DEAD LETTER OFFICE (2020)
Pogačar’s incisive poetry finds new life in Jurjević’s dexterously colloquial translations. At times witty, at times ironic, at times remarkably moving, this collection is a welcome introduction to one of Croatian literature’s brightest stars.
—Kareem James Abu-Zeid, PEN Center USA Translation Prize
Available for preorder from The Word Works
Marko Pogačar’s poems dig in their heels on their way to us through Andrea Jurjević—there’s something tenacious about them. Gutsy. Physical. Furious. Ethereal. Laughing. Desperate and joyous. Small moves. Reading these lines is like eating roasted chestnuts from a newspaper cone on a street in a red and white country: messy and gorgeous.
—Ellