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Biography

Nenad Grujičić is considered to be one of the most important contemporary Serbian poets working today.
He was born in 1954 in Pančevo. Due to the frequent residence changes of his family, he spent his early childhood in the Vojvodinian towns of Zemun, Stara Pazova and Šajkaš. In 1960 his parents decided to go back to their hometown in Bosnia, Prijedor where Nenad finished high school. He returned to Vojvodina to graduate Literature at the University of Novi Sad.

Nenad Grujičić published his first book of poetry "Mother Tongue" in 1978, at the age of 23. Since then, he has published about twenty-five poetry and prose collections. His poems have been translated into almost twenty languages. The title of his first book has in many ways defined the very nature of his poetry. It is the poetry vibrating with the finest traditional resonance thought to be extinguished in modern literature. Moreover, according to many critics, Grujičić is “a poet of differences” which is manifested in many aspects: through his individual growth as well as through the diversity of his themes and techniques.

Nenad Grujičić was editor of the student literary magazine "To jest" (1978-1980) and poetry editor of the magazine "Glas omladine" (1980-1981). In 1982 he taught literature at Military high school in Belgrade. He was president of the Association of Writers of Vojvodina (1993-1997) and one of the founders and then president of the International Book Fair in Novi Sad and "Days of Laza Kostić"festival at the Novi Sad Fair (2000-2004). Nenad Grujičić is also the author of several documentary series: Ojkača – an Ancient Song of Potkozarje (TV Novi Sad, 1990), Ojkača – a Bitter Charm of Krajina (TVRS, 2003), Ojkača – Both Father and Mother (TVRS, 2003) and Ojkača – Lyrical Gilding of Frontiersman’sSsoul (TV Novi Sad). His documentary From Bećarac to Ojkača won the first prize on the Yugoslav radio festival in Ohrid in 1990. There are also several radio and TV shows dedicated to his poetry.

He lives and works in Novi Sad as director of "Brankovo Kolo", the poetry festival held very year in Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad. He writes poetry, prose, essays, plays,  and literary criticism. His first novel “Soul Milking” was published in 2009.  Nenad Grujičić has been the winner of the most important and prestigious literary awards in both Serbia and former Yugoslavia.

 

Bibliography

Poetry

  • Maternji jezik (Mother tongue), 1978
  • Linije na dlanu (Lines on the palm), 1980
  • Vrvež (Commotion), 1985
  • Carska namiguša (Imperial flirt), 1990
  • Jadac (Wishbone), 1993
  • Pusta sreća (Waste happiness), 1994, 1995, 1996
  • Maternji jezik i pesme pri ruci (Mother tongue and other poems), 1995
  • Log (Den), 1995
  • Cvast (Bloom), 1996,1997
  • Snovilje (Dreaming), 1998
  • Živa duša (Living soul), 1999
  • Čistac (Clearing), 1997
  • I otac i mati (Both mother and father), 2002
  • Mleč (Milt), 2004
  • Svetlost i zvuci (Light and sounds), 2005
  • Šajkaški soneti (The Šajkaš sonnets), 2008
  • Darovi (The gifts), 2009

Prose

  • Branko, 1984,1985, 1990, 1992
  • Prokrustova postelja (The Procrustrean bed), 1988
  • Ples u negvama (Dancing in  shackles), 1998
  • Ples u negvama (Dancing in  shackles), 1998
  • Polemike i odušci (Polemics and Reliefs), 2004
  • Ah, što život ušima striže (What a bristling life), 1990
  • Ojkača (Anthology of ojkacas, folk songs from Bosnia)1988,1992, 1996, 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Priče iz potaje (Stories in secrecy), 2007
  • Živi zvuci (The living sounds), 2008
  • Muža duša (Soul Milking, a novel), 2009





     

Prizes

  1. Brankova nagrada Matice srpske (The Branko Award of the Matica Srpska)
  2. Vukova nagrada (The Vuk Award)
  3. Milan Rakić (The Milan Rakić Award)
  4. Skender Kulenović (The Skender Kulenović Award)
  5. Kočićevo pero (The Kočić’s Quill Award)
  6. Stražilovo (The Stražilovo Award)
  7. Kondir Kosovke devojke (The Kosovo Girl’s Ewer Award)
  8. Grb Sremskih Karlovaca (The Sremski Karlovci Coat of Arms Award)
  9. Pečat varoši sremsko-karlovačke (The seal of Sremski Karlovci Award)
  10. Lazar Vučković (The Lazar Vučković Award)
  11. Dnevnikova nagrada (The Dnevnik Award)
  12. Zlatna značka prosvetne zajednice Srbije (The golden Badge of the Educational Association of Serbia)
  13. Nagrada Pavle Marković Adamov (The Pavle Marković Adamov Award)
  14. Pesma nad pesmama (The Song of Songs Awaed)
     

FRESHNESS AND VITALITY OF POET’S LANGUAGE

Nenad Grujičić is a remarkable figure in Serbian literature and a person of influence in Serbian literary language; it is so even in a certain romantic sense, hence his characterisation is an inspiring work, which, you must admit, is not the case with most of our contemporaries.

Above all, Nenad Grujičić is a poet, and one of the most distinguished and original ones. Apart from being a ruthless literary critic and a polemicist, he is also one of the most ingenious and the most prolific one there is. As the circle of Grujičić’s literary kins is unexpectedly expanding in the best and deepest traditional direction, he is not the author whose context of writing and thinking can be easily defined. The finest traditional resonance, thought to be unique in modern Serbian poetry, is constantly vibrating in his writings. The most delicate reflexes of folk lyrical poetry can be felt in his verses, it is the spark we all have in our personal and collective being, but only few can carve it in their poetry.

