Alen Bešić (1975, Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina), received a B.A. and an M.A. in Serbian Literature and Language from the Faculty of Philosophy, Novi Sad University. Besides a poet, he is a literary critic, essayist, and translator from English. Since 2007 he has been the chief editor of the literary magazine Polja in Novi Sad where he lives.
U filigranu rez (The Cut in Filigree, Knjizevna omladina Srbije, Beograd, 1999)
Nacin dima (The Manner of the Smoke, NB “Stefan Prvovencani”, Kraljevo, 2004)
Golo srce (A Naked Heart, NB “Stefan Prvovenčani”, Kraljevo, 2012)
Hronika sitnica (The Chronicle of Trifles, JU “Ratkoviceve veceri poezije”, Bijelo Polje, 2014)
Essays and literary criticism:
Lavirinti citanja (The Labyrinths of Reading, Agora, Zrenjanin, 2006)
Neponovljivi obrazac (The Unrepeatable Pattern, Sluzbeni glasnik, Beograd, 2012)
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (Siroko Sargasko more, Agora, 2006)
Jamaica Kincaid, At the Bottom of the River (Na dnu reke, Agora, 2008)
Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy (Lusi, Agora, 2008)
Bozidar Jezernik et al, Imagining ‘the Turk’ (with Igor Cvijanovic, Imaginarni Turcin, Biblioteka XX vek, 2010)
Jamaica Kincaid, The Autobiography of my Mother (Autobiografija moje majke, Agora, 2010)
Annie E. Proulx, Fine Just the Way It Is (Potaman, Agora, 2010)
Joyce Carol Oats, A Fair Maiden (Lepotica, Agora, 2010)
Catherine Baker, Sounds of the Borderland (with Igor Cvijanovic, Zvuci granice, Biblioteka XX vek, 2011)
John Ralston Saul, Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World (with Igor Cvijanovic, Propast globalizma i preoblikovanje sveta, Arhipelag, 2011)
John Fowles, Mantissa (Mantisa, Agora, 2011)
Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill (Na crnom bregu, Agora, 2013)
Jamaica Kincaid, See Now Then (Gle Sad Onda, Agora, 2014)
Tony Hoagland, Don’t Tell Anybody: Selected Poetry (Nemoj reci nikome: Izabrane pesme, NB “Stefan Prvovencani”, 2015)
Teju Cole, Open City (Otvoreni grad, Dereta, 2016)
Derek Wallcot, Map of the New World: selected poetry (with Marija Bergam, Mapa Novog sveta: Izabrane pesme, KCNS, 2017)
Anne Carson, Short Talks (Kratka slova, NB “Stefan Prvovencani”, 2018)
Max Porter, Grief is a Thing with Feather (Tuga je pernato stvorenje, Dereta, 2018)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen (Gradjanin, Sluzbeni glasnik, 2018)
Association of Writers of Vojvodina Award for translation of the year (2011)
"Branko Miljkovic" Award for the best poetry book published in Serbia in 2012.
"Risto Ratkovic" Regional Award for the best poetry book published in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro in 2012.
“Miloš N. Djuric” Award for the best poetry book translated in Serbia in 2015
A HEART OF GOLD
The world of poetry created by Alen Bešić can also be accessed via a virtual side entrance provided by Facebook. Namely, on this social platform, the poet has a profile under the name of “Alen Emigrant”, which can by no means be a mere linguistic exercise in identity mystification common in virtual spaces, but actually a more accurate existential code for an understanding of the world and life which has been designated nomadic. Therefore, it is a precarious and fluid identity (or identities) caused by fin the siècle epochal changes which do not so much entail an increased mobility, though it undoubtedly plays a part, but actually ideological and political, as much as cultural, disintegration and demise of civilisations and values which shaped the socio-political reality of the twentieth century. Thus, it was not only a network of wars and atrocities that an individual cannot disentangle themselves from wherever on the planet they may be, but it was also the (ab)use of culture and ideals which precedes and prepares the terrain for those wars – all of this together has led to the contemporary poet and the subject of contemporary poetry being distanced from any idea of collectivism. So, the point is not to escape, even if it was possible to make an escape from language, and consequently from poetry; the point is to constantly be on the run – from one poem to another – but to continue looking back at what is left behind. And on the other side of the emotional and psychological line there is the modern Romanticist yearning for cities scattered over space and time, cities where we are not and where we will never be.
Thus, the subject of this poetry is permanently suspended in the existential in-between space, and, in a sense, the in-between time, in an eternal inherent discrepancy characterised by melancholy (sorrow for something that cannot be named), doubting, self-questioning, as well as a longing for an ideal unity of self and language, words and things (“you never side with either words or things”).
The quoted verse is – perhaps subconsciously, perhaps unwittingly – one of the key insights of this poetry. Three books of poetry by this author, all of them comparably thin, published cautiously, widely spaced – The Cut in Filigree (1997), The Manner of the Smoke (2004), and A Naked Heart (2012) – display a patient, strict, careful and linguistically economic progress towards this verse, this realisation. However, a series of questions arise: what could this verse mean; which movement of spirit precedes it; and what is new and essential about it, what is the irreplaceable contribution that this verse and this poet have made to the contemporary appreciation of poetry and, by extension, of us today?
