Slovenian feature

Other features in this issue


Robert Titan Felix

By Robert Titan Felix

Marthan Kosir-Widenbauer

Translated by Martha Kosir-Widenbauer

      Slovenian poetry was born at the beginning of the 19th century during the period of Romanticism. Until the end of World War I, it represented a sanctuary and a refuge for a nation without a country, confined within the Austro-Hungarian “prison of nations” that demanded from the poets certain external responsibilities and limited their creative freedom. After World War II, the national and linguistic boundaries were abolished; however, poetic creativity faced another challenge in trying to find gaps within the totalitarian socialist regime where critical thought and the creative freedom of the poets could be established. A reflection of the totalitarian reality became the crucial theme of high modernism in which a preference for strongly metaphorized language was imposed by reality itself. Since the political reality was not to be questioned, it was only possible to talk about it through symbolic spaces (with the help of ancient myths, etc.). The search for poetic freedom became the nucleus of the ultra-modern poetic engagement that searched for the word beyond every implication, since every meaning is necessarily ideological. In the times of postmodernism, a demand for autonomous literature was posed in an even more radical way, which tried to avoid not only anti-regime mockery but also engaged dissidence. In other words, through an attempt to extract the literary from the political, it exposed the constrictions of antagonism that did not allow for creation for creation's sake (mere creation). However, after the fall of totalitarianism and the disintegration of the state, poetry could begin returning to itself again.

      Josip Osti, who created a large part of his literary work in the Bosnian language, was reborn as a Slovenian poet. After love had brought him to Slovenia, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina kept him there. He discovered the magic of the Karst region and let himself be captivated (through a commanding opus to a life hardly-begun) by his “brother in insomnia,” Srečko Kosovel, the Slovenian poet of the Karst who died in his twenties. Josip Osti produced several magnificent poetry collections in the Slovenian language in which he depicts a house built by the sweat of his own brow among the ruins of his memories. It is a house that the murderous hand of nationalistic bloodshed transformed into a site of fire. Josip Osti's poetry is a canto to the unexhausted and inexhaustible power of humanity that contains the strength to rise from any ashes.

      Peter Semolič emerged as a poet when the Slovenian scene was most obviously determined by postmodernism that he, nonetheless, never belonged to. Through his turn to pronounced intimism and his reduction of the poetic world to the reflexive uncovering of personal life experience, he in many ways traced the path that some of the youngest poets have chosen. The members of this current of narrative reality poetry search for their poetic engagement and the ideological superfluity in detailed tales about the meridians of their own ordinariness.

      Barbara Korun on the other hand, discovers utterly distinct possibilities of poetic expression. Her dense and rhythmic poetic speech primarily draws from the expansiveness of intimacy, but it takes place in the fissure where ritual intoning adds a sacred character to the real and where it manifests itself excessively as its internal dimension. Her poetry becomes a monologue to the sanctity of the world.

      The four poets introduced in this selection were born in the 1970s and belong to the youngest wave of contemporary Slovenian poetry. Their poetic experience in many ways reflects all the changes that the country underwent during the period when they were forming as poets. They lived through their poetic beginnings in a time when the experience of the country's disintegration and the end of totalitarianism were already over, and they were still too young to be profoundly touched by these changes. When Slovenia declared its independence, and the country was born in 1991, there was no need for poetry to replace it anymore. The postmodern solipsism (a necessary antipode to the combative art of the predecessors), which generally affected the prose and was barely echoed in poetry, was chewed up and rejected like tasteless gum. A question that was asked was what to write in a concluded and de-poetized time. The space that was discovered, however, still displayed an unbelievable field of possibilities. Poetry returned to the world (of intimacy) and to itself.

      Aleš Šteger is without doubt the most important poet of the young generation. His beginnings are marked by a sophisticated, highly aesthetisized poetic speech which, through the strategies of reassigning meanings and effacing the presence of the extracted reality through metaphysical encoding and innovative use of the genitive metaphor, continues the legacy of modernism. It does not arrive at mere play but poetizes the all-encompassing availability of the world-in-creation through hymn-like, ecstatic diction. In the continuation of his poetic course, through the multiplicity of the self and a significant expression of dispersion and evasion not only of reality but also of consciousness, he arrives at the mythification of the essence of the world, where it becomes manifest to him that the inexhaustible space of the symbolic can extend out of any ever so banal reality.

      Lucija Stupica discovered the poetically rich shady spaces between the brightness of the sun and the transparency of the moon. The outside world, which she touches through an image, is in her delicate and polished speech often present in painful clarity (of apparent simplicity) without its symbolic density being possibly overlooked. The elegiac dialogue of the lyric subject with the world it is placed into and with itself, takes place on the perimeter where the body aches from the terrible nearness of the unattained touch, and where the consciousness is present always only as a step before or after. This consciousness is extended between the anticipation of continuously-evading reflections and the nostalgic letting go of what has been flushed away and abandoned.

      Gregor Podlogar built his poetic beginnings on the rich legacy of mystical poetry. He searched for a word that would point to the beyond in the language of the world. Through a confrontation with the impossibility of internalizing the “experience of the East”, his poetic path has brought him to an interesting form of reality poetry which, through linguistic invention, discovers entirely new aspects of the real world and the unrebuffed possibilities of poetic language.

       Stanka Hrastelj focused her poetry on the world of intimacy and erotic desire. A segment of her poetry that is no less notable, however, represents an uncovering of the hidden nuances of the world in which the lyric subject speaks from a perspective where the narrated reality seemingly overlaps with the reality of the narrator. It creates poetic maps of real worlds with obliterated edges through which the body and its insatiable desire travel.

* * *


Paragraph 1: disintegration of the state: the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991.

Paragraph 2: Srečko: A visionary and poet, considered to be the Slovenian Rimbaud. See www.uvi.si/eng/slovenia.org