It is that gift that makes Grujičić, who is also both self-confident and poetically informed author, special among his fellow writers. He masterfully rules over the origins of Serbian poetry, including the oral one, and that is why the term “mother tongue”, the title of his first collection of poems, is adequate for most of his books.

The division on phases, which is the favourite occupation of critics when trying to dissect one's opus integrally, is hardly feasible here and it could be done only on the principle of observing stronger or weaker emphasis of poetic constants, which flow into a unique poetic voice from several directions. In some of his recent books, which are a kind of homage to sonnet, as well as both true sonnet art and self-analysis, there is nothing artificial, moreover,  the poet’s evaluation of a poem within a poem is conducted with small festivities and explosions of lyrical imagination by which full-blooded Grujičić is well known.

Bitterly ironic impulse is still present here, it is even increased, followed by special language hedonism: obvious and sensual enjoyment in the construction of juicy lyrical phrases, with effective stress in small space, as if a tiny mechanism is installed in every verse which will bring the words into inappropriate but functional relations, so that a meaning of a poem and its melody can become one whole.

It is important to point out the authenticity of Grujičić’s poetry, its elementary strength and its deep rootedness in the richness of Serbian language. That elementary quality is essential because it is the reason why the poet varies his rhetorical skills so lusciously, form being ironic, sentimental and erotic to being patriotic, but equally excellent. The poet appeals to poem's original state by wandering through tradition, seeking to renew the magic of the very act of creation. The language of the wandering is always concrete and expressive, very intimate and single, but at the same time it looks as if it is coming from a great distance, from some collective memory, revolving around both disappointing inventory of the ordinary life, and a kind of obsession with trivialities; the aim is not to expose it to mockery but to stress out a powerful reflex of true poetry on the basis of caricaturing.

          Želidrag Nikčević

POETRY WITHOUT PREDUJICES

A mist of doubts and questions concerning modern philosophical and literary thoughts floats over the title of Grujičić’s first book of poems. Mother tongue! Is it about Croce’s idea (inspired by old Herder’s and Hamann’s studies) that poetry is mother tongue of human race, that language and poetry are basically one and the same thing: creation, stored and directed by forces of imagination?
Or is it, perhaps, the poet’s verification of structuralist “philosophy of the system” according to which language activity has a distinguished place due to its independent totality? Or, on the contrary, is it about the resistance to obtrusive philosophy of human language, the resistance inspired by a “philosophy of man”, which regards the language as a “natural institution”? As Mikel Dufrenne once said: “for every human being there is his or her mother tongue which represents the base and food for their thoughts, and a human being resides there just as a foetus lives in its mother’s womb; it will depart from its mother one day, but she will always look after it tenderly.”
A collection of poems can be subjected to theoretical “survey” only due to some strong reasons. This time the reasons are two characteristics of Grujičić’s book: language and poetry are not so much its subject or its climate, as they are its topics, and at the same time, in its alphabet there is so much categorical language and distilled concept clarity, that these texts, unintentionally, are compared with manner and style of definition and not with any literary sample.
The poetical experiment of Nenad Grujičić is performed purely and consistently. Definite and crystal clean lucidity of attitude and experience in both his understanding of poetry and in his poetic act is impressive.

 
Slavko Gordić

POETIC ACCURACY

Grujičić’s first book "Mother Tongue" represents a metapoetic project which sounds assonantal in comparison with uniformed poetry of the 1970s, but that is not the only reason it is one of the best collection of poems of the modern Serbian poetry. "Mother Tongue" is a defined poetic accomplishment (which proves that successful metapoetry is true poetry in spite of some people’s remarks), and its author is an accomplished poet...
Since the very beginning, Grujičić’s poetry has (deservedly) had its careful and persistent interpreters. Because of that (in comparison with the poetry of the poet’s contemporaries) the context of its interpretation is clearly visible: its changes (and faults), assessments, meanings, and shortcomings. Among Grujičić’s interpreters, Slavko Goridć is specially significant, who, apart from giving philosophical explanation of Mother Tongue, has also made the most precise phrase / label of Grujičić’s poetry inclined to changes. Melancholic scepticism. Vladimir Kopicl has also read Mother Tongue and described the poetry of the book as "personal metapoetic discourse", present in the superficial flows, partially enriched with the realities of the world and the poet’s personal impulses. Shortly, some texts about Grujičić’s books (especially about Mother Tongue) due to its insight and analytical validity simply obligate new interpreters, so this very interpretation is a wider reply to the old ones. The most complete interpretation of Grujičić’s poetry has been given by Ivan Negrišorac... calling him a poet of reason.
The best Grujičić’s verses, including its measuredness and „accuracy“ („accuracy“ in poetic terms), as well as its inclination to (within its own transformation) fathom and evoke noninclusion of the world, belong to true poetic restlessness.

Mihajlo Pantić

HOUSE ROOFING AND THE VERY FOUNDATION OF TRADITION

(National and dramatic in a poem)

Nenad Grujičić is an inquisitive poet: there are hardly any thematic and motif related areas which he did not „plough“. But “what is new under the vault of heaven”? Is there a single topic that has not already been praised in Iliad and Odyssey? Novelty, originality, the author’s aspiring personal seal and the yearning breath of exclusivity in the poetry of Nenad Grujičić are accomplished  in both thematic and motif related content and the outer-formal plan as well (prosodic conditional quality, forms, technique, lexical and „differentiation“ of functional sub styles, slang-argot, dialectics, archaisms or neologisms, coined words, with the direct “reminiscence” on Laza, Branko, or, even, Koder, although they can be viewed in the context as a kind of unforced parody of that very process as an “immanent” one to poets

Apart from sonnets (and sonnet wreaths!), which prevail in Grujičić’s poetry, homeland is another topic which is indisputably and immediately imposed upon the poet’s readers, as an origin and the very foundation of tradition of not just this poem but the complete Author’s being and life. Many a critic has lost their sharpness on this boundary of Nenad’s poetry, and the poems such as: The Frog Catcher, Krajina, Sunday, Bread Crumb, Father’s Motorcycles, Viaduct, The Song Beyond the Hill, On St Ilija’s Day, The Singing, and especially The Wooden Barrel, stand as parapets (breastwork) at the entrance to the soul of our Author. The qualities our Author’s poetry are already known and acknowledged. Nevertheless, the poem HOUSE ROOFING is a step forward in a poetic development of the writer who has thus confirmed his human and writer’s maturity. The maturity is everything, like with Shakespeare and Hamlet.

Others have long ago noticed lyrical accords in Grujičić’s poetry, the “quality of melancholy and sadness”, i.e. the fact that the lyricism itself “decisively influences the appearance of cohesive element”, in, otherwise, a diverse and various poetry of the Author. And Mihajlo Pantić has already recognized the sad scepticism based on lyrical code of satire (Slavko Gordić). Yes, Nenad Grujičić is a poet, not only because of the accomplishments and the words he leaves between the covers of his books, but also because of the special perception of the world; because of the view on the witnessing world – which is a poetic one. The poet is a versifier at every moment of his everyday life, not only in the world of his smooth verses and tender rhymes.

Nenad Grujičić implicitly appeals to folk poetry, and with an acute sense for the language, he considers oral literature to be a legitimate form of literary tradition, and its reactualization, its creative adoption and further development to be a relevant form of modern writing – concludes Dušica Potić.

And that is not all! The statement closer to truth would be that the poetry of Nenad Grujičić (it is, to us, his BETTER part) is unthinkable without his reference to folk heritage. And it is not an allusion only to the most visible segment of it, the ojkaca singing (we know how much our Writer dedicated the attention, hard work and love to cultivation of topics of both mother and father, the ojkača singing, and other issues related to his homeland and those based on our common national heritage and tradition).

The completed poetic models and “patterns”, including the hard digging beneath the upper layers into the depth of the language and “archetypal” heritage, language tricks and twists, lexis, metaphors, and clarity are only superficial signs of not only of Nenad’s connection with epical and oral heritage, but also of his deep rootedness in folk tradition, and his entrenchment in lyrical positions (which, let us not forget, are also “traditional” because those female poems Vuk Karadžić collected were sung by men, too). The tradition is epical, but the position is lyrical, Nikola Koljević would say…

Rarely can such an obvious example of inclusion of “document” and reality into the lyrical function be found in modern Serbian poetry. Having been written here, these verses become more than they originally were (“folk”, oral and occasional), they also with their own distinctiveness, radiance and meaning emission add to artistic (individual) verses the contours which lift up HOUSE ROOFING above and beyond the mere literary attempt of commenting on reality, and being “pseudo-documentary” and artificial imitation.
“God help him,/ may the harvest be bountiful/ and may he have many children”, writes the Author of HOUSE ROOFING, appealing to his holy predecessors – folk singers and poets, and including indirectly the “most expensive Serbian word”, THE HOLY KOSOVO. As soon as a Serb mentions “bountiful harvest” (like Vasko Popa who long ago inhabited that poetic gap and empty space with his scythe, which, while “the young moon cuts bountiful harvest” in a poem “THE KOSOVO FILED”, is at the same time both a bird and a black messenger of the death, the tireless “reaper”) there is also the Tsar martyr, “heroic origin”, Lazar who died defending his faith,  together with all the Serbian Christian warriors who were killed on that horrible day, the doomsday, the Day of St Vitus.

The interweaving of the Prince’s curse (in folk heritage) and celebratory/toasting tone and position of the same phrase in Grujičić’s poem is a point of crucial importance, “the point of emptying”, but at the same it is also the point of “filling with meaning”: Lazar’s house is destroyed, and “Mitar Šiljeg from Gomjenica/ is roofing his house”. And that is not all: “the curse” becomes “a vow”; in that most bitter line, and the worse threat of all, Nenad Grujičić BREAKS the archetypically inserted premonition of inevitability, and whole heartedly calls upon posterity, “and may he have many children”!

But the story of the interweaving of contemporary lyrical verse writing and its epical origin does not end there: “From the Becners’ grove -/ two black ravens are flying over the wonder…” The active characters (I will write about them later) are the “Jugovic brothers”, but they are from Busnovo, nevertheless, they are the Jugovices… Haven’t we mentioned earlier, the heritage is epical, and the position lyrical…

There is a proverb, a reshaped one, in Grujičić’s poem: “death’s day is doom’s day”; another one is also included:  “the full do not believe the hungry”.

Once more we remind the readers that the “connective tissue” of the poem is authentic singing, the “ojkačka” singing, a folk heritage, outsinging, which is here separated graphically, written in italics. It was not only once sung (by people), but it is also singable in the tissue of artistic additional “text”.

Emphasized in the title, dramatic processes in the poem are seemingly hidden by an usual graphic look of “verse sequence”, but, still,  they are clearly visible from the very beginning: dramatic (and poetic, of course!) didascalia is represented through a series of scenes from the start, placing the plot into the “setting”, description of  the “scenography”, identification of the “characters” – both “protagonists” and “antagonists”, and, finally, from the “story” and “plot” through the “climax” to the “outcome”.

Separated graphically, in inverted commas, there are “soliloquies” of an invisible crier, a voice “beyond the wooden barrel”, the “narrator”, who is obviously the main character. The regular (linguistic, rhythmic) enumeration contribute to the development of the (inner) suspense, which is adequate to the structure of dramatic plot, and the “ojkača” verses have– without exaggeration– the role of ancient Greek choirs…

Enough has been said to substantiate a seemingly daring, but viable supposition about the “dramatic” in the poetry of Nenad Grujičić, especially in his poem HOUSE ROOFING.

And last but not least, a poet at Palež is called upon twice in the poem. It is as if Grujičić foresaw his triumph celebrated in the Skender Kulenović Award on the Kozara mountain. The poem HOUSE ROOFING again shows that Grujičić’s best poetry is full of authentic homeland topic and lexis; traditional semantics and the very foundation of Serbian tradition. Thus, poetry roofing has been completed.

Branko Brdjanin Bajović

POETRY

A WINE-DRINKER

A sonnet skulks in every glass of wine, 
it’s the seed soaring singers to the sky,  
but delirious tongues suddenly decline 
spicy songs without proper snack supply. 

In the village of Shajkash, life’s the treat  
provided by the gift of gods – talent,
the gurgle of wine kindles singing and its heat,
from hand to mouth: a glass dances ballet!

Wine breast is borne by a crystal leglet, 
its clink rousing erotic echo flow,  
under nose, it’s performing pirouette,  

whose scent stirs up nasal hairs and–you know!
Only then, after taking a small slice  
And a sip –will you get to paradise.

THE SWAN

A swan on a lake at night in the park,
sleeping with its bill shoved under the wing,
still was the surface, the moon was swimming
under the headless resembling the ark.

Not a ripple of disillusion did it spark,
nor a bubble from the bottom did it bring,
under a birch the whiteness was resting,
whose magic feathers cast light in the dark.

I passed by silently as a shadow,
not to cause a breeze in this stroll of mine,
whose tiny breath might make a fearther blow

on the tail-top touching the waterline.
In front of the house I saw all in glow –
the swan and the moon up there did entwine.

IT

Whatever people talk about
or speculate
about all of this
nothing will be known
because while I’m writing
I express deep concern for IT
and only then
to me some
fatefully clear pictures
and circumstances
are undisturbed stroll
to the dream
of the only luxury devoid of
the difference
between me
and those different from me
lovers of Nature

     and Thought.

THE SECRET GETS
REVEALED AT THE END

I am the one
who is intrigued
by fortresses
unconquered
for centuries
but at the end of his life
he took flight
abandoning
his dearest
in family
so that he would feel better
whether he knew it
or not.

CLEAR CONSCIENCE

Something can be learned
and something can be given
if you write poems
and meet people
who deal well
with special cases
or life habits of those
who have no chance
of forgiveness
sweet dreams
and clear conscience

Who can guarantee you’re right
and things your
head reifies
have sense.

Don’t overestimate yourself!

Ponder it over
and ask:
Father
why did you make me
if you didn’t know
and couldn’t
appropriately
arrange me?

CONSEQUENCES

There isn’t a thing
you can feel with all senses
regardless of the beauty
of  a captured thought
that leads into entangled
regions of eternity.

The exhausting work
on this phenomenon
is merely urgency of my blood
and all past
centuries of poetry
resting
over
and beneath the graves of
Homer
Dante
Branko
and others.

But
I have no
alternative
but to breed verse
and live in illusion
like all my predecessors
and the ones who
might
come
tomorrow.

HABIT

A powerful habit it is
that ennobles me
with early memories.

It fevently burns
and moarns the day
when I took a pen
for the first time
and drew an askew line
the line
which passes through the heart
and continues
to the birth place
or to the trap for all of those
who think
about voyages
through vague regions
and magic songs
which like in a dream
suddenly appear!

THE LIGHT AND SOUNDS

In spring noons
the clearest light is
the one on the newly
hatched egg by the well.
In it you can see your reflection
and your big nose too.
Improve this image above the water
kept in a plate.
Willow trees and mountain in the sun
are just across from you.
I should have the speed of sound at least
to touch everything I see.
The river is full of swimmers in July
and their shouts nostalgic feelings
like the old songs.
And that gives me the strength
to swim across
waving by his thin arms
left and right
across the water.
And when the night comes
a huge fish will come out of a whirlpool
and eat up the meadow.

(translated by Gordana Platiša)

LIFE AND DREAM

By doing exercises every day
by scribbling on the paper
I try hard
to pluck out a truth or two
from everything that surrounds me
about which i think passionately
before
and after sleep.

I neglected my dreams
as a way of solving the riddie
of life,
but soon,
maybe even tonight
I’II start to interpet it,
because, as you see,
I often get info souch a mood.

(translated by Gordana Platiša)

IMAGE IN THE EYE

We whisper some
trifles about God.

Now our dawn breaks
now darkness surrounds us.

However
we
go on bridling
pernicious ufterances
e. g. on the wornt
who should preferably
most urgently
erase
from his eye
imago’s s image!

(translated by Aleksandar Najgebauer)

ABSENT SPACES

Should I say anything
it might resemble
the verses of my youth
which wash the throat
from redundant words

Should I keep silent
it might remind
of my early sins
their peeled entrails
in which my soul, that tiny
soul of mine hides immense gold

Should I sing out of blue
someone might understand
and cry, poor thing,
on my behalf
so uniquely tiny
on that shadowy path
from the time that
pours streams of sky

Should I love you
again and suddenly now
convinced it was the right hour
what would come out
from that revived love
that haunted us in days
when no one could recognize
the countenance of his own

(translated by Emilija Cerovic)

A NONEXISTENT POWER

To write about roses before
or after the rain is the same.

I write about everything
so that I could conquer
huge spaces.

There are things
and phenomena
which nobody
ever writes about
they are poetry, too,
because they write poems about themselves
not waiting for me
and others alike.

POETRY

Ah:
It is the clear Mind.
The language freed from prejudices.
Open sentences
of my main concerns.
The haos
I am clearing up.

As a matter of fact
now I am delivering myself
ahead of time.

PREDICTION

At the age of nine
I wrote about bees and flowers.
My mother read aloud
the poem and cried.