A precise answer to these questions requires a brief contextual appraisal of contemporary poetry and its thematic preoccupations. Turning to the context and themes inevitably leads to a consideration of the radical ontological change in literature and poetry occasioned by postmodernism at the end of the last and beginning of this century as well as to the questions and issues which are thematised by almost all contemporary poets and can be summed up in a few textbook and seemingly simple themes such as the meaning and reason of poetry, the problem of language in general and language of poetry in particular, or the relation of linguistic and non-linguistic realities. In other words, it seems that the most important theme of poetry today is – poetry itself! It is virtually impossible to find a distinguished poet today whose poetry is not also a justification, defence even, of poetry before the world. However, this is not a defence in the sense of apology but a defence which is another name for the abovementioned gap between the self and language, words and things; it is about the awareness of the impossibility of bridging that gap, it is about the awareness of the unbridgeable gap. If the postmodern era in the field of humanities was distinctly marked by French poststructuralism, which, put simply, deconstructed and ideologized everything that could be ideologized, and which elevated to too high a plane the awareness of political dimension of every word in every language, then poetry today, as a voice of powerlessness, entirely human powerlessness – has to stand in opposition to that voice of power, the language of deconstruction and ideologization, and it has to protect the awareness and the possibility of that powerlessness. And that powerlessness implies, amongst other things, naïve faith in the oneness of word and thing, and in innocence and purity of words, which of course is not possible nor attainable: “(…) Even though / in your capillaries you are taming the terror and reining in the mad gallop / of your heart, you know that what you write will not even make the flame on the candle / flicker. Unmoved the gold thread will remain. / As if before a dead man’s lip.”
The ending of the long poem titled A Naked Heart, one of the new century’s most significant books of Serbian poetry, but also of that written in the entire former Serbo-Croatian speaking region, thus, confronts the reader, the poet and poetry with an image in which the poetry and the pursuit of poetry resemble applying make-up to a dead man’s face. The final section, and the poem as a whole, do not necessarily bespeak of the present moment; rather they are a sum of a poetic experience, thereby conferring on their attitudes and insights a more universal dimension. However, the poem’s contemporaneity and its rootedness in the here and now and existential experience of these destitute times must not be underestimated. For even though this is not the first time in the history of poetry that a poet questions the purpose of pursuing poetry, every time the question arises before him, it is rendered more dramatic and traumatic owing to the experience of his antecedents. At first it appears that there is no answering this question but only advancing towards or retreating before it: “(…) With the hesitant hand, down the margin / of the stanza, you place an invisible plumb line. At the right angle / the line of seriousness and the curve of passion want to meet, creating / a porous rampart along which ambiguity instead of the sea / will be drawing crenelles of salt. Hunched over the manuscript like over / the chessboard, from countless possibilities how can one choose / the spiralling, all-encompassing one which in a random gambit already / the tempestuous geometry of consequences till the final outcome / foresees?”
This question is, thus, the centre towards which all thematic circles of this poetry gravitate. They are actually very few and all amount to the questions of (nomadic) identity, relationship to the other, entering the Mediterranean cultural circle with the subtopic of the summer, sea and the learned dialogue with a number of poets and artists from all eras and all quarters of the world (eyes of some of them even watch us as we read A Naked Heart). However, the dynamism of this oeuvre does not derive from its wide thematic scope but from its lexical, stylistic, and poetic merits. The first book, despite its occasional thematic narrowness, which might undoubtedly be partly attributed to the lack of life experience, already displays a remarkable and painstaking effort of crafting language. Mining for the right word, the poet reaches for the lexicon of the old poetry, which can also be interpreted as an escape into poetry and an attempt to find in it a sanctuary from the traumatic socio-political reality of the second half of the 1990s. Even though the traces of this lexicon can still be found in the next book, a considerably wider circle of cultural and historical themes of this book occasioned a more modern and richer lexicon, leading finally to the fully matured lexical expanse of A Naked Heart, completely free of superfluous layers of earlier eras and conspicuous erudition. The first two phases described in this language development cannot be easily distinguished in this selection because the poems are ordered differently in the first part of the book. What can be seen, though, from the first to the last poem, is the effort to endow individual poems with form and language particular to every one of them. In other words, whereas in the first two books his poetic effort is focused on individual poems, it is in A Naked Heart that the poet allows his poems to realise their full potential and to step out of their boundaries, resonating within a larger poetic whole. The same development can be observed at the level of meaning: there is no l'art pour l'art nor self-centred linguistic experimentation; every poem has to express something, it needs to be rounded off with a point. The semantic stress is always placed at the end of the poem, and it invariably takes the form of linguistic transformation of unmediated reality and life experience into a metaphysical insight. Examples abound: “It is only in the absence of the City that I comprehend the City. A shot in the thick of silence. April.” in the poem titled “A Treatise on Karst”; “A chronicle of fragments. / Enough to fill a lifetime.” in the poem “My Time is Fragmented, Capriccio“; or “Our houses built on sand, / our hope, like cuckoo’s egg, in poetry / is placed.” in the poem “Exiled into This Room.” Every closing stanza or passage involves a shift and a turning point, but also a rising movement: verses which carefully “analyse” the topic from various angles are followed by a “conclusion” which at once confirms the analysis and sometimes in a barely perceptible flash of language subverts it at least once or redirects it or opens it to yet another interpretative possibility. This is meticulously supported by the example of “My Time is Fragmented, Capriccio”, in which the poet admits that everything disappears with time, even words will be gone, and with them poetry, too. What remains, says the poet, like pollen on our fingers, is a handful of images from our life – some of them are, then, listed in the poem – which are actually personal experiences of the lyric subject and at first appear not to have any meaning beyond that. However, what follows in the closing line, quoted above, is the elevation of the emotional and psychological development onto the plane of expression of personal poetics which, contrary to the previously expressed doubt in the durability of words, not only “justifies” the poet’s own pursuit of poetry, but reminds of the way in which the coordinates of intimate microcosm are formed in each and every one of us. At that moment the Pag Island cheese and the pine needles on the young skin of edible boletes become everyone’s images, because everyone treasures such images within themselves.
