Goran Čolakhodžić (Zagreb, 1990) is a poet and translator. He holds MA degrees in English and in Romanian. In 2015, his then-unpublished volume Na kraju taj vrt (In the End the Garden) won the Croatian poetry debut prize “Goran for Young Poets”. The book was published later that year and in 2017 it won the international “Bridges of Struga” award for best poetry debut, awarded by the “Struga Poetry Evenings” festival in Macedonia. His poems have appeared in a number of magazines in Croatia and abroad and have been translated into a number of languages. He is assistant editor of the Croatian BEK (Free Electronic Books) Internet library and a member of the organising committee of the Croatian “Goranovo proljeće” (Goran’s Spring) poetry festival.
Although he has been writing poetry and prose since the age of fourteen, he had never published anything till 2015 when he won Goran for Young Poets award – the most important Croatian award for young poets awarded to the best manuscript of an unpublished author under the age of thirty. Since then, his work has been published in Croatian and regional periodicals as he was acknowledged as one of the most interesting and distinctive new lyrical voices. Within Petrarca Fest, he was awarded for the best sonnet written in Croatian.
His future projects at the moment entail: Commission for a poem from the Herefordshire-based theatre group Feral, for Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017; translations of Croatian and Serbian poets into Romanian and vice versa (periodicals, printed volumes); an anthology of Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian war prose (with other collaborators) translated into Romanian; an anthology of contemporary Croatian poetry (with other collaborators) finally to be published in Bucharest in January 2017.
The award-winning manuscript, the book Na kraju taj vrt [That Garden at the End] continues to enthral the audience as well as the critics. During 2017 this book will be published in electronic form. The latter wrote about the book:
Goran Čolakhodžić's poetry collection Na kraju taj vrt is successful in its construction of a subject as the protagonist of a lyrical narrative and of the places where events take place – the garden, orchard, forest and the city – which are consistently developed following a carefully designed concept. These scenes intermingle and intertwine in various ways in time and space and in the poet's (sub)conscious; they simultaneously supress each other and co-exist, often at the expense of the other. The lyrical subject made from hard clay taken from the garden itself, is much more than a mere witness or an observer of the world; the garden is the subject's true personification and metaphor, his mental state and a dream-like hallucination.
Morning and twilight images and moods – usually set in September – open spaces and distant mystical horizons are predominant in Čolakhodžić's poetry, so it is not surprising that he references the works of a brilliant Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich in the subheadings of his poem “Zreli krajolici” [Ripe Landscapes]. His obsessions include themes of life and death, the transience of time, the ephemerality of things and nature, as well as their renewal and return to their lost origins. Aware that only love can overcome (or at least delay) death, Čolakhodžić does a Freudian twist in the understanding of Eros and Thanatos and, as a true master of intertwining, he continuously elevates them to the same thematic and existential plane by perceiving them as inseparable realities of life and affirming them yet again in the most unexpected situations. In one of his other poems he says: everyone choses one’s own trigger of melancholy. These triggers are for him small, everyday objects and events, tiny signs of the passing of time and seasons which he metaphorizes thus turning minuscule life events into a poetic inspiration and semantic nodes from which other motifs branch out.
Čolakhodžić's poetry is conceptually well-rounded and coherent which, with its thematic preoccupations, as well as stylistic and formal solutions, provides a true aesthetic pleasure making him a worthy successor in the line of young poets who won the Goran award.
Pots / (Untitled)
Pots, earthen, cracked,
reusable nonetheless, lying long
in the rain and open air, flake
beautifully, just like skin. They function
as parts of a natural
echoing machine, reflecting responses
with their bottoms. Their use
is for water to pass through them
and to linger inside, and for demonstrating
clearly the roles of earth,
since they were made of it, lifting up
rot, germination, specimens of plants.
In a corner of the garden, under the hedge,
empty pots lie (here
is their room), waiting for spring,
to be housed anew, until then
calling softly for moss,
something more permanent.
The Hunt / (Untitled)
I hunted haresTranslated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
abundantly and inaudibly:
the crosshair killed, there were no shots,
furry bags fell promptly down
on the parched grass in the dusk. They remained
stiff, eyes open, with not a drop of blood
on their clenched wounds: in fact ridiculous,
innocuous in their death which had not
taken over life, and so was see-through.