Afterwards I’d often take
a pen and start writing.
Whenever I gave way
to a phenomenon or a prediction,
a bunch of sentences
would emerge
on the paper.
Something resembling love
would be born.
The love took over everything
happening
in front of me.

On the other side
an impotence to vigil
over the wholeness called life remained.

ABSENT SPACES

If I said anything,
it might resemble
my first poems
or their shadows
that wash out the throat
from needless words.

If I were silent on anything,
it might resemble
early sins
and their peeled innards
where a soul, smaller and smaller,
is hiding a huge treasure.

If I sang without reason,
someone might understand it,
and shout miserably
instead of me,
on the time shadow path
poured by heavenly threads.

If I grew to love you,
again and suddenly,
believing it is the right moment,
what would  unravel
in love revival
that comes to us
in days when nobody can
recognize their own face?

THE CHANCE

She carried a chair into the sun and
while sitting under a lime tree, she turned
her lovely face to the sky. With her hand
and pollen-like fingers (Oh, how I yearned!)

she gave away the secret about her
existence on the earth. At that moment
her dark-chestnut eyes started to alter
the rhythm of my heart as if intent

on leaping to her lap (Oh, what a treat!).
Ever since poems divinely hold sway
over me, I know this fruit-bearing feat

will keep ripening in my books, anyway,
nothing will replace this countenance
which inspiringly gave me the chance.

CLIMATE

In small
cramped dens,
in the slumber
and mild soup vapour,
in the reek of hot fat,
boiled out laundry
and children’s loose bowels,
in home atmosphere, indeed,
we squat over a piece of paper.

Outside a tree bark grows,
hoarfrost pinches,
freezes,
fragile snow cracks.

Still, we write
patriotic literature,
shoved into the corner
we write literary works,
dreaming of distant islands
and castles
where landlords
spit
and provoke,
by tipping each other a wink they solve problems,
waiting for us to protrude from our lair,
to cough
and ask
and them to cough back:
Where are you,
what’s the matter with you,
what’s the matter with your little poems,
come, come on,
you are the spirits of our era!

If we were what we are
there,
that’s the way things are.
Then, again, let’s run
back to our stingy den,
with a quill let’s draw
climate in spiritual swamps
and provinces,
let’s write affirmatively,
joyfully,
constructively,
let us for once complain properly,
so that we can be born in agony as soon as possible,
we, the writers
men of letters,
we, the ghosts,
the leading cards of every era.

 

GREAT CONFUSION

Once a soul leaves the body
it never returns to it.
If freely explores
and it hunts a creature
to inhabit it,
to burden it
for the rest of its life.

My soul
is quite calm.
It does not go into
our mutual problems
as much as I do.
And I eat my heart out
when I sometimes can’t
write a poem,
or even worse,
when I think,
and I’m petrified
that I’ll never write again.

Oh, what a great confusion!
Not a trace of the Creator,
and I guess
and magnify
this marvellous state
of my flesh.

FLOATING LIGHT

To me every word is a start benign,
an angel in hell and heaven all-out.
The words are roses burst from wine,
and love wounds in heart, no doubt.

I love eternally even when I swear,
talk nonsense and boast foolishly.
It hurts me when I (as if I don’t care)
delay my absolute love for my deary.

From their own haven lies do rave
deliriously like some child in fire.
Oh, were you too risen by a wave,

and taken to bloody dead-end’s spire?
Stay dispersed all over my face,
I'll fly like a bird with this trace.

GENIUS

Take care of that genius
for  some future distress.

On this loony, my God,
like on centipede plod.

You eye the genius well
ah, secret not to tell.

Plenty loonies grab thee
three hundred soon there’ll be.

And lick that genius’ arse
you’ll win a lottery prize.

And for dear goodness sake
you stay away from this fake.

Let’em see you with the wise
now that’s what all idolize.

Alas, so, whom to take?
indeed, whose fame isn’t fake?

A very fine line there is
Between the loony and the wiz!

FATHER’S MOTOBIKES

In Bosanski Novi, at a border check:
my father bought a bike - a sound good wreck.
From Germany: Horex, a black device,
sidecar besides, when speeding - real paradise!
Upwards the hill, puffing like a dragon,
over rough roads, there, father drags it on.
Yellow earth is coiling the wheels around
while Horex breaks the barrier of the sound.
To fall off a bike - well, that’s not a shame,
just the same, it is not my father’s game.
By the church, at a drunken lot meeting,
through a grove father tries slalom skiing.
People stare in wonder at sliding oak trees,
you think: he hit, he’ll tumble head over heels.
The old fox passed by the house yesterday
shot-like he slid - when a cable did betray.
Only God knows how he came to a stop,
but in the evening he came home tiptop.
With Horex gone, an Ilo took its place,
in the area, a label of no disgrace.
He went slalom skiing and so again,
still, he stayed alive, mad and merry, amen!
And this bike like all the rest ones also,
alas, was thrown on the scrap heap or so.
For domestic needs, now all calm and fit,
father bought Tomos – let Devil take it.
By a quirk of fate, on this bike of his,
father fell over curb and ceased to exist.

 

THE FROG-CATCHER

1

There are words
which are more than words.
To call my father a frog-catcher,
in the area where shoals
of fish blaze
like constellation in the sky,
meant wounding him
to the quick,
making him hang his head
in shame
like flowers get bent down
after mountain storm.

2

You'd better
curse his dearest,
or even call the living
dead:
father will reply
three times as much,
he’ll even curse the sun and
-no harm done.
But
if you called him
a frog-catcher
or heard somebody
somewhere
once
blurt out that sad word,
and told him,
woe betide those ones!

3

Because of that word,
if he only uttered it in his sleep
father would have fight
even with himself:
Once he punched gabby Janko
who, while peeping under women’s
skirts,
shouted  frog-catcher
to my father on a bike;
next time he hit quiet Mehmed
who at midnight
in the garden,
thinking it was my father
tried to strangle
drunk Momcilo;
some other time father struck cheery Rajko
(What is there peering out from the new moon?)
who only glanced upwards
and got his teeth
knocked down his throat.

