Uroš Prah (1988) grew up in Cmurek, a village on the Slovene-Austrian border. He studied in Ljubljana and is a university graduate in philosophy and comparative literature. He co-founded a literary magazine called IDIOT, which he co-edited for many years — between 2011 and 2015 as the editor-in-chief. The magazine aimed to discover groundbreaking artistic voices and watched some of the best young writers and poets develop. In 2015 he co-founded Literodrom – an international festival that problematizes literary practice and traces novelties, new modes of writing, new modes of publishing and new modes in forming artistic communities according to their geographical, political and social specificities. The artist is currently based in Vienna.
Prah's first poetry collection came out in 2012. It carries an untranslatable, onomatopoetic title Čezse polzeči (»Gliding over Themselves«). His second poetry collection with an also hardly translatable word-pun title Tišima (»Phush«) saw the light of day in 2015. In 2016 it was nominated for the Jenko Poetry Award and the Veronika Poetry Award.
What is most characteristic of Prah's work is a tense relationship between language (poetry) and body. The author explains the problematic layers of this relationship thoroughly: »The understanding of language in my poetry is foremost a self-understanding of language. The body is firstly the body of language and linguistics is a tissue: tissue-text. This type of body of course should not be perceived in it's medically enlightened concept of the organism (which constitutes the body through the medical gaze, within which an organism is always a subject of organisation, totality and thereby an object of power relations), which could stand in the opposition to language and in the background of language. Poetry is here a language in it's anti-organic physicality, it is a body in becoming. Therefore any subjectivity of this poetry, if we have to speak about the lyrical subject, is generated on the level of this physicality and not on the level of the figure of the poet, the author, the human, who plays with grammatical rules. Grammar bends because the poem moves. So, language does not do what a certain human, author, poet would want it to do – but not because it is tied to the intersubjective exchange, but because any intersubjectivity is conditioned by an impossibility of language as communication. The territory of this impossibility-possibility is poetry.«
Prah's first collection delves into the physical – into touching, smelling, tasting, watching, listening and other variations of perception – but, as the critic Mojca Pišek notices, the »real deal« of Prah's poetry is to be found under the sheets of homoeroticism: it is the inability to remain the same, to remain comfortably scripted and identified. The collection also problematizes being young in contemporaneity, where ideas, resources and will is scarce and where spirit is left hanging over the rests of an armchair. The zeitgeist is captured and boiled by the never-depressed, never-resting body, the perhaps only possible showing forward.
Prah's second poetry collection develops certain theses from his debut further. The body is still omnipresent, but this time it has an even greater responsibility: to speak where words are muted. As Vid Bešter notes in his review of the Phush collection »everything that can be worded is already expressed in movements or inscribed in human anatomy … The body which finds its home in the poems is not decadent, exhausted, sick, decaying, nor is it vitalistic, healthy, strong. It is a body on the verge of unease. A body, which is fleeing, a body, which is cramped, a body, which finally found release.« Bešter concludes that this type of an uneasy body shows towards a realism in Prah's poetry, despite it seeming hermetic at times – it is hermetic as far it is uniquely dense. Prah's poems are mostly short, they do not rely on exposition, they don't lead to a highpoint, they are the crescendo themselves. They become little entities with a remarkable pulse. Not neccessarily a pulse that might sustain life, more a pulse of doubt, undermining and even destruction. Just like dance is a destruction of energies, a complete exhaust of that which can not be uttered.
