Dorta Jagić (1974), graduated from the Jesuit Philosophy University in Zagreb with a degree in philosophy and religious culture. She made her poetic debut in 1999 with the book Plahta preko glave (Head Under the Sheets), which won a distinguished national award, the Goran Award For Young Poets. She is an author of six poetry collections and four short stories volumes, and author of unusual biblical dictionary Mali rječnik biblijskih žena (Small dictionary of biblical women), 2013.
Jagić has had her poetry, travelogues, essays and short stories, published in various Croatian and foreign anthologies and magazines (lyrikline, Manuskripte, Trafika Europe, Arquitrave, etc.), and some of her poetry and short stories has been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Catalan, Czek, Turkish, Slovakian, Polish, Slovenian, Macedonian, Romanian, Bulgarian, etc. Two of her poetry books are translated into Polish (Kanape na rynku), and Slovakian (Vysoké cé).
Dorta Jagić’s poems are the affirmation of the female freedom, her not giving in when it comes to the body and the feelings or social, political and historical determinism. These poems conjoin particular experience of existence and the universal values. One of the distinctive features of her poetry is the creation of a different function for the metaphor. In her poetry, that prominent, and in contemporary poetry, frequently worn out figure of speech is transformed into the main framework for the entire poem.
Poet and critic Zvonimir Mrkonjić simply wrote, “The most appropriate thing to say about Dorta Jagić would be to hail: We have a poet!” Austrian critic Birgit Polzl said, “Jagić's stories and poems handle theme of decay, passing, with ease that get under your skin.”
Croatian poet and critic Tonko Maroević writes, “The poetry of Dorta Jagić would attract readers that do not have a prejudice toward poetry, and it holds the potential to reassure those doubters who think that contemporary poetry is inevitably dull and pretentious.” For last few years, she has been involved in performances and projects with blending poetry, dance and visual art.
Jagić received two international awards, The Balkan Grand Prize for Poetry, Romania, 2007, and European Poet of Freedom Award, Poland, 2014, for her poetry book Kauč na trgu (The Sofa at Square). She held two international fellowships as writer-in-residence, in Graz (Austria) 2010, and Ljubljana (Slovenia) 2012.
Since 1999, she has worked as a theatre teacher as well as a director in many student theatre companies. She lives in Zagreb, Croatia, as a freelance writer, translator and teacher of poetry writing.
Body is a Migrating Stone /
there are times when body desires to abandon its dark litter,
but from its birth house to the distant seas and mountains
all nails and petals hit at it, everything hurts, hurts
as it falls towards the bottom. because it is mortal.
among the stones
there is no stone as heavy as
the human body. corpus delicti.
and so friable when jabbed by the boundaries of tenderness.
body is a gemstone brimming with blood
and it is the heaviest to lift up once it dies.
body is a stone which ascends the easiestTranslated from Croatian by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
migrates from its bottom upwards,
even flies into the sky
like corpus christi
when someone's much awaited I LOVE YOU
pierces into its spirit,
inflates it and illuminates it
to gleam like a fountain in Barcelona.
Hard Scorpion Rooms /
apart from the smell of mothball
and the atmosphere of polar night
the room of a hardened agoraphobic
has a characteristic
face of a leech and a hard black carapace.
This is the chitin uniform of the scorpion,
in which in the morning it kisses
its victim and closes the door
as if stinging with its tail.
Whispers to her every day
"don't go at work, don't go anywhere,
do stay home!"
and makes thick coffee of bile
without tongue and guts
soothing with a purr.
Scholarly atheists would bet in all churches
in a hundret knightly suits of armour
that such a venomous room
alone would survive an H bomb
and tramp the empty world
with only roaches
from our mental institutions.Translated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
A Portray of the Black Poet with a Dog /
His face is brown, well healed scar
and his body wraps around far away cities
like a yearning ivy
blue and enchanted women wish to touch its root
with a poisonous nail,
to cut it or turn it to dust.
He runs, he doesn't sleep,
he writes about love, and rain, and revolutions
like a timetable clock on the railway station
In a harbor tavern somewhere in the South of France
I noticed by chance bull's blood
dripping from his tongue on the pavement.