Regarding this poem, it is interesting to note the use of the first person singular, which is not that frequent in this oeuvre. A comparably even use of the first and second persons to address (himself) represents a distinctly dynamic thread which emphasises the instability of the lyric subject of this poetry, and finds its interesting and innovative solution in A Naked Heart. Rather than heading for the conclusion of the poem “At the Kanagawa Coast”: “Sometimes I think that / the whole point is this: while the sun / rises, more than one name / to have”, the second person seems to be about the poet addressing the Poet within himself. The dialogue and tension between the poet and the Poet, like the split between words and things, remains unresolved, but those “conflicts” are never resolved anyway.
And the reason for that is in essence very simple: the poet does not want to renounce life – watered wine, rose petal jam or the girl who is stroking a sleeping cat on the island of Rhodes, while at the same time the poet knows that such a life would be incomplete, that it would not be fulfilled without poetry whose honey, or gold, or light occasionally ennoble him. Near the end of the poem “occasionally” from A Naked Heart, in the section just before the line “you never side with either words or things”, it is said: “(…) and again you will be forced / to learn how to speak gently to the world, and without irony / imagine that in the narrow space between two / people in love, two intertwined bodies, occasionally, / indeed God dwells.” This is an extremely important place, actually a sort of metaphysical-religious fortochka of both this poem and the whole oeuvre. In connection with that, it is necessary to bear in mind the following two observations: God in the poem does not precede life and the world, and therefore is not the starting point against which all subsequent forms of life are measured, but God rather comes after the experience of life and, more importantly, after the experience of love, love being the only force capable of linking incompatibles; God needs to be understood and “read” precisely as a metaphysical authority that through most mysterious ways unites that which has been separated, and should not be interpreted through any canonical or Orthodox Christian or any other key. Of equal importance is the title word – “occasionally” – indicating that God is not the only solution, the only conclusion of the line quoted early in the text: he appears only occasionally, and at all other times another name has to be found for that unnameable encounter. Poetry is precisely the quest rather than the conclusion, and Alen’s poetry, most of all the magisterial long poem A Naked Heart, demonstrates that point convincingly. The trace left by the poet on that track is the gold thread found at the end of this long poem. And that thread leads to the shiniest vein and the largest nugget or, as that great artist has put it – a heart of gold.
Written by Marjan Čakarević.
Arcadia / Arkadija
... on return from Euphemia, the city
in where memories are exchanged for
every summer solstice and every equinox...
--Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
(transl. by William Weaver)
There's a city, Euphemia, eighty miles in the direction
of the north wind. There have markets there. I exchanged
all my memories, readings, dreams for a single remembrance:
There was a city. And a square with a cathedral.
Soon the citizens began to decorate it.
But they were poor architects. With fountains dry —
The square had not been seen for who knows how long.
Only imagined in darkness. They were expecting a miracle.
During a brief ceasefire a woman emerged from below and was
suddenly shocked. (Almost lost her life.) A picture emerges:
All is softer. Grey.
There is a clock (slumped
on the cathedral) as in
a cartoon, or,
as though Dali were to tell
From the corner of my eye I can spot
a stain onto which shines the world’s egg–
cracked – a Lotus flower. I hold my head still.
I close my eyes and think:
Arcadia with eight petals.
In spite of everything. A time of miracles.
I recall Da Vinci,
One should paint the way smoke does,
this city – all filigree,
this city – all cobweb,
Sarajevo.Translated by Biljana D. Obradović
…u povratku iz Eufemije, grada u kome se
razmenjuju uspomene na svaku dugodnevicu
i na svaku ravnodnevicu...
Italo Kalvino, Nevidljivi gradovi
Ima grad Eufemija, na osamdeset milja u pravcu
vjetra maestrala. Ima pijaca. Razmijenio sam sva
svoja sjećanja, čitanja, snove za jednu uspomenu:
Bio grad. I trg sa katedralom.
A onda ga stali ukrašavati.
Ne-imari. Suhim fontanama,
Trg nije gledan ko zna koliko dugo.
Zamišljan u tami. Očekivano je čudo.
U zamrlom času poklonjen mu je
pogled. (Umalo i život.) Izranja slika:
Sve je umekšano. Sivo.
I ima jedan sat (klonuo,
na katedrali) kao iz
crtanog filma, ili,
kao da Dali tumači
Krajičkom oka nazirem stepenik
na kom se blista jaje svijeta –
raspuklo – Lotos. Ne pomjeram glavu.
Sklapam oči i pomišljam:
Arkadija od osam latica.
Uprkos svemu. Vrijeme čudā.
Prisjećam se Da Vinčija:
trebalo bi slikati načinom dima,
Marrakesh / Marakeš
No mirror ever became iron again;
No bread ever became wheat;
No ripened grape ever became sour fruit.
Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse.
Become the light.
--Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
In this archipelago from a multi-colored rug, my Marrakesh women’s hands, painted with henna, dance over baskets filled with okra, myrtle, cinnamon.
A lemon from a red tree grows on one woman’s palm. Ivy weaves around fingers. Spirals hide the ancient Berber tales. A nail encircled by a Rubaiyat. A fountain from a cold yard of a Sufi zawiya is bursting from a knuckle of a dark haired girl.
Below the life line of an old woman—from whom I’ve just bought a bunch of dry figs—appear a bunch of tiny images of her under a handful of change she gives back to you. Having taken the change, you realize that from her hand the eye of God is staring at you, filled with tears of sesame. Quickly you stuff the coins into your pocket and bolt into the crowd. But you know that it’s too late and that you’ve been identified.
Connected implosions echo within you. You gather yourself up like a necklace, suddenly ripped into pieces in a movie played in reverse, reassembled without damage, as the clank of pearls on a marble floor fades in a second. As you fall, ecstatic, into the sand of Marrakesh, you forget the autumnal slaughter of heather on the hills above a Scottish lake, and your tongue is lively. You and God remain transcendent, nameless, irretrievable.
Marrakesh women’s hands, painted with henna, invite you and lull you as if a child.
The minaret of a mosque enflamed cuts in half the black sun.
 Rubaiyat - from Arabic rubā'īyah, from rubā'īy consisting of four elements; a traditional Persian verse form consisting of a collection of quatrains, typically rhyming aaba, a verse form consisting of four-line stanzas.
 Zawiya - is an Islamic religious school or monastery, like a Madrasa.Translated by Biljana D. Obradović
Nijedno ogledalo ne postade gvožđe opet;
Ni hljeb žito;
Ni zrelo grožđe zeleni plod.
Sazrij i budi siguran od promjene na gore.
-- Mevlana Dželaludin Rumi
U ovom arhipelagu od šarenih ćilima, ruke marakeških žena, oslikane kanom, igraju kroz košare sa bamijama, mirtom, cimetom.
Limun raste, na dlanu, iz crvenog stabla. Oko prstiju plete se bršljan. Spirale skrivaju drevne berberske basme. Rubaijom uokviren nokat. Šadrvan iz hladovitog dvorišta sufijske tekije pršće sa zglavka tamnopute djevojke.
Linija života jedne staramajke (od koje si upravo kupio pregršt suvih smokava – pregršt njenih minijaturnih lica) ukazuje se ispod hrpe sitniša što ti pruža. Uzevši novčiće, shvataš da te iz njene šake netremice gleda oko Boga, uplakano od susama. Brzo trpaš kovanice u džep i zaranjaš u gužvu. Ali znaš da je već kasno i da si pročitan.
Lančane implozije muklo odjekuju u tebi. Skupljaš se, kao kad se ogrlica, naglo raskinuta, u filmu puštenom unazad, sastavi bez rane i zveka perli po mermernom podu umine na mah. Dok padaš, u zanosu, u pijesak Marakeša, zaboravljaš jesenji pokolj vrijesa na brdima oko škotskih jezera, čili iz tebe jezik. Ostajete sami, Bog i Ti – današnji, bezimeni, nepovratni.
Ruke marakeških žena, oslikane kanom, primaju te i uljuljkuju poput djeteta.
Minaret jedne mošeje u plamenu rasjeca crno sunce napola.
In the Perfect Order of a Familiar Room / U savršenom redu poznate sobe
Before you depart the perfect order of a familiar room,
you make a mess. Or just the illusion of a mess.
To an unfamiliar eye those cracks won’t mean anything.
You slant your profile on the wall. One face always stares
at another. Beyond you.
On the shelf you scramble prose with poetry.
(This time, the yellow back of Carver’s Poems
jammed between volumes of Proust.)
The paper knife has sliced into an uncut sheet,
not finished being read yet.
The pencil has been only half sharpened.
All the talismans have been polished. Evidence
left behind. When you return (or awaken),
they will be the only lure
with which you will be able to catch yourself
between the fragile fissure of what you used to be
and what you will have become.
For the minuscule part of what you are now.Translated by Biljana D. Obradović
Pred odlazak, u savršenom redu poznate sobe,
praviš nered. Privid nereda.
Nenaviknutom oku te pukotine ne govore ništa.
Nakrivljuješ profil na zidu. Lice zagledano
uvijek u drugog. Mimo tebe.
Na polici izmiješaš prozu i poeziju.
(Ovog puta, žuti hrbat Karverovih Pesama
umetnut između tomova Prusta.)
Nož za papir uronjen u nerazrezan tabak,
Olovka zaoštrena dopola.
Talismani su posijani. Ostavljeni
tragovi. Kad se vratiš (ili probudiš),
oni će biti jedine udice
kojima ćeš moći da se zakačiš za
krhki procijep između onoga što si bio
i onoga što ćeš biti.
Za tanušno sada onog što jesi.
My Time Has Grown Short, Capriccio / Usitnjeno je moje vrijeme, kapričo
My time has grown short. Every second
conceals an ocean. Now, I exist for abstentions
and the unexpressed. All I know, I know from books.
In these oases of revered emptiness
I deposit urns of ashes, with many
of my own Is.
Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but so do
words. Poetry—an irretrievable letter. A random
image, a little pollen on the fingers, remains. In it,
sometimes I discover the alchemy of honey:
stone terraces and olive groves on Adriatic
frutti di mare, a pitcher of bevanda and cheese from Pag
in the Komiža tavern
or pine needles on the young skin of a mushroom
from Bosnian forests of my youth;
a girl who caresses a sleeping cat
on the steps of an empty villa on a side street
of the historic district of the city of Rhodes.
This chronicle of tidbits
enough to make life whole.
 Heaven and earth shall pass away - Bible Mathew 24:35
 Bevanda - watereddown wine
 Pag - an island in the Adriatic on the Croatina side.
 Komiža - a city on the island of Vis in the Adriatic on the Croatian side.Translated by Biljana D. Obradović
Usitnjeno je moje vrijeme. Svaka sekunda
skriva okean. Sada, postojim za odustajanja.
I nedorečenost. Sve što znam znam iz knjiga.
U oaze plemenite praznine
pohranjujem urne sa pepelom mnogih svojih ja.