Beside the apparent homoeroticism of the poems, Diana Pungeršič reveals another aspect of Prah's intentions in Phush: »The desire to define the already changed societal reality and the individual within anew, with a new kind of language, is of course an old one, but remains a challenge.« Pungeršič stresses that the author articulates very precisely the cognitive and emotional tension of subjects in a reality defined by market, his poetry is »a precise diagnosis of the existential position in a consumer society.« The inclination to articulate the reality anew is embedded in the title of the Phush collection, which is »rich in meaning and willingly open to interpretation.« From the title the reader can, Pungeršič concludes, extract all major themes of the collection: »the echo of silence, hidden in the crack between two replies, position and opposition, desire and realisation, first and second wheel, chorus and echo, statement and commentary (…) In Phush we find the word »to shush« - to comfort, to calm, a desire that poetry would be able to fill the crack, to sew it up.«
The jury of the Veronika prize for poetry, for which Phush was nominated in 2016 discovered similar layers of Prah's poetry and added new ones. Aside from evoking the chaos of contemporaneity, the insecurity of survival, unemployment and the inability to get employed, precarious labour, injustice, greed and violence, Prah's poetry has an ability to evoke that which is considered ugly and undesirable: the raw physicality, the animalistic, pushed into the subconscious as socially unacceptable. »Poems are full of bodily fluids, bodily parts, extremities and 'forbidden' erotic phantasies, it seems as if these poems convey a societal reality, which enslaves the younger generation in Slovenia, Europe and the world, a generation without a future. This poetry is surprisingly alive, tough, resilient and revolting.«
An important layer of Prah's work is rhytm. Most critics agree that it is the most obvious connecting feature of both Prah's collections. Despite being written in free verse, poems suggest rhytms which enhance the reading experience. Prah himself is an excellent performer, so whoever had the chance to experience his poetry readings will gladly accept his unconventional, yet eruptive reading rhytm.
Hunger / Lakota
I’m two shells and both
The smaller one turns inward,
folding in upon itself.
The edge of the other one
presses against walls.
Dve lupini sem in obe
Mala se not obrača,
Rob druge se ob
Blocked Motion / Blokirano gibanje
These hips are like a nation.
The stupor deepens, reaching magnitudes that are hard to control.
Fingers already pushing into orifices more willing.
All the force of trust dragging me back.
Ti boki so kot narod.
Drevenenje se stopnjuje do težko obvladljivih območij.
Prsti že rinejo v voljnejše odprtine.
Vsa sila zaupanja me vleče nazaj.
The Immigrant / Imigrant
Let her cross the border cross the border
not only reaching across not looking across
let her climb across let her cut
her skin on the wire let her claw
at hard dirt let her clasp
a stone and pull it from the ground and throw it
let her flee let her breathe let her not
drown let her beat thirst let her
wait a while longer let her be born a bit
later let her be brave
and not quit let her try again
let her dare and dare and come.
Naj mejo preide naj preide mejo
ne le seže čez ne pogleda onstran
naj spleza čez naj si nekoliko
razpara kožo na žici naj grebe
po trdi prašni zemlji naj grabi
kamen naj ga izruva in vrže
naj pobegne naj diha naj se ne
utopi naj premaga žejo naj
še počaka naj se rodi malo
kasneje naj bo pogumna
ne odneha naj poskusi še enkrat
naj si upa naj upa naj pride.
The Horizon of Power / Horizont moči
We don’t expect anything because
we’re used to nothing coming.
When nothing comes, we’ll be here.
Ničesar ne pričakujemo, ker
smo vajeni, da nič ne pride.
Ko nič ne pride, bomo tu.
Rain / Dež
Of course I wish
the cove were full of calm young men coming on my body.
Then half of them would wash me with their hot urine.
Half of these would dip me into the sea,
and half of these would oil me and massage each patch of my available body,
a further half of these would wash me with warm suds for the second time,
and once I was clean wrap me in a thin linen tablecloth
and then lay me into the hands of the last half,
which would lay a palm on my brow,
fingertips would stick to it,
a black spot would sink into me,
an eyeball in the gullet
would eat itse–
Seveda si želim,
da bi zaliv bil poln mirnih mladih mož, ki bi prihajali name.
Potem bi me polovica sprala s svojim vročim urinom.
Polovica te bi me namočila v morje,
njena polovica bi me naoljila in zmasirala vsako zaplato mojega dosegljivega telesa,
še pol njih bi me s toplo milnico spiralo drugič
in me, ko bi bil čist, zavilo v tanek laneni prt,
nato bi me položilo zadnji v naročje,
ta bi mi dala dlan na čelo,
blazinice bi se prilepile nanj,
črna lisa se bi udrla vame,
zrklo v žrelu
bi sebe žr—
Morning by the Pool / Jutro ob bazenu
People lying around,
we know each other.