I did not run out of bullets,
and neither did they of death: they produced it constantly
in ditches and on mounds.
Autumn is falling, it’ll be that.
Last Mowing / (Untitled)
The last mowing another quiet ritual.
It is not obligatory, but it is good,
and pleasant too, because it re-enacts August,
the time when mowing is as contagious as yawning,
when you start the engine and begin,
and when you stop for the first time
you hear the entire motor choir from the near
distance, from all the four corners of the world.
All of us conquering grass, mimicking cows,
mimicking some neighbours in the suburbs of Chicago.
But the last mowing is more beautiful and manly:Translated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
you are alone in it, it’s often dusk and there is fog.
You do something unpleasant and painful to the grass
for its own good, like a doctor or a father.
You take care of the machine, you clean it before it turns in,
you pour out the gasoline, dealing with – as you never do,
being a philologist, a scribe and a gay – oil and steel. At last
you lock the door, breathing out an “everything’s ready”;
now winter may come, now long nights without growth
spent far away from the earth,
that’s why you sigh.
We were standing /
We were standing and using past tense
talking about your death –
in fact not about it, since it had already happened,
that we wielded as fluently as we did verbs.
An issue or two wanted solving
related to sowing and spring, to sunlight;
a couple of remarks before setting off to work,
the absence of encouragement your way to show trust.
Only around noon, after the fog,
while you were cutting roots with a shovel,
I remembered I'd cried, also, at night, awoken,
briefly, having turned over the sorrow in the dark like the earth
during autumn digging; it wentTranslated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
back into the humus, like an earthworm.
Now we both push our hands into the supple darkness,
everything’s happened while it still hasn’t, earth is good.
I have an unsolved issue /
I have an unsolved issue with the city,
that is, I think that during the day we’re unable
to tell each other everything. I make up for it, willy
or nilly, at night, when the hedges draw closer
and the hills start rolling beneath my feet.
There is usually a lot of drives streets vaults arcades
also a lot of bronze, made green by the wet darkness
in the rarely mown parks.
It keeps sending me on errands from façade to façade
by inconveniently connected tram lines
and often it spells out the names of buildings and squares
in completely arcane languages.
It rolls me down sidewalks, chucks me over to entrances,
hiding, nonetheless, its inner courtyards –
the proof that it can dream lucidly, if I
clamber where I have to through passages and underpasses.
And then in the morning it makes me laugh
and deride, because I know that it multiplies braggingly
in me all night long, pulling wool over my eyes, blaring propaganda,
trying to appear larger blacker deeper
to build itself endlessly, illusively in vain.
Redshift (I) / (Untitled)
I have lived until now among
a couple of buildings, on some twenty streets,
in three or four hectares of woodland and meadow.
I haven’t thought – vast spaces are over there,
and a considerable part of them belongs to me.
long have rectangles encircled the horizon,
reproducing the specimen of space visible from here.
now, from this high, dark viewpoint,
I observe the centre from the margin, I realize
the patterns of repetition, the forms of permanence.
poorly drawn, the trapeze of the city from here to rapska street,
from it to the mosque, from there
to a point in the east (find the angle
opposite the known α) and again to the room where,
momentarily alone, locked up and calm, I look
out of the wide windows. the trapeze will be repeated
infinite times, or a little less, in order to create the city.
it is only from high places, at a small zoom,
that the generic quality of space becomes apparent.
there will be spawned endlessly that couple of buildings,
some twenty streets, three or four hectares of woodland and meadow.
endlessly those light-bulb factories which,
with their lights fused together into a single unique copper smudge,
will, every evening, make up the west
From The Botanical Garden / (Untitled)
O serre au milieu des fôrets!