4

From the river Gomjenica to Sanicani pond
summer sunset is dispersed
in the silver colour of young carps
jumping from the water
like living inspiration
seeking the end of the world.
Across seas and valleys
the world’s frog-catchers
brought brushwood baskets
with lids.
Father took a hundred of them and
-there - our yard was turned into a storehouse.
As soon as he would fill a basket with frogs,
the croaking got dispatched to Rome.
In our house, a day would break
with frog singing.
Even crazy Duda made fun of us.

5

And frog-catching – it's like this:
In summer,
late at night,
you go to the swamps in the middle of woods.
Around you, fairies are prying
and the crescent pours golden light in torrents.
You can hear croaking of a great magnitude of frogs.
The sound of their choir is spreading
from beneath the ground to the heaven.
On the riverbank father lights
an old acetylene lamp
and takes it nearer to the water.
The circle of flame engulfs
the universe of sound bubbles,
which suddenly becomes silent
and frogs goggle at him.
Father takes them
like doughnuts from a plate
one by one:
a common frog,
a toad,
then a green frog,
then a nameless one.
He picks them and puts them into the basket
as many as he likes.

6

Father’s light
is bigger on the water
when the moon goes behind the cloud
resembling a male frog.
The eternity smells of
the child’s fear
and everything is bristled
like a dream
compounded somewhere,
from which I breath in the miracle.
At that moment I feel divine peace.

7

Whenever he pulls
a frog from the water,
father protrudes
his lower jaw
and moves it
from left to right.
With his wet hand he touches
his nose.
He sniffs contently.
He forgets about his son who is trembling
like a yellow water lily
on a small wave.

8

Never did
I touch
a frog’s white belly.
I only admired
father’s will.
During Sunday lunches,
while he was eating lamb and drinking brandy,
I watched his big hands
with no thumb on the left one:
it was cut off by a machine in August,
under a willow in our yard,
in a ritual of making a new barrel,
when every true craftsman
gets ecstatic like a poet about the language,
and forgets that he’s made
of flesh and blood,
until he sees on the floor,
by his feet,
wriggling
in the sawdust,
the finger which has just got cut off.

9

The frog job - a closed book,
and my father on the road
in the village of Rakelici,
in a motorbike accident,
departed this life.
Many a neighbour on the funeral
had that dangerous word
at the tip of their tongues.
The word went up to their Adam’s apples,
risking  that I would,
even though unspoken,
recognize it in their eyes.
Thus, for all time,
it got stuck between
voice and sight.

10

In Italy they still eat frogs.
And the spirit of my father
who never tasted
a green leg
conducts invisible choir
that can be sometimes  heard
after rain.
That’s the time when fishermen
returning home
remove willow branches from their backs,
and the singing combs
the child on the boat.

11

May the frogs
bloom at night,
and may their rapture
together with dogs’ barking
be spread across Bosnian
valleys and hills,
in mere dreams and souls,
under clouds and stars,
in this inconstant world,
transitory
like buds on branches,
and only sometimes
on a particular day,
it appears
in one and only word,
it gets stuck in the throat,
and gets gilded and married
with the most beautiful poem.

SIGNS

Long have I not written of love,
having been moved by nonsense,
the worn out trifles of the world.
Once limping through a corn field
I understood love.
Wind bending the horizon
and the corn bristling.
The second time I’ve loved
a woman betrayed by another.
I strained myself to get her talking.
Once she opened her heart – she was gone.
Now I know somewhere she sorrows.
At moments I was with her,
at moments with myself.
Those transitions made me weary
and shook me off like raindrops from a sleeve.

A SONG FROM BEYOND THE HILL

Mother is most beautiful
in the garden over by the well.
Drops splashing from the pitcher
follow her into the house.
Over the dining table – a rainbow.
The soup made of its stripe.
By the bowl – two other colors of the rainbow:
Reddish roast and a corncob!
Father cleans his pistol on Sundays
Last night he was at a banquet.
From the sooty barrel a scent of festivity.
Someone will knock on the window
and quickly disappear.
At that moment I hear a voice.
With a mouthful down my throat I go to the orchard.
The early flowers inspire me
to speak with the unknown.
It goes on till the song beyond the hill subsides.
Then dreams take over the entire house
and through a small century
in flows a summons to life.

SILENCE

They’re killing me;
the talks of quantities.
I’ve built all from nothing.
Now I journey across the kingdom
in which tongue is match to life.
At a point I am
where the tip of a pen touches infinity.
There the wolf rests
and turns into dew,
and a lake drops from a mountain.
The boy has seen it, his eyes are true
and so he’s believed by all.

SMALL STATUTE

The stanza is throbbing,
can you hear the thud of verse?

Psst,
loniliness triumphs there.

The colour inexplicable is being emitted.

In the cluster of light,
look,
a poem is springing up.

A PENCIL

A pencil is like a woman.
We stopped talking about
our lunch
and our needs.
We lie each other,
we spend each other
before we go to sleep.

From time to time
I slide from my bed
down the paper.

HOUSE ROOFING

         
Amid merry multitude, from hand to hand,
waves of burnt roofing tiles are moved upwards,
in the presence of heaven and earth a new roof is being raised,
decorated with towels and light-coloured shirts,
newly cut  hazel branch is put on the top of the house,
on the roof tree under a cloud, standing astride,
Father-crier is displaying the presents
while raising a bottle of rakia towards the sky:
oh, the Kozara mountain plum orchards
in corked bottles!

When Draze cries – all the people around him fall silent.
“Hey, neighbours, godfathers and friends,
hear me now,
Mitar Shiljeg from Gomjenica,
is roofing his house,

God help him,
may the harvest be bountiful
and may he have many children...”