I dive into the water near the pool track
that the instructor’s swimming on the right
and the edge on the left.
My eyes are closed while I swim,
opening slightly from time to time.
Everything is soft and blurry.
I swim very slowly.
I feel him swimming,
I graze the edge here and there.
As I turn around and see a hand
catching up with me at the end of the pool,
gentle in the water,
almost as if it’s about to touch me.
I switch tracks
so that I’m now slightly
into the other half of the pool,
I swim faster, we’re racing.
Suddenly, the water turns into hard,
tightly packed, foil-wrapped
rectangular packets – texts?
I climb them furiously,
there’s music and it feels good,
the packets are now small, folded-over
pieces of paper, written on and bobbing in the water,
my body bobs with them, through them –
He sits at the end of the pool,
leaning on his forearms,
exposing his midriff to the sun,
his feet among the pieces of paper.
I climb on top of him,
I lean on his large torso,
the water is now full of pieces of foil
with sticker letters.
Letters come together on one of them,
we know what it says and we smile.
I start putting stickers on his chest:
I have to look for some of the letters
they’re all at a hand’s reach.
V vodo skočim blizu proge,
kjer plava učitelj, na desni
in roba na levi.
Plavam z zaprtimi očmi,
ki se kdaj rahlo razprejo.
Vse je zabrisano in mehko.
Zelo počasi plavam.
Čutim, kako plava on,
tu in tam se obregnem ob rob.
Ko obrnem in ob koncu dolžine
vidim roko, ki me dohiteva
in je nežna v vodi
in je skoraj, kot da me bo pobožala.
tako da sem zdaj nekoliko
čez sredino bazena,
plavam hitreje, tekmujeva.
Voda so naenkrat trdi,
tesno zloženi, v folijo oviti,
podolgovati paketi – besedila?
Srdito plezam čeznje,
glasba igra in paše,
paketi so zdaj majhni prepognjeni
popisani lističi, ki valovijo v vodi,
s telesom valovim z njimi, skoznje –
On sedi na koncu bazena,
naslonjen na podlahti,
trebuh soncu nastavlja,
noge v lističih.
Povzpnem se nanj,
slonim na njegovem velikem torzu,
v vodi zdaj plavajo folije
Na eni se nekaj izpiše,
veva, kaj je, se nasmehneva.
Na prsi mu začnem lepiti:
nekaj črk moram poiskati,
vse so na dosegu rok.
Crutches / Bergle
Not into the spasm of dreams where wings grow out of your cramp,
not into the moment where sleep has not yet faded,
but into a time after, when you hardly know any more
that you’d slept and that you have to start your day already, do something.
As there then, the poem
here as well.
Ne v krč sanj, kjer ti iz zategnine izraščajo krila,
ne v trenutek, kjer sen ravnokar še ni zbledel,
temveč v čas zatem, ko skoraj več ne veš,
da si spal in bi že moral začeti dan, početi nekaj.
Takrat tam, torej tu
Multiwriter / Mnogopisec
How come you don’t despair over every line?
Because it’s the source of your power?
What surface does your hand rest on
when it’s not signing your name?
Kako, da ne obupavaš nad vsako vrstico?
Kaj je vir tvoje oblasti?
Na kateri podlagi počiva tvoja roka,
ko ne podpisuje?
Pierced Princesses / Prebodene kraljične
He’s one of those guys
they want to be porn stars.
They push against walls with their heads
and stick their asses out,
to fuck them.
Then they gasp with pleasure.
that they feel a weird prick
when you slam it in all the way.
Dyed long hair,
faces littered with isolated hairs.
They turn away.
Towards the wall, the sheets, the ceiling.
Necks stretching over the edge of the bed
and towards the window,
their tendons bulging.
