess; Paul Klee = Bastard) or the heritage of ancient myths.
Detela’s poems and prose are sneering and terrifying accounts of the violent world. His prose is closely connected to his poetic work. Many of his poems are prose poetry. Detela is a master of short works of literature, comprising of short, efficiently and skilfully interwoven sketches. This collection features poems and short works, as well as a short story “Fear and Dreams”. A young boy is living with his uncle at his uncle’s place, which is turning into a true nightmare. His uncle, ever drunk and living in Slovenian turbulent past, is a scary figure. Boy’s aunt is a passive creature always obeying and pleasing his uncle. These are typical absurd and frightening accounts Detela’s prose is fraught with. This book contains carefully chosen topics of this kind which Detela gives in abundance – they quite transparently and relentlessly open up the abyss of violence, absurdity and nothingness of the modern times.
Dekleva’s poetic (and essayistic) opus is undoubtedly one of the philosophy-based opuses in contemporary Slovenian lyric poetry. But it is exactly the predictions and the sound and rhythmical abilities of avoiding traps of traditional metaphysics that his alluringly open poetry has is what makes Dekleva Slovenian poetic flag-bearer of the paradox – whether it is the poetic prose form of writing with free-verses lining up into stanzas, or in the strictest rhyming form. Dekleva’s synthesis of fatal inevitability, fine irony, emotional suggestiveness, “sharp-tongued ultimate bi-mindedness” and jazzy sequences keeps narrating a tale on “how long it takes a man to adapt to the miraculous”. The other name for the miraculous is “the will to be”. Astutely, right in his non-conformist paradoxical manner, Dekleva adds: “the will to be here forever and never again”.
When reading any poem from the newest collection by Ivan Dobnik, a reader gets that feeling of a stone falling down into a secret well. And even though the falling into the depth is far below, somewhere out there in the intangible part of the poetry and its essence, the holler from the depth, the splash from within is way more powerful than a reader may have expected at first. These splashes are, naturally, the closing verses – a real treat of poetic depth, bringing forward some pieces of wisdom and cognition which on numerous occasions rise above poetic sphere. Every verse seems as subtle as a cobweb, yet completely rounded up. Like a gentle touch, a breath is short and fragile like a subtle splash of original poetry. What is immensely important here is the fact that the author boldly decided to stick to classical lingual calm – he is not interested in lingual experimenting. Although this is how Dobnik treats his words, quite frequent in his love and erotic lyric poetry, he is successful in tranquil upgrading, incredible lingual accomplishments and numerous expressive eclipsing.
Ivan Dobnik has been long creating in Slovenian poetry; however he has remained in the background, unobtrusive and quiet, but relentlessly polishing up his poetry in the peace and quiet of his workshop in solitude, somewhere beyond. As if he were a landscape painter who has withdrawn from the city into the countryside and while conversing with his own painting art he creates purified yet strictly controlled landscapes in a rich palette of the white. The power of his poetry lies not in his eruptive creativity or plethora of shapes but in the simplicity of form as a demanding inner dialogue of vivid words and clear attention. In his latest book called “A Rhapsody in Freezing Winter” he does not dodge from these prerequisites he has been faithful to ever since his first collection of poems. Clear, sharp feeling for the lyricism intertwines in his poems that are short yet packed with contemplative meditation. The resulting poems are substantial and restrained; their power lies in a sequence of precisely directed insights. This is not about understanding outside conditions or images but about pure poetry at the crossroads of skills, awareness of the functions of a language and intensive ontological states. With these in mind, Dobnik’s poetry induces us to think about intimate landscapes, shelled down to crystal clearness, yet emerging out in blurred stories like tainted premonitions. They have been so skilfully rendered so a reader can fathom their comprehensive drama.
Like any symbolic point in space and time, the abyss has a double-sided quality – it unifies the height and the depth, the skies and the underground, the random chaos of the original big bang and the hell fire of the apocalypse. If we ignore the ambivalent nature of the abyss we easily lose sight of its fundamental cosmogenic importance. This is exactly what is happening in the present. When we stand on the rim of an abyss we are consumed by the overwhelming fear of falling down. The abyss is only a point of final dive and nothingness. Ever since we lost the gift of soaring up to the places where the very origin of freedom is nested, we have been left with only the abyss, a vertical drop into the death. This has devastating consequences for human speech as it brings out the fear of the speech of others. The cracks in the world that have brought the word are being brought to a halt at the edge of the abyss we tend to call noise. Nobody listens to anybody unless it is useful to us. We are cautious with other people’s voices and looking for what is beneficial to us. We are cautious and awaiting nouns circulating through the bloodstream of our own language making them thus familiar and known to us. We refuse to listen to unknown layers of a stranger’s speech drawing gibberish from the abyss of diversity. Barbara Korun’s poems witness to the above – through subtle weaving of depths and heights of poetic expressions and messages she brings into the world of paradox and abyss, rendering it through the sensuality of words and thoughts.