These sensual and at times surreal poems are filled with Middle Eastern and Balkan images of minarets, hookah bars, brothels, baklavas and kebobs, so that one would wish to fly to this “mystical land” on a kilim but for the terror and war that haunt the region’s past and seep into the present.
—Biljana Obradovič, editor of Cat Painters: An Anthology of Contemporary Serbian Poetry
Olja Savičević’s poems and prose-poems tackle everything from the Devil to Pasolini, blue shoes to bicycles, the Bossa Nova to family portraits, and a precisely rendered sequence on Istanbul. Savičević is like the love-child of Carolyn Forche and Caesar Pavese: she possesses Pavese’s eye for street-life and grit in the cities she travels (both inside and out), and yet she imbues that portraiture with Forche-like notions of the poet as witness. Andrea Jurjević’s fine translations wrought in American-inflected-English present a Savičević who captures the rhythm of life that bends beneath the weight of history and isms to find the tiniest details that sing and resist. For, as she tells us: “The butchers will be behind bars, the ground that trembles will grow calm, but the deep satisfaction we call justice won’t come. Still: there’re many pleasures, that’s what’s worth focusing on.”
—Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of The Second O of Sorrow
Olja Savičević’s writing is savage; whether she is sharpening truths against “35 Years of Lies” or simply recalling a domestic scene where she suddenly unleashes: “Motherhood is self explanatory and useless like fireworks,” her poetry drives the familiar into a state of uncanny. “Why would I eat paper, when I could write on it? So much about that kind of love.” That “kind of love” in Mamasafari is a hunger that cuts just deep enough to astound.
—Megan Burns, author of Basic Programming
Olja doesn’t write for the critics. After you read the collection’s first section, in which the speaker spends a month in Istanbul, you will quickly understand why she writes. By observing the colors, scents and sounds, the crowds in this foreign land, the chairs, windows and rooms, inside which she observes herself, observes the process of observation, Olja follows the primal need for writing, gains an understanding, and captures that which is elusive. In her poem “Listanbon,” which is a city that sometimes appears in Olja’s dreams, a fusion of Lisbon and Istanbul that flickers between reality and dream, between life and death, Olja captures the chorus of the street singer under the window: “Dying before death isn’t the hardest thing, it’s wanting to live after that, that’s the hardest, wanting to live after that.” Olja’s poems invoke a conjured city you won’t find in travel books. You might think that as such, this city might mean little to you, except these poems carry impressive descriptions of the physical world, and they brilliantly capture the spirit of a place.
— Ivana Bodrožić
Olja Savičević again brilliantly integrates prose fragments and reflexive lyric poetry. Let’s cut to the chase: the author has long ago masterfully created her own subgenre, yet this time she has written an unusually strong, touching, beautiful and passionate book, the best one so far. Regardless of how we try to classify these texts—travel-bits, prose poems, lyric panoramas, micro essays, song-stories, or something else—the fact is there are more lyrical, pure-blooded, no-holds-barred poetic and poetically courageous choices than in ninety-nine percent of the Croatian verse production.
— Marko Pogačar
Mamasafari by the acclaimed writer Olja Savičević is a fantastic poetry collection, devoid of empty ramblings and banality, a book which should not be read because we’d simply like to stay current with contemporary poetry but, simply, because of its pleasures.
— Robert Perišić