Proći će nebo i zemlja, ali prolaze i
riječi. Poezija – pismo nepovratno. Poneka
slika, kao pelud na prstima, ostaje. U njoj,
katkad, alhemiju meda otkrivam:
kamene terase i maslinjaci po jadranskim otocima;
frutti di mare, bokal bevande i paški sir
u konobi u Komiži;
borove iglice na mladoj koži vrganja iz
bosanskih šuma mog djetinjstva;
djevojka što miluje zaspalu mačku
na stepeništu puste vile u nekoj od uličica
starog dijela grada Rodosa.
Dovoljna za čitav jedan život.
Summer Obituarian / Nekrolog lјetu
Brushed by the wind in your solitude
(through the keyhole, under the doorstep, through the shut
ribs of the Venetian blinds), the smell of the locust-tree
lets you in on the secret: again
the membrane of summer has partly cracked. Humbly you turn to
a yellowing atlas and with your fingers you sail from cape to cape,
on whose reefs the waves’ manes snap almost like a whip,
nor will you be able to read the arcane geometry of the future
in the frantic flight of gulls. From a tape player,
clicked by an invisible hand, you can hear Ezra Pound
posthumously, whose feverish hexameters
make mirrors flicker and the Czech crystal chatter.
That’s the reach and power of poetry. The room embraces you.
The world beyond these walls, in which the sun
draws out the shadows of objects, stands a cenotaph
whose original tribute everyone has long
forgotten. You start to get dizzy, while before you,
on the table, gaping, lies a frightening bottomless
pit of an empty page. Even though in your capillaries you tame horror
and a bridle, the mad gallop of the heart, you realize
from what you write not even a tiny candle flame will begin to dance.
The golden thread will remain undisturbed
as on the mouth of the deceased.Translated by Biljana D. Obradović
Utisnut vjetrom u tvoju osamu (kroz klјučaonicu,
ispod praga, kroz slјublјena rebra žaluzina), miris
rogača ti odaje tajnu: opet je napukla opna lјeta.
Otvaraš smjerno požutjeli atlas i prstima brodiš od rta
do rta, na čijim te grebenima nikada neće ošinuti griva
propetih talasa, niti ćeš u mahnitom letu galebova umjeti
iščitati strogu geometriju budućih događaja. Sa magnetofona,
pokrenutog nevidlјivom rukom, zagrobno se oglašava Ezra
Paund od čijih grozničavih heksametara podrhtavaju ogledala
i cvokoće servis od češkog kristala. Tek tolika je moć poezije.
Obgrlјuje te soba. Svijet izvan ovih zidova, u kome sunce
izdužuje sjenke stvari, kenotaf je čiju su prvobitnu svrhu već
odavno svi zaboravili. Obuzima te vrtoglavica, dok ispred
tebe, na stolu, zjapi zastrašujući bezdan prazne stranice. Iako
u svojim kapilarima krotiš užas i zauzdavaš ludi galop
srca, znaš da od onoga što napišeš ni plamičak na svijeći
neće zaigrati. Nepokoleblјiva ostaće zlatna nit.
Kao pred usnom pokojnika.
From “A Naked Heart”: 1. a noon / Iz Golog srca: 1. podne
You are cautious to whom you speak of yourself
and of those who witness you. Because, with every word that
passes to Others, less of you remains. You perceive how,
in the darkness of cold chambers, the letters of the forgotten
chronicle peel. You bury pictures like exotic plant seeds,
patiently waiting for them to leaf out of the herbarium.
Mortally alone, you drink a dewy glass of Riesling, and
you think how Real Poetry doubtlessly dwells in simplicity
to which you just cannot rise: in our daily bread’s prominent slice
on the table, the enchanting ordinariness of an olive bowl,
the undeniable warmth of a stone bench upon which you lay
your palm. Suddenly – noon. And, really, how can you not envy
the eye on its Pure Annunciation, on the boundless-blue sky
carving out the circuits of the belfry in which the silence amasses?
The flight of the pigeons like a black constellation in a wild helix
disappears from sight, consciousness, memory. And one silver
balloon, released out of fear, drifts down the agony of echoes.
Voiceless, the shadow of the sun’s clock shivers.Translated by Dalibor Krnetić and Igor Cvijanović
Paziš kome se pričaš i ko te svjedoči. Jer, sa
svakom riječju što promine u druge manje te
ima. Slutiš kako se, u tami hladnih odaja, lјušte
slova zaboravlјenog lјetopisa. Pohranjuješ slike
kao sjeme egzotičnog bilјa, čekajući strplјivo
iz herbarijuma da prolista. Utvarno sam, ispijaš
orošenu čašu rizlinga, i pomišlјaš da prava poezija
vjerovatno prebiva u jednostavnosti koju nikako da
dosegneš: u nasušnoj očiglednosti kriške hlјeba na stolu,
očaravajućoj običnosti zdjele maslina, neporecivoj toplini
kamene klupe na koju polažeš dlan. Odjednom –
podne. I zaista, kako ne zavidjeti oku na čistoj
blagovijesti, na plavetnilu što rezbari konture zvonika
u kom se opet sabira tišina? Jato golubova poput
crnog sazviježđa u divlјoj spirali odmiče van
pogleda, svijesti, pamćenja. I jedan se srebrni balon,
ispušten od straha, otiskuje niz agoniju odjeka.
Bezglasna, podrhtava sjenka sunčanog sata.
From “A Naked Heart”: 2. descent / Iz Golog srca: 2. silazak
Soundless, the sun clock’s shadow trembles.