And I called him Hemingway,
but I could named him
The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
His substance isn't from our time
and when he sits in a cafe in Mostar
covered with a floury waiting,
his fingers lengthen and turn into dukes' keys
and his back grows into a field of tulips
made in anarchistic monasteries
drips from his back
on beloved dog and tepid beds.Translated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
Death in Milan /
Some people are ominously beautiful
like the voice of Marlon Brando
like the aristocratic lunatic asylums,
like a nighttime beech forest,
medieval fortress prisons
like endless parlors
of poisoned casinos.
On the day when they decide,
they flay their lips to God
and leave into darkness
When they eat themselves
they curl up like cats
into their warmth
of an extinguished candle.
Their names are
like evening bells in Milan
on the last day of the world:
Ruslana, Nafisa, Hayley,
Daul, Cibele, Belmonte, Miyu,
Ambrose, Viveka, Gia,
Jennifer, Cheyyene.Translated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
Nights Trains /
suitcase in the wardrobe is ready but
a weighty station building isn't on my frail table
nor a whistle or a signalman
just a non-traveling shadows of books and notebooks,
dark blue tea for traveling on the spot is cold
and the world map for ironing of the earth
turns into flat board
when I travel nowhere
I'm locked like a French novelist,
like an addict, and night trains lure me from afar
with bright windows and tinkling,
they wave me with flapping curtains, and envelop
arms and necks of sleepy travelers in curtains just for fun
like Isidora Duncan's small techniques of death
with verve and full of intricate stories
like a dark Orient-expresses
when I travel nowhere
trains on the town's edge slide gently through the dark scented world
detached from the station like adventurers daydreams
they fly like children of dandelions in full bloom on the wind
penetrate like daggers the fat of inert stations.
sullen steel trains escape the traps of standing with ease,
and I would like to write those words in succession
intercity alta, indian pacific, eurostar paris transsibir,
tundra express, great southern rail, train grande vitesse.
and wagons are travelling again tonight to another time-space
like razors of northern winds
their wide open blades cut off
blunt shadows in the broad night
when I travel nowhere
I missed the nights behind windows
of my room becoming red, blue and warm
like a resin from shining sea creatures
and stars wriggle like plankton, and jelly beans
and harsh winters are warmer for hands
from the languidly warmed up air in a room
I'm standing by the window like a night porter
and listening trains
incise the thick black woods in the south with spines
only trees screaming with joy can see the knives,
yews and pines, terebinth and holm oak
overhang over the motionless land, over the sea
and over buried bones from all wars
and all peaces.
even a sweet-smelling trees travel nowhere
was my only consolation.
they stand still like bones of missioners, sailors and train operators
buried in the collective area, in the seabed,
an earth-bedTranslated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
To Fly with Warm Stoves /
at days when I love nobody
it rains and I let
newspaper boats float down the street.
In those boats pulled out of god's body long ago
there are neglected tin soldiers for me
to wipe them, polish them.
Still I do not splash into the first sewage
and I do not say thanks either, nor do I buy
someone a lottery ticket or stuff my pants with new books
for I give up the vows with nonbiblical cabinets.
if only to squint going back on a bus until I relax
and have my mind's eye teach me,
because of all human beings, to drive
an old golf just like captain Noa did
to straighten up, remove a cow from the road
tell everyone down at the turnaround our secret name
taken out of bread, our crumb, our pass.
If only to kiss you o god on a day like that
as something final
and before the post office at the turnaround closes
send some drunk his lost id card
expecting nothing in return.
in those days when I love nobody
the sky is different at dusk.
it gets vulgary gray, congealed,
inconsolable over little girls with a smoky
that on a crowded bus stand near the door
in need of motherly love.
if only the sky now opened above the city
and rain poured out of that disemboweled fish,
if only a thunder roared as though rising from a grave
so that I could run out of that storm
and make it home for the pancakes
with my dear, still unknow family wrapped in them.