They’re trying to catch the Moon with wide open mouths.
That’s when they seem beautiful.
When they’re beautiful.
When they’re perfect-bodied angels.
All tense and soft and happy.
That’s when their
black hair shines,
like dizzy crows
on the dewy fields of Cmurek.
To je eden tistih tipov,
da bi bili porno zvezde.
Tišijo glave v zidove,
riti pa v zrak
in te prosijo,
da jih pofukaš.
Potem hropejo od užitka.
da jih čudno zbode,
ko jim ga zarineš do konca.
Pobarvani dolgi lasje,
z osamelimi kocinami posuti obrazi.
Proč se obračajo.
V zid, v rjuho, v strop.
Čez rob postelje
k oknu iztegnjeni vratovi,
izbočene kite na njih.
Luno lovijo s široko odprtimi usti.
Takrat je, ko se zazdijo lepi.
Ko so lepi.
Ko so angeli popolnih teles.
Vsi napeti in mehki in srečni.
Njihovi črni lasje
se lesketajo takrat
kot omotične vrane
na rosnih cmureških poljih.
The Modesty of Minorities / Skromnost manjšin
They ask very little space for themselves.
They counter the noise of verbosity
with a truer noise –
the terrible density of a calm word.
Zase zahtevajo zelo malo prostora.
Hrupu mnogobesedja zoperstavijo
resničnejši hrup —
grozno gostoto umirjene besede.
Power / Oblast
the member, members, or even wings
growing out of your
cramp, your bulge,
your snag, your knot –
do you know the opposite
situations where the spear slides
inward through pain and the brow outward
– the brow the mouth the anus?
In the end, is not this physical origin of words
merely bad posture?
Which reminds me of your double: Ana,
the name of extreme effort to keep upright.
Between the spasm of her erectness
and the wings of your stooped posture
lies a buzzing nest of
of musculature folding in upon itself
the twitching cog
uda, udov ali celo kril,
ki ti rastejo iz
zaskočenosti, vozla —
ustrezna stanja, ko kopje zleze
skozi bolečino not in čelo ven,
— čelo usta anus?
Ni to fizično izhodišče besedja
ob svojem zaključku le slaba drža?
Kar me spomni na tvojo dvojnico: Ano,
ime skrajnega napora za pokončno držo.
Med krčem njene pokončne
in krili tvoje sključene drže
tiči brneče gnezdo
vase vijočega se mišičja
What then? / Torej kaj?
To confess one’s powerlessness and have a laugh at its expense?
How will we coordinate our tiny cohabitations, surely not as a state?
Our military parlances don’t correspond to the bureaucratic hell we’re stuck in.
Priznati svojo nemoč in se malo ponorčevati iz tega?
Kako bomo organizirali svoja mala sobivanja, menda ne kot državo?
Naša vojaška besedišča ne ustrezajo birokratskemu blatu, v katerem tičimo.
MMORPG / MMORPG
For three days I worked
for three days I sat
not sleeping and not eating
to buy myself a horse
and defeat the enemy company
this is my song
this is my life
the toilet’s too far
I open the window
and piss onto the street
from a bus
you gaze at my wrinkled dick
how beautifully we’re both lit
I love you.
Tri dni sem delal
tri dni sedel
nisem spal in nisem jedel
da sem kupil konja
in porazil sovražno četo
to je moja pesem
to je moj lajf
stranišče je predaleč
in ščijem na cesto
se zazreš v mojega nagubanega tiča
kako lepo sva oba osvetljena
rad te imam.
Crypto-cripple / KRIPTOKRIPL
The beauty of language doesn’t lie in articulation –
the very word sounds like clumsy shooting –
if there’s one place where there’s no beauty it’s there.
The beauty of violence doesn’t lie in describing the violence.
The beauty lies in revealing the language as violence,
violence that enrages itself
and spreads open your pelvis,
Lepota jezika ni v artikulaciji –
že sama beseda zveni kot nerodno streljanje –
če je kje ni, potem tam.