Et vos portes à jamais closes!
the wall between the door and the corner at the endTranslated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
of an equally dusky street
the door between the walls of thin air
which mark the edge of the world
(of a world, just a world among worlds)
the corner between light and dark
summit and ravine
(Horvatovac – Medveščak)
oh botanical garden, who knows what there is
behind your door for me forever closed
in your midst a crossing of paths
a black pond between the spikes
of hairy flowerbeds
that protrude with promontories
onto little ways covered with needles with salvias
botanical garden botanical garden
my thoughts are mechanically turning
to the hothouse in your centre
o serre au milieu des fôrets
from all sides surrounded by shadows
of tall fir, larch and yew trees, of gnarled houses
oh you garden at the end of the world
you are like an echoing hangar
you are like the place where summers die
(sometime around the fifteenth of September)
oh garden oh hothouse oh mechanical botanical
tentacles of long pipes that feed the rows of reeds
in the dark in the wet a closed door
hydroponic growing of medicinal plants oh garden
my legs mechanically plough
through snow and ice as I tread towards you
I cross Schrott Street, I pull the door
the door remains stiff; I jump over the door
under me the pebbles crunch, crack and churn
oh hothouse in the middle of the forest
et vos portes à jamais closes
what is this garden at the end of my road
behind it a hospital, a hospital on the bank of a canal
oh you city trams in full sail on the water of the stream of Medveščak
whither, trams, mechanical gardens
the vines of arms the flowers of heads oh hothouses
why this garden in the blackest darkness at the end of the street of death
reflections of the city
smells of stairs
oh garden oh night oh God when will we have rain
and wind and snow in the hothouse
From Mature Landscapes / (Untitled)
In the morning, space is not yet healedTranslated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
from people, from errands, as are not
the mucosa of the lustful,
and already we wait for the day to return,
for the void to be filled.
In the throat, on the eyes: the acridity of early dawn,
the necessity to move, to start off, the breaking away
from sleep, the clenched fist in the stomach
before coming to visit, before climbing
the stairs, washed with dirty water, that lead
to school (as child, as teacher)
to hospital (I fear)
to prison (I remember the dread in my dreams).
And those bare columns oblige us in some way, somehow they say
“It’s not that simple”,
they pierce, they exhaust. In the morning,
when we most directly face illness
and its finality,
when the bare dawn in our lungs
comforts us most and makes the harshest demands.*
* Junotempel in Agrient (1828.) / (Untitled)
She is walking protostairs, antistairs because they neither elevate
nor depress. She is passing through one of the dry spirals
that intrude, they’ve always intruded, into my days,
rarely, often – permanently, at least. They wriggle between
the walls, pierce them partly, like the murex shells engulfed
in the extravagant tiles from our bathroom.
I think that out of that room, but not only from there, leads a trapdoor,
holes in the floor for staircases, toward staircases.
The windows are a lie made up for us, behind them only concrete. Stairs
lead to staircases, the light is always far up there,
shadows gather in disregard of it.
She goes wearing the common walker’s garments, she isn’t entitled
to anything better, those are the same garments that I don,
in the male version of the uniform, at night, in the afternoon, whenever I set out.
She is looking for a rift, looking for the final curve of the mollusc’s shell,
unaware of the terrible cruelty of fractals, so distant from the autumn
she longs for on that rusty skyless road.*
* Frau auf der Treppe (1818.)Translated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
Writ / (Untitled)
The key is never to draw a map.Translated from the Croatian, or written in English by the Author
A scale is a discourse of tricks, and the map
is not the territory; but still
don’t draw a map,
don’t let the map draw,
nor give it land.
Make Map Lackland sign
the Great Map, and then
wake out of the river and the island.
mornings really did resemble a coexistence / (Untitled)
mornings really did resemble a coexistence
between man and this planet: they dawned early
selected crops blossomed prudently providing
food for untamed bees
in the afternoon the great plain stretched out
above it implacably grew great columns of clouds
islands of purely random disturbances
promised to be here at dusk, that
revival of fear
a silence so profound it made a droning sound
we felt how the plain paid no heed to
neither villages nor towns
in the evening huge storms ravaged the regions
beyond the reach of our eyes legs days
we’d lock the doors early
sleeping in shifts, aware
that the metallic rustle of rain on the leaves
conceals the footsteps of that which goes in the night
As they were preparing to abandon the city / (Untitled)
As they were preparing to abandon the city,
they refrained from talking about how
they themselves ended it, too, in the streets,
in its foundations. Perhaps in order to feel less affected,
perhaps for the sheer delight they took in the already so painless
act of destruction.
One could not tell any more if they were delaying
the ceremony of departure because of desire and
myth, or if they were irked even by the last
stone laid over stone, needing a flat and open
scorched field for takeoff.