The throat melts in midday sun,
poor, precious presents start arriving:
roasted pork ascends to the heaven,
a slanting crate of beer- flies up to the girders,
embroidered kerchiefs are the wings of pagan miracles,
abundance descends on the house.

„Here comes Momchilo Banjac from Orlovacha,
he’s brought a seven-metre-long towel,
there’s no end of it...“

And the napkin – is not even five inches long.

„Trivun Turudija from Baltine Bare
gives three golden embroidered shirts 
to a neighbour of his...“

But it’s - an ordinary small white shirt.

People are swarming like ants around the new walls,

children are racing with the old:
who will get bigger calluses on the their palms;
laughter mitigates cherished pain,
the load going from hand to hand is steadily increasing,
old women mingle with girls:
both the young-eyed and the toothless ones sparkle.

Alas, poor me, I’m sixty and over
but I’m neither counting nor fear younger.

From the Becners’ grove -
two black ravens are flying over the wonder,
from a dry oak top a third one
is looking over firstly with his one eye then with the other one,
a sparrow-hawk’s bill glints too,
in the ellipse over heavenly scenery,
in the distance a stream falls down
on a loose mill wheel,
look, a frog on a wet pebble!
Legends and stories flock together,
cloudlets above the mountain of Kozara are passing through
a rusty iron ring – a trace of the Flood
on the top of the Machkov Kamen where once
ships were moored at sea,

a barefooted child is running across a stubble-field,
his feet prickling in the bees’ hum from Hamza’s pasture,
some feather-legged pigeons are weighing out the event.

„Hear me now,
here’s Markan Bundalo
he’s brought a stove from remote Germany...“
But it’s only - an electric plate with two small panels.

A long-barrel nine-millimetre automatic pistolfires,
it’s followed by a more powerful big bore,
and then something that is weaker:
it’s a blank pistol

- somebody recognizes it-
knock, bang, knock, bang: there, he’s fastening a board!
Wow, can be heard everywhere, ooh,
children are picking up hot cartridge cases.

The gun of mine and the bullets in it,
you are my patron saints consecrated.

 Heart strings are pulled, bosoms keep heaving,
men and women are ceaselessly
passing on roofing tiles,
a demijohn full of the Tomashica shljivovitza is stirred:
whether it’s a low-quality one or a twice-distilled one
doesn’t matter, as long as there’s any, as long as there’s plenty
let it grow and be taken to the roof,
to the sun, for good luck.

„Here comes Mileva Kecman from Jutrogoshta,
to the joy of everyone,
she’s brought three roasted turkey-hens...“
But it’s only - a bony chicken.

...My sweetheart’s meadow is so colossal,
that by noon the chickens peck it up all...

 And in a blink of an eye, the house is roofed:
both a Fiat from Usorci and a Mercedes from Berlin stand still,
a Fica from Stratinjska and a Peugeot from Paris
are pressed to each other’s glass snouts,
a big motorcycle Horex and a small one Tomos
are leant against a walnut tree on both sides,
alas, a bicycle chain falls off:
someone jumps off it and runs straight to the house
to hang a bottle on the top board in  draught,
there, a nobody’s bastard has grown sideburns.

Look at the moustache of my beloved,
can she twirl them just like her betrothed?

Thousands of jackdaws are flying over the grove
-somebody will be getting married in autumn!
Images of dark-red piece of motherhood sing,
the river Jasenovacha murmurs in the mountains,
a bewildered German leant on a horse-drawn cart
is holding tightly a bottle of rakia,
and the German’s bride-to-be from Svodna,

whose eyes are heavily made-up, occasionally takes a sip from the bottle.
The crier almost falls down- long-legged he descends
cleaning the trace of brick from his knee,
the boss whispers something to his ear,
teeth glitter-one is missing!

...Alas, a shabby old house made of straw,
poor bastard will drink it off till cock crow...

An old Kozara circle dance is gaining strength to the left side:
cross-like spread arms are reaching each other’s hands,
Father starts the singing, Godfather and Godmother throw in:
she, big-voiced, is trembling and trolling like a man,
the host’s drunk brother is singing too,

next to him, there’s a mate of crier’s from Omarska,
look at that old chap! – like a boy, his knees are shaking,
Shara Shtrbac with a hat on his head is waddling,
he sings at groaning tables even at funerals,
colourful sounds are melted in one whole,
from a mumbled embryo of a circle dance –

clearer and clearer buzzes of words are appearing,
Oljacha and Drljacha join in,
following them like a wind - Jelacha, Srnacha and Suvacha,
Puvacha, Rebracha and Kuvacha are squeezing up,
gasping Ujacha and Garacha won’t yield,
a medicine of motherhood is flowing,
honeyed singing is growing,
bare life licks like a snake in heat.

...Kostajnica is covered with haziness,
while the whole of Dobrljin is in brightness...

The circle dance is speeding up and taking over reason,
voices are arranged like calendar dates,
an old  colossal man from Maricka is elegantly showing off,
a man with trimmed moustache from Brekinje is looking at him,
they’re all changed in their faces –
singing fateful “oj” from ear to ear,
raised on the gallows of singers’ nirvana:

death’s day is doom’s day.
...There is no true circle dancing without me,
and the heartfelt singing is my middle name...

 And the poet at Palez once said:
Several girls dancing opposite from the circle dance leaders,
sing songs made in the course of lonely knitting hours,
during washing up in clear streams,

and at sleepless nights,
they send blurry love vibrations through the circle dance.

 ...I sing quietly, I dance quietly ,
breaking my beloved’s heart quietly...

Neither mortar in their shoes,
Nor dark clouds over the river Sana,
nor dogs on the timber
can disrupt ojkacha singing,
the circle dance has been kneaded for a long time,
there’s no force that can debase the singing:
the songs originating from  seed, root,
spool, mother...