You sneak out of house, driven by something
more peculiar than a lack of inspiration. It might be
unbearable shame, tearing you apart every time
you wish to shout your poems to the friends across the street.
Or it’s something earthier, sheer hunger, perhaps.
Just like insects’ tentacles do, your eyes warily feel
the world, barely touching the indifferent horizon.
For a second, closing the gate behind, you forget
the exhausted pattern of your scarcely woven letters:
a long-gone summer, a ripened day, the balance of elements,
the absent sea whose livid atoms, brought by a breeze
through curtains of times, decompose in your mind
to the rhythm of your breathing and leave behind
brittle husks of desire, pebbles of a few survived loves,
bloodless poetry craving for the sunlight of precious late insights.
You descend to a deserted beach and, as if for the first time,
roll a shell in your hands, taste a fig, take off your shoes.Translated by Dalibor Krnetić and Igor Cvijanović
Bezglasna, podrhtava sjenka sunčanog sata.
Iskradaš se iz kuće, tjeran nečim zagonetnijim
od nedostatka nadahnuća. Možda neizdrživim
stidom, što te rasparčava kad god pomisliš da
svoje pjesme dovikneš preko ulice prijatelјima.
Ili nečim zemalјskijim, pukom glađu, recimo.
Kao insekt ticalima, pogledom oprezno opipavaš
svijet, ovlaš dodiruješ ravnodušni horizont. Na
trenutak, zatvorivši kapiju za sobom, zaboravlјaš
iscrplјeni obrazac po kom oskudno tkaš pismo:
neko proteklo lјeto, zreli dan, ravnoteža elemenata,
odsutno more čiji ti se modri atomi, naneseni lahorom
kroz zastore vremena, u ritmu disanja rastvaraju u
umu, ostavlјajući za sobom krte lјušture čežnje,
oblutke nekoliko preživlјenih lјubavi, beskrvnu
poeziju što žudi za suncem dragocjenih kasnih
spoznaja. Silaziš na pusto žalo i, kao da prvi put to činiš,
u dlanovima prevrćeš školјku, kušaš smokvu, izuvaš se.
From “A Naked Heart”: 3. the golden ratio / Iz Golog srca: 3. zlatni presjek
You turn a shell in your palms, taste a fig and take your shoes off.
But already grey and languid, the sea rubs out your traces on the sand,
washes the fragmented circuit of those millimeter-long wanderings,
from the room to the beach, from letter to body, from self to self.
From me to you. Cypresses burn in the early Midsummer Night.
The harsh braying of a donkey shudders through the muddled stars, as the
last pulses of the daylight wane. You weep on this ever familiar shore,
but not because the world might appear more gentle and dear, shrouded
in a fine sheet of tears, but because of one verse that someone recited to
you some several centuries ago, and which has finally found you:
Long have I lain here before thee and after thee long shall I lie – through
the mossy velvet shines forth an epitaph from a chipped tombstone, burns
the epistle of the Dead, the whisper from the rock, the voices without pictures.
You are Pure Stillness in this shortest of nights, as you search for the Word’s
Golden Ratio, which won’t tear up the sky like a burning arrow, surpassing
with Logic the geometry of the fall, rather with the pace of the turtle’s crawl
from the lost memory and a dream, surfacing from the endless ocean of Time,
and quietly curling up in someone’s wasted heart.Translated by Dalibor Krnetić and Igor Cvijanović
U dlanovima prevrćeš školјku, kušaš smokvu, izuvaš se.
Ali već sivo, čamotno more briše tvoje tragove po pijesku,
spira izlomlјenu kružnicu tih milimetarskih lutanja, od
sobe do plaže, od pisma do tijela, od sebe do sebe. Od mene
do tebe. Čempresi izgaraju u predvečerje Ivanjske noći.
Bolni magareći rev potresa zamućene zvijezde, dok zamiru
poslјednji damari svjetlosti. Plačeš na ovoj toliko poznatoj
obali, ali ne zato što svijet možda izgleda mekši i prisniji
obložen finom opnom suza, već zbog jednog stiha kojim ti se neko
obratio prije nekoliko stolјeća i koji te danas konačno pronašao:
Davno ti sam legao i dugo ti mi je ležati – kroz baršun mahovine
prosijava epitaf sa okrnjenog stećka, plamti poslanica mrtvih,
šapat iz kamena, glasovi bez slika. Čista si nepomičnost, ove
prekratke noći, dok tragaš za zlatnim presjekom riječi koje neće
poput zapalјene strijele zaparati tamno nebo, logikom nadigravši
geometriju pada, nego korakom kornjače domiliti iz zaborava,
iz sna, izroniti iz beskrajnog okeana vremena, i
tiho se sklupčati u nečijem umornom srcu.
From “A Naked Heart”: 23. purgatory / Iz Golog srca: 23. čistilište
You’re surpassed by the truth about yourself,
this sum of big and small dark moments. Stretched
across the room, like a clothesline in a poor hovel,
a torpid wish: you should come to terms with your childhood.
You should let the vicious memory be said: you gather
yourself around hollow summer holidays without the father,
the void mercifully filled by uncles and grandparents or
the bland taste of tulumbas in the local cake shop. Around the
subdued breathing of a four-year-old who goes down the steps
into a bar full of cigarette smoke as if into the purgatory, and
tries to make out a familiar face among the backgammon players
from a low-angle perspective. And his prickly embarrassment,
as he comes back alone, mission unaccomplished, telling
his mother a made-up message. “He said we should walk a bit more.”
You and him – and a whole language between. It’s May.
