Kristina Hočevar

Slovenia

Kristina Hočevar (1977) is a poet and graduate of Slovene Language and General Linguistics at the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts. She has written five books of poetry: V pliš (Into Plush, Cankarjeva založba 2004), Fizični rob (The Physical Edge, Cankarjeva založba 2007), Repki (Tails, Škuc 2008), Nihaji (Oscillations, Cankarjeva založba 2009) and Na zobeh aluminij, na ustnicah kreda (Aluminium on Teeth, Chalk on Lips, Škuc 2012). Tails received the Golden Bird Award and was nominated for the Veronika Award. Aluminium on Teeth, Chalk on Lips won the Jenko Prize awarded by the Slovene Writers’ Association. Her poetry has been translated into English, Polish, Hebrew, Hungarian, etc. The voice of Hočevar’s poetry is among the most spirited and dynamic on the Slovenian literary scene while also remaining sensitive and socially conscious.


“The voice of Kristina Hočevar’s poetry is among those rare and singular voices on the Slovenian literary scene that are spirited and dynamic while also remaining sensitive and socially conscious,” wrote the jury that awarded Kristina Hočevar the Golden Bird Award for exceptional literary achievements.

 

Since 2004, when she stepped into the light with poetry book Into Plush, Kristina Hočevar has made a name for herself as a powerful, astute author with a recognisable poetics and an original voice.

 

If the style of Kristina Hočevar’s first book of poetry is distinctly direct and marked by open structures, her second book, The Physical Edge (2007) is told from a somewhat greater distance and conceptual in its design. However, in spite of their differences, the two books have a common foundation, as explained by the author in one of her interviews: “Both books have the same basic starting point from which they take on other, broader issues, motifs, themes – and the starting point is the relationship between two women.” However, Hočevar’s poetry, while stemming from the private, also reaches the public sphere: In an age where there’s too much and too little of everything, where spears / Still clash, though thoughts are more worrisome than objects, / We are the most polluted of all, as waters, breath, flesh are polluted.

 

Hočevar’s third book of poetry, Tails, was nominated for the Veronika Award and received the aforementioned Golden Bird Award. In the justification, the award’s jury wrote: “Hočevar infuses poetry with the dimension of active citizenship, which is not a given but can rather only be reached in our daily lives through a series of conflicts, disagreements and dissidences. Such actions are an integral part of Hočevar’s voice, elevating her poetry from mere wallowing in general opinion and from flattering of literary predecessors and contemporaries (which cannot really be expected of a person with irreversible understanding), and making it a nuanced, sensitive sublimation of concrete experience. The poetry of Kristina Hočevar exhibits an awareness that the “world or reality are not accessed directly – instead, we’re always dealing with mediated social constructs.”

 

However, one would be wrong to reduce Hočevar’s poetry to its social justice dimension. It is instead always founded in the intimate, which, although something of an antipode to the social, is never unequivocal or unproblematic: everything’s going to be fine once I can believe you again, she says. / I know it’s irreversible, trust and faith / never return to the same state. the relationship becomes conditional. / the suspicion is never extracted.

 

Literary critic Goran Dekleva thus describes Tails as a book of poems, or rather short poetic fragments, which, “despite the sting of their evident social critique, always speak as an irreconcilable, painful and, above all, unique narrative of a complex intimate relationship or, as we read at a certain point in the book, a narrative of random punches.” Hočevar’s Oscillations (Cankarjeva založba, 2009) also deal with the connections between everyday events, encounters and emotional oscillations, through which the author explores questions of personal identity and interpersonal relationships.

 

The poetry of Kristina Hočevar is a precise articulation of all the complexities of the relationship between the public and the private. The author is unrelenting both in her social critique and in confrontations with her personal intimacy. Aluminium on Teeth, Chalk on Lips (Škuc, 2012), Hočevar’s fifth book of poetry, won the Jenko Prize, awarded by the Slovene Writers’ Association to the best poetry book of the past two years. The book’s critique and overcoming of conventional social and literary patterns begins at the formal level. As stated by Vanesa Matajc in her afterword to the book: “Collocations of words and arrangements of verses in the bookspace open ambivalences and contradictions: they’re de-familiarizing.” And the book’s de-familiarization and questioning of the conventional, its destabilisation of borders and prejudices, its resistance against mental and social structures, is precisely what allows the book to break free from all this.

 

Hočevar’s poetry is anything but comforting. The pressure can be felt even at the level of literary language, with enjambments and silences, a choppy rhythm, a minimal expression with precise metaphors and symbols. This is a poetry that overcomes clichés, even at the level of language, and opens issues, particularly those that we usually prefer to avoid in order to satisfy social conventions. The poetics of Kristina Hočevar is extremely convincing as it creates a personal language and a unique system of metaphors and forces the reader to rethink and overcome his stereotypical ideas, including those about poetry itself.

 

Speaking of Hočevar’s poetry, literary critic Mojca Pišek wrote the following: “Talking about poetry, one of the things we can say is that we can never get to the bottom of it or that we should at least disregard its essence. However, this is not a real possibility in the case of Kristina Hočevar, as each one of her poetic fractals points to its own incorporation in the whole, in the essence of its world that determines every ‘situation record.’ The intimate, as well as social, foundation of Hočevar’s poetry is the lesbian voice living out its fragile intimate disposition within a strong social one, while recounting, though of course not for the first time in Slovenian poetry, a triangle of female protagonists […] and its erotic, loving, intimate relationships that at the same time speak of the inescapable social framework of intimacy and represent a living metaphor for the social power of art.”