So that I could,
in fact, some woman outside in the night rain
slowly take off my wet boots
and look out of the window at my future kids
as they grow on the carpet eating munchmellows,
read lines from Ecclesiastes to their handsome daddy
and out entire street fly up into the sky
lit by huge red-hot stoves
various special effects
from some Spielberg's Christmas foundation
for the curled promised childrenTranslated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
First Person Plural /
a girl with her face always buried in
a book inscribes into the bones of paper:
I’m still young, evening solitude,
desire, mirror and brush, that’s nothing.
Just a night hypnosis, the rattling bones of serpent legs which don’t exist yet lure me
to fall mercilessly into my bed
like under the wheels of a rushing car or
into a deadly wave following Sylvia Plath.
to lie down and never rise again!
That’s nothing, however, just a singular.
when I sledge, after all, down all the seven cases
into the abyss lined with potbellied buddhist mirrors
whose inertia and emptiness I hate
notorious elegies are sung by the spectators
about the hermitess within her sick house walls
they sound like the old women’s broken canes voting
so close to the clattering teeth of giant Garbo who barely walks
like her words, “I want to be alone!”
she’s drumming her silver cane handle, this woman
who would after a few decades still
respond to her maiden name, something between Alma,
Irena, Vesna, Ivana, Zrinka, Jana...
those tiny old women passing in their sleep in some
soiled bathtub in the middle of the deserts of Gospić, Knin
deserts of Arizona and Pašman
a naked woman in ice cold water, the cold bathtub inside her
and desolate lands in dingoes
a photograph coming into existence on the wardrobe needs to be torn
at a junction with ten broken traffic lights
they lie in their bathtubs, overaged beauties choked with the green
umbilical cord of their unborn girls
Nothing to anyone, just the singular.
when the ice-cold wind blows through a sunday
those odd old women with their oblong first person singular
I sometimes meet in the streets, hobbling in their doc martens
their young green eyes and faces bleed through capillaries and the strands of their gray hair fall to the sidewalk
due to the poisonous acid in the mouth of this wretched city
as a symptom of the fate of those who entered the deep well without windows
well without balconies and vistas
well dug into the fiery black ground
under the Mariana trench
filled with motionless drilled-out bodies
of lonely old women
who might have wanted to bite their duality until it bleeds,
into the shape of cross,
into the clay casting of love, to seep into the bowels of love,
into the arteries, adding antibodies to their precious blood which flows
for years in the artificial sap from the heart of the first bull singular,
as their book says:
yet it is not, yet they are not
yet it is notTranslated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
Lady Hester Stanhope /
(born in Chevening, Southeast England, 1776 – 1839)
That wacky Lady Hester had her own room and dough.
After her employer, the British Prime Minister and bachelor,
beloved uncle William Pitt, died mildly in wealth,
the state assigned her
an enviable sum --
£1200 a month.
British high society was stunned –
convulsed like the form of her red high-heels.
Years later she jumped
from the bottom of crystal glasses, through monocles,
towards the flying carpets and
tender birds of oriental letters.
She was 33.
Exploring Ashkelon she knew
this quest would be known
as the first modern trek through the Holy land.
Romantics and celebrities admired;
they say when she came to Athens,
the drunken Lord Byron leapt in the sea
in proper welcome, like some male siren.
After the shipwreck near Cairo she lost all, took off
her thin dress, donned men’s waterproof clothing
and continued towards the spicy East.
Refusing the veil
she tore down every wall and veil of this world
until, with twenty-two camels,
she broke through eastern cities’ brass gates
tearing their strict laws apart.
With her nose-tip pointing towards Palmyra,
she crossed a desert of scorpions and Bedouins
became the only woman
welcomed with a laurel crown
in that strange city.
From then the turban on her shaved head
was as a fat ouroboros
gnawing at its own ego-tail.
Emir Mahannah el Fadel was not alone
in dubbing her Queen Hester. But the ancient clay
laughed at those titles.
She sought gold florins buried under Gaza,
yet only unearthed a seven-legged, headless
marble statue. Like an omen! She smashed and threw it
in the hungry gullet of the sea.
she gave away her camels,
found peace in the Mar Elias monastery;
later atop Sidon hill in a house she called Dahr El Sitt,
she welcomed hundreds of refugees, ruled the region
with her monthly pension and lavish gifts.