In the rib creel, a splashing heart.Translated by Dalibor Krnetić and Igor Cvijanović
Prevazilazi te istina o tebi,
taj zbir velikih i malih mrakova. Razapeta
od zida do zida, kao konopac za rublјe u
sirotinjskoj klijeti, troma želјa: treba se
pomiriti sa svojim djetinjstvom. Dozvoliti
svirepom sjećanju da se kaže: sabireš se oko
kusih lјetovanja bez oca, praznine koju milosrdno
zaptivaju ujaci, dede, bake ili otužni ukus tulumbi
u gradskoj poslastičarnici. Oko stišanog daha
četvorogodišnjaka što strmim stepeništem silazi
u zadimlјenu kafanu kao u čistilište i među
igračima tavle, iz žablјe perspektive, pokušava
da razabere poznato lice. I njegovog igličastog
stida, dok vraća se sam, neobavlјena zadatka,
prenoseći majci izmišlјenu poruku: „Rekao je
da napravimo još jedan krug.“ Između tebe
i njega – cijeli jedan jezik. Majski je dan.
U vrši rebara praćaka se srce.
From “A Naked Heart”: 25. melody / Iz Golog srca: 25. melodija
Your tongue-tied mouth reaches for the world
serene in its otherness. Leaning on your elbow
on the porch, in the discrepancy of the heart’s
dull throbs (as if someone is pickaxing their way
through the decrepit mines of your body), you watch
dusk swallowing linden crowns. From somewhere,
deep in the room, a gloomy chorus thrusts at your nape:
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold… Childhood is a long
shadow, carelessly touching you on the shoulder and
whispering: How much do you owe to the dead? Behind
closed eyelids, like a smothered wax candle, golden letters
flicker: Blaupunkt. Your father’s father, his back
in front of you, does a crossword. Your tiny fingers change
stations on the tuner of the ancient tube radio and you navigate
through the language disarray. From this boisterous hive,
out of the blue, a sevdalinka rises crackly. About a barn,
a tomb and the clatter of wooden slippers. About tears.
You know these words. “And what’s the gift from the heart?”
you ask. He turns off the radio. Silence pulsates. Summer is
cracked open like an orange by the feeble fingers of a child.Translated by Dalibor Krnetić and Igor Cvijanović
Nemuštim ustima zahvataš svijet
spokojan u svojoj drugosti. Nalakćen
na doksat, u raskoraku potmulih damara
srca (kao da neko pijukom krči sebi put kroz
ruševne rudnike tvoga tijela), gledaš kako lipove
krošnje greznu u tminu. Odnekud, iz dubine sobe,
u potilјak ti se zariva tugalјivi refren: I’ve been
miner for a heart of gold... Djetinjstvo je izdužena
sjenka, nehajno te dotiče po ramenu i šapuće: Koliko
duguješ mrtvima? Pod kapcima, kao utulјena voštanica,
zatrepere zlaćana pismena: Melodija EI Niš. Očev
otac, okrenut leđima, rješava ukrštenicu. Majušnim
prstima vrtiš skalu pretpotopskog lampaša, krmaniš
kroz pometnju među jezicima. Iz tog uzavrelog ulišta
najednom se pucketavo izvije sevdalinka. O čardaku,
mezaru i klepetu nanula. O suzama. Poznaješ te riječi.
„A šta je dar od srca?“, pitaš. On gasi radio. Pulsira tišina.
Ljeto je načeto kao narandža nejakim palčevima djeteta.
Poetry in Making / Poezija nastaje
We’re sitting on the porch of a house full of artistic handicrafts in Kitsilano, the neighborhood where D. used to reside twenty years ago. The company consists mostly of D.’s then roommates: the youngish hipster Chris; the famous Canadian poet George Stanley, who fled over here from San Francisco because of the Vietnam War; Henry, a real expert on First Nations’ languages in British Columbia; the histrionic Leo, who initiated this meeting; and his current roommate Evaldo, a chubby linguist from Brazil. We’re sipping drinks in a pleasant atmosphere, contending intellectually and recalling shared memories. Like a ghost, our host Tito, a willowy locksmith resembling an Afghan Hound, silently fetches plates full of cheese and crackers, arranges bowls with berries and cherries, lights candles. He dives among us like into tall, coarse grass, the murmur of words rising around him like a wave of insects. George reads poems from his new manuscript: sharp, funny, ironic. We listen and laugh at effective turns of phrases and striking images. After D.’s persuasion, I also read a few of my poems translated into English from my cell phone; heads nod seriously, we discuss if some expressions should have been translated differently, we talk about diminutive forms in Slavic languages, the Latin and Cyrillic script, Bosnian war, prices of real estate and terribly high rents in Vancouver. Tipsy already, we shout, giggle and holler over each other. In a moment of sudden silence, we hear Tito’s sleepy voice from the dark: “I used to be with this girl, but all that time I longed for another woman. When I finally managed to break up this long relationship and be with the one I truly loved, she got pregnant. No with me. At first, it was hard as hell. But now I love this boy as if he was mine. I’m taking him camping tomorrow, we’ve been doing that for twelve years: him, me, and my two Australian Shepherds…” He sticks his fork into patience dock on his plate and doesn’t say a word for the rest of the night.Translated by Igor Cvijanović
