Uroš Prah

Slovenia

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.