Asja Bakić

Croatia

Asja Bakić (1982) was born in Tuzla, but she currently lives and works in Zagreb. She graduated from University of Tuzla where she obtained a degree in Bosnian language and literature. Bakić has published a book of poetry It Can Be a Cactus, as Long as it Stings (Aora, Zagreb, 2009), which was nominated for literary award Kiklop in the category best first book in 2010. She writes a blog In the Realm of Melancholy (asjaba.com) and is one of the editors and authors of Muff (muf.com.hr), web page dedicated to feminist reading of popular culture. She translates literature from English, French German and Spanish to Croatian. Some of the names she translated are Emily Dickinson, Henri Michaux, Alejandra Pizarnik, Klaus Mann, Emil Cioran and Jacques Rancière. In addition to poetry, non-fiction texts and essays, Asja Bakić writes short stories. One of them was included in the anthology of younger prose writers Without doors, without knocking (2012). Bakić’s short fiction Mars will be released in early 2015.


Talking about Bakić’s book It Can Be a Cactus, as Long as it Stings, we may ask ourselves: "What are the similarities between poetry and a cactus?" In the case of her poetry the answer is simple: "They both sting." The validity of this comparison, other than by the book’s title, is established by the verses of the poem How to Become a Satirist in which Bakić’s lyrical heroine gives the recipe for a distinctive approach to writing: wasp should be eaten, then "spit the wings up / and leave the sting on the tip of the tongue". Result? Mostly very short, precise and very humorous poems, which do not allow for any doubt about what the poet wanted to say. Instead, they sting directly, usually with impressive punch lines. Simplicity of writing is combined with masterfully faceted satire. In Asja Bakić’s poetry no one is spared of the ridicule, and least of all a poet herself.

 

Politics and sexuality are poet’s favorite subject matters. The first one is usually bypassed by poetry that tries to keep its hands clean, but in her writing Asja is interested in a different type of hygiene, and so she summons politics in the poetry ring without any fear. She approaches sexuality also from a perspective of the heavyweights: ingrained intimacy has been replaced by porn picture that, contrary to expectations, always leaves "room for more" (Introduction to Pornography). In an interview the author once gave, she explained why she gives the pornography a precedence over the erotica: "I, for example, take more pleasure in pornographic dealings with prohibitions then in the way erotica sweeps the problems under the rug, because pornography corresponds much better with feminism that wants to expose patriarchy then with the eroticism that has found ways to enjoy in it".

 

Topics of politics and pornography are therefore characterized by a distinct awareness that they are spoken about from the position of the female subject, and so the poetry of Asja Bakić can be read as a feminist and written in an especially engaged way, using the means of irony and demystification to break stereotypes and defend itself from banality. It Can Be a Cactus, as Long as it Stings is thus a collection of poems ready for duels, one which carefully polishes its blade pointed toward the world, but accepts the reader friendly. Other than a few stitches, readers are mostly going to get bursts of laughs. Talking about Asja’s book, literary critic Slađan Lipovec pointed out the subject of identity and language in the author's poetry and the fact that her poems never submit to purism and exclusivity: "She creates her own identity using collaging as a dominant process, and with her poetical testimony she ranks herself among ex-Yugoslavian authors who do not strive to separation, flatness and purity of ex-YU languages, but write supranational works, with the awareness that these languages understand each other".

 

In her newer poems, published on the Internet, poet retains a distinctive tone, but the poems are now slightly longer and Bakić has a noticeable tendency to play with language rhythm, and even with the rhyme, which she uses in a very innovative way. Rhyme, among other things, serves to amplify the comedic and sharp quality of Asja Bakić’s poetry. These new poems and texts testify that Bakić’s creativity is still without a compromise.