Sjedimo na verandi kuće pune umjetničkih rukotvorina i slika u Kicelanu, kvartu u kom je D. obitavao prije dvadesetak godina. Većinu društva čine D.-ovi ondašnji sustanari, mlađani hipster Kris, proslavljeni kanadski pjesnik Džordž Stenli, koji je početkom sedamdesetih prebjegao ovamo iz San Franciska zbog rata u Vijetnamu, Henri, vrsni poznavalac domorodačkih jezika Britanske Kolumbije, histrionični Lio, inicijator ovog okupljanja, kao i njegov sadašnji cimer Evaldo, dežmekasti lingvista iz Brazila. Pijuckamo u prijatnoj atmosferi, uz intelektualno nadgornjavanje i prizivanje zajedničkih uspomena. Naš domaćin Tito, vižljasti bravar nalik na melanholičnog avganistanskog hrta, kao dobri duh, ćutke iznosi tanjire sa sirom i krekerima, razmješta posudice sa koštunjavim voćem i trešnjama, pali svijeće. Uranja među nas kao u visoku, grubu travu, a oko njega se podiže žamor riječi poput talasa insekata. Džordž čita pjesme iz novog rukopisa, britke, duhovite, ironične. Slušamo ga i smijemo se uspjelim jezičkim obrtima i upečatljivim slikama. Na D.-ov nagovor, i ja sa telefona pročitam nekoliko svojih pjesama prevedenih na engleski, glave ozbiljno klimaju, raspravljamo da li je neke izraze trebalo drugačije prevesti, razgovaramo o deminutivima u slovenskim jezicima, ćirilici i latinici, ratu u Bosni, cijenama nekretnina i užasno visokim stanarinama u Vankuveru. Već pripiti, dovikujemo se, cerekamo i nadglasavamo. U trenutku nenadanog zatišja, iz mraka najednom dopre Titov sanjivi glas: „Dugo sam bio sa jednom djevojkom, ali sam sve vrijeme čeznuo za drugom ženom. Kad sam najzad uspio da raskinem tu dugogodišnju vezu, i budem sa onom koju sam istinski volio, ona je zatrudnila. Ne sa mnom. Isprva mi je bilo strašno teško. Ali sada volim tog dječaka kao da je moj. Sutra ga vodim na kampovanje, radimo to već dvanaest godina, on, ja i moja dva australijska ovčara…“ Zabada viljušku u tanjir sa zeljem i ne progovara do kraja večeri.
Revenge is a Disc... / Revenge is a Disc...
On East Hastings we meet Eddie, D.’s former coworker. Eddie wears only branded clothes and surreal shoes from the 30s which he buys on EBay. Amid the crowd of twisted, burned shapes of addicts who hang around East Hasting every day, wearing his fedora and golden signet ring, and with his chiseled body and dandy posture Eddie looks like a new record player needle. Like a resplendent white egret. Eddie is an endangered species. Eddie is slightly bipolar. Eddie is fast like a second hand on a clock. Eddie listens mostly to Japanese electronic music. As we’re walking down the street, Eddie tells us he’s finally won the legal case against his former roommate who he used to live with a few years ago in London, Ontario. He got 35,000 dollars compensation. Eddie used to have an electronic music collection of 12,000 records. Eddie used to drive his roommate crazy by incessant talking and electronic music which blasted all day long. By the way, Eddie is obsessive-compulsive too. Eddie’s roommate could not take it any longer. Whenever Eddie was out of the apartment, he would methodically take out Eddie’s records one by one, burn them with a lighter, and diligently return them into their sleeves and back to the shelf. Eddie’s roommate burned a hole in 12,000 Eddie’s records. In the meantime, Eddie decided to move to Vancouver. He packed his records and left London, Ontario. When Eddie wanted to impress his new roommate with his record collection, he faced 12,000 holes, 12,000 blind eyes. We part with Eddie near Dali’s sculpture Dance of Time I in the town center. As we’re hugging and patting each other on the back, I’m thinking what kind of fire Dali had to use to make time dance like this.Translated by Igor Cvijanović
Na Ist Hejstingsu srećemo Edija, D.-ovog nekadašnjeg kolegu s posla. Edi nosi isključivo markiranu odjeću i nadrealne cipele iz tridesetih koje kupuje na I-beju. Usred gomile izvitoperenih, sprženih figura narkomana koji se svakodnevno vrte po Ist Hejstingsu, Edi, sa svojom fedorom, zlatnim pečatnjakom, izvajanim tijelom i dendijevskim držanjem izgleda poput nove gramofonske igle. Poput raskošne bijele čaplje. Edi je ugrožena vrsta. Edi je blago manijakalno-depresivan. Edi je brz kao sekundara. Edi uglavnom sluša japansku elektronsku muziku. Dok koračamo ulicom Edi nam priča kako je konačno dobio sudski spor protiv bivšeg cimera s kojim je prije nekoliko godina živio u Londonu, u Ontariju, i odštetu od 35.000 dolara. Edi je imao kolekciju od 12.000 ploča elektronske muzike. Edi je izluđivao svog cimera neprestanom pričom i elektronskom muzikom koja je tutnjala po cijeli dan. Uzgred, Edi je i opsesivno-kompulsivan. Edijev cimer više nije mogao to da izdrži. Kad god Edi nije bio u stanu, on je metodično vadio jednu po jednu Edijevu ploču, progorijevao je upaljačem, uredno vraćao u omot i nazad na policu. Edijev cimer je tako progorio 12.000 Edijevih ploča. Edi je u međuvremenu odlučio da se preseli u Vankuver. Spakovao je ploče i napustio London, u Ontariju. Kad je poželio da novog cimera impresionira svojom kolekcijom, Edi se suočio sa 12.000 rupa, 12.000 slijepih očiju. Rastajemo se od Edija kod Dalijeve skulpture „Ples vremena 1“ izložene u centru grada. Dok se grlimo i tapšemo po leđima, pomišljam kakvu je tek vatru morao koristiti Dali da bi vrijeme ovako zaplesalo.