Come on, honey, don’t stop, sing, belt it out,
you are mine and mine only, have no doubt.

The table full of pies and roasted meat is breathing,
funnel-shaped strudels and folded pies keep evaporating,
cheese and spinach pies are spawning,
while foster-sisters meat and egg pies are puffing,
circle dance music makes four-ounce shlivovitza flask grow wings,
from Crna Dolina a pig’s head with an apple in its teeth
has opened its mouth to sing,
above it, crossing himself stands a warrior from Strigova,
circular cakes and marmalade-crescent rolls
scheme together in sugar frost,
bell-peppers are waiting for an insatiable eater,
enclosed in demijohn, spirits are straining:
an old shljivovitza hisses nine languages,
a flask from Piskavica, worn out with merriness,

is yearning to soar up!

...Alas! Hollow legs I have they all say,
will I ever be  full as I’m today...

Three-crust-maize bread is smouldering,
golden cream is swelling with pride,
soft cheese are ready to be eaten,
last year pickles are spreading their odour in the colours of the rainbow,

oh, women’s skilful hands!
pickled cabbage seethe in a bowl,
in the middle of the table there’s a stifled sweet bread- eaten into,
full crates of beer shiver under the table in the small earthquake ,
hot lamb picked from Miljkovac clearing

floats in plates,
salt and vinegar look out for a sweet morsel,
on the right, cakes with syrup icing are spreading,
flowering salad is watered with sun,
garlic, onion, hot peppers,
they all blossom again, giving birth,
everything gets wings – they all want to soar up with circle dance.

...Stop the dancing for a moment, hold it
my hat got stuck in a plum tree, dammit...

Clear sky downpour forces uproarious people
to move tables into the empty house:
watch out, sister, don’t let a spoon fall off the table,
hold that pie,
don’t spill that rakia!
All under our beloved roof:
daughters-in-law cough and seemingly remove invisible hairs
from each other’s shoulders: ouch, dear me,
even dry throats toast now,
eyes sparkle in timeless space,
Milka Rasavchanka takes a sip,

a chap from Peici opens a green bottle of beer
with his teeth,
shaking the foam off between his legs:
“There, I’ve circumcised it”– and he tosses off the salvation,
some blockhead grabs a piece of food from the roasting tin
and washes it down with somebody else’s rakia,
the full do not believe the hungry,
mouths water  like hail on the roof.

Cabbage, potato and roasting bacon,
 no leftovers on the table hereupon.

The children born afresh
(including those from the Dubica refuge – those long gone),
breeze gently like angels while licking their lips,
they take after their raging great grandfathers,
who are now getting tamed in roasting meat,
food is here the best talk,
young women wriggle, mothers keep silent,
pass me the fork, there isn’t any,
there it is, next to your feet, it fell down!

...Bring some rakia, a chap will drink it off
Even if this liquor makes him pop off...

 The crier and some other two men from the Chirkin field
-are still standing under the roof,
while pushing the hail as big as nut,
they can’t stop singing.

...Hey, buddy of mine, standing next to me,
I would willingly give my life for thee...

The room glows,
the icons on the unmortared wall appear then vanish,
sinful souls are shivering,
leftovers on the table and around it
are covered with tobacco smoke,
at that moment a sad-cheerful song comes out
from Draza’s hoarse throat:
it’s about both bitterness and sweetness,
both light and darkness,
both fast and feast,
both earth and heaven,
both star and cross.

...When I die, and they put me into shrine,
Tell them all, darling, that you were mine...

The rain has stopped:
again circle dance blesses a new home,
wearing white trousers a coquette Persa from Dortmund
gracefully kicks,
the moustached brothers Jugovices from Busnovo
cockishly stamp their feet,
and wink at the broad-bottom Staka from Knezica,
her skirt whirling to both left and right,
while moving powerfully and beautifully like a young mare,
with no shame or delay,
they’re all proud and important, one and the only one,
like a sore spot circle dance unrolls
into a snake-like body signature.

...Hey, you, vagabond, who’s guarding your house,
the wind is sweeping and shielding my house...

And the poet at Palez says:
The moves slide
like on oil in joints,
forearms are reaching out and touching women’s breasts,
girls and young windows
drag their left foot
so that they can intrude
upon the men behind them –
as if they were throwing themselves at them.

...Dear, I can see it in your eyes tonight
that you would not put up much fight...

The singing disperses demons from the village,
making hearts tender and valleys and mountains blossom,
tied lightning flashes
on tree top with young apples,
suddenly Stojan from Rakelici starts the song:

...Ahey, honey, when your hen starts sitting,
hey, you,  beloved, my lovely darling...

Looking at the distance, mind wondering,
struttingly turning  Ljuban from Jelovac replies:

...Let’s  get it  laid and set the balls rolling,
hey, you, beloved, my lovely darling...

There’ll be new, healthy children,
hot soup and life,
there’ll be both sugar and salt, both winter and spring,
there’ll be tears both of joy and sadness,
and there’ll be both departures into the world and returns to Prijedor.

...I sing quietly, it can be heard far away,
is there anyone joyful in my way...

Constellations are dripping from the star-adorned Father,
his shoulders are covered with handkerchiefs and shirts,
on the roasting-spit – a pig’s head and tail,
a miraculously embroidered flower on a towel,
charred, hides a hot barrel under the belt.

...A grandpa’s put something under his coat
it’s a gun that can strike like a thunderbolt...

(translated by Milena Borić)

POET’S SELECTION
Nenad Grujičić

 

          Translation                                                                                       Reviewer
Brankica Bojović, Ph.D., Docent                                     Isabelle White, Ph.D., Professor emeritus

Copyright - Бранково Коло 2005