The secret words of the desert wind
she translated to her whim:
I am the Morning Star, principal rider of this world.
At last, despite the silk, the alabaster and cashmere
she sank into senility, robbed by her servants.
she did not write in her cell, just lay alone
with two hunchbacked horses
seemingly sacred to her
in place of a bed –
received guests only at nightfall,
not wanting them to see her human
(all-too-human) face and hands,
walled into that fortress on the hill
like an idol, like a statue.Translated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan
Freya Stark /
(born in Paris, 1893 – 1993)
Already in childhood some evil Asolo fairy,
more precisely an odd accident, changed the fair geography of her face.
Expressed in cuneiform, that brutality
translates into something else.
It wasn’t just the factory machine
that seized her golden hair with a bow
and then her face as well.
It was a stab from the heavy magnetic needle of the world,
a magnetic knife carving one’s face like Holy Bread,
Arabian spikes of Orient, thorns of destiny.
For those scars furrowed her future journeys:
southeast, northeast, in all directions,
the poetry of sand,
dance steps on the face of this little blue planet
among the gaseous giants.
For years after Italy’s north,
her nostrils inhaled the ancient languages like narghile fumes,
Latin, Persian, Turkish, and uttering the names of months
by their lunar calendars,
she flew, sailed, wrote, and drew on camels’ backs.
This woman scarcely ever hungers or droops,
caloric azure from that essential Morning Star
is dripping always on her traveller’s spoon.
In Lebanon, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus
living with poets and friends, studying and wandering;
in carriage rides, with a drain for harem tears,
she sees people everywhere, and loves them –
in the Great War, served in the Red Cross.
Wherever she goes, no rustling haystack dress,
one hears instead her clinking binoculars and fountain pens,
compasses and maps, and the footsteps of spies
in the Valley of Assassins; dates, fruit, and wine.
Her days are dangerous – pioneer exploits – but quiet with writing too,
devoted labor for three books
on the notoriously elusive Hadhramaut.
She lives in a whirlpool of adrenalin enhancers,
uncovering perplexing charts, secret passages and straits,
walking the paths of Alexander
in ethereal Thousand and One Nights haze,
leaving behind an arabesque of weird female imprints
on the wintry soil of the Arabian desert...
News vendors call her name in passing, strolling ladies
wonder if she’s drinking five o’clock tea or tears,
Arabia exhilarates like ground coffee bones
lodged suddenly in the jaws of World War 2.
She takes an agent’s job in the British Ministry of Information
penning it in books: Letters from Syria, East is West,
telling her Arab friend, as war is waging,
“I wish you the best.”
She married late at fifty four,
in love with a historian
but soon slipped off her husband’s shoulders,
back on the road.
She wrote again – a final sojourn, to Afghanistan.
From her hundredth birthday, her bones
hungered for the dust from which they rose;
she breathed her last quietly, sating her thirst
on her beloved sand
at the graveyard in Asolo.
Clara Swain /
(born in Elmira, New York, 1834 - 1910)
Clara, she is clear
and she is Swain, that swan,
with wings curled in bloody gauze, reeking of
iodine and chloroform.
Clara, the first doctor and Indian missionary,
wanted to love all, and forever
yet who dares to love
and dress wounds for eternity?
This world serves only a handful of human
pieces on the plate of Love.
Clara enters India on an elephant
called The Methodist Woman's Foreign Missionary Society
giving young Indian women medicine and the curing arts.
Narrow walls of opulent female chambers overflow
with whispers, tremors, mold and germs, dark diseases
widening and healing
under her thundering
prayers, needles, and procedures.
For all the sick ladies of Zenan
there is little time left, under the red wind
bodies redden with rash, but healed dreams
rise into the sky like helium balloons
and the smiling teeth, like crystal glasses
at a wedding, break open their tombstones
in an ecstasy of Faith.
Simple as a cake, Clara built
the first hospital for women and children in India,
Clara Swain Hospital.
Probably she touched the tears of the sick
like a tender touch of God’s fingertips,
so their tears would sway in a smile
as if some righteous eternity
was being rocked in bed,
like a warm Indian Ocean
under the sheets.Translated by Miloš Đuđević and Damir Šodan