Lepota nasilja ni v popisovanju nasilja.
Lepota je v razgrnitvi jezika kot nasilja,
ki se razkači
in ti razpre medenico,
Print / TISK
I’m a factory
an open code
a hungry structure
the end of reading
at total production
of the infinite
Crypto-cripple / KRIPTOKRIPL
By describing violence one at most perpetrates
violence against violence, and violence doesn’t deserve that.
Lower violences should remain confined to statistics reports and experiences.
But our violence should beat
on your bones,
V popisovanju nasilja se kvečjemu izvaja
nasilje nad nasiljem in nasilje si tega ne zasluži.
Nižja nasilja sodijo v statistike, reportaže in doživetja.
Naše nasilje pa mora tolči
po tvojih kosteh,
Name / Ime
The identity of change
is the agility of the word.
The imprecision of naming
Speed is worthless.
But it does come.
je gibkost besede.
Hitrost ni nič vredna.
The Kindest Pleasure / The Kindest Pleasure
Lay on your chest and stick letters to them.
To make sentences
that we’d laugh at.
Then you’ll lift me up,
hold me tight
and stick your fat cock inside me.
Laughter will burst from my lips.
I’ll be nothing but your end.
Posedal na tvojih prsih in lepil črke nanje.
Da bodo stavki,
ki se jim bova smejala.
Potem me boš dvignil,
in zaril svojega debelega kurca vame.
Smeh bo izbruhnil iz mojih ust.
Ves bom tvoj konec.
The House Drowned / HIŠA JE UTOPILA
The cellar was not under the house.
And the sky not on top of it.
Water lapped at the edges.
Everything was across.
It would almost be better to be without.
Or at least to grasp at walls.
Or at least to slide through the window.
Not to sleep.
Kleti ni bilo pod hišo.
In neba ne na njej.
Voda je oblivala robove.
Vse je bilo počez.
Bilo bi skoraj bolje biti brez.
Ali se vsaj prijeti za stene.
Ali vsaj zdrkniti skozi okno.
Ne pa spati.
A burned body writhes
on a blistering angled rock
it grabs its salty sunburned skin
with rapid movements across the chest, the midriff and the thighs
it hooks itself by the neck
grab grab grab
pushes firmly against the anus.
A black sun
a muted beep stretches out and
long greasy threads across the horizon.
Impaled sea urchins
slime blood wasps
warm sea sperm
oozes out of yellow roe.
We wash it off in the sea
cut the lemon
Ožgano telo se zvija
na razbeljeni poševni skali
se grabi za slano ogorelo kožo
s hitrimi gibi čez prsi in trebuh in stegna
se zakači za vrat
grab grab grab
močno pritisne na anus.
pridušeni pisk se razvleče in
dolge mastne niti čez obzorje.
sluz kri ose
iz rumenih jajčec se pocedi
topla morska sperma.
Spereva jo v morju
I miss you so much,
which is the impossibility of the meeting
between what I’m not and
what I should become.
Tako zelo te pogrešam,
kar je nemoč srečanja
tega, kar nisem, s tem,
kar bi moral postati.
This is the space-body
the inverted body
Creating working conditions
sated, sated, more
total absence of hunger –
everything fucked up
but it’s going well –
and the realization that investments are being made
as blood runs on the streets –
the embarrassment of saying blood –
creation of conditions, that is,
working to make work possible
acquisition of resources
built, organized, transferred
for the production
sources, look, look at him!
he has something, he wants,
he’ll figure it out, tie down
this house so that it won’t
slide around so freely.
To je prostor-telo
Ustvarjanje pogojev za delo
sit, sit, več
popolna odsotnost lakote –
vse v kurcu,
ampak ne gre slabo –
in zavedanjem, da se investira,
kot teče kri na ulicah –
sram reči kri –
ustvarjanje pogojev, torej
delati za možnost dela
gradil, organiziral, premeščal
viri, vidiš, vidiš on!
on nekaj ima, on hoče,
pogruntal bo, privezal to
hišo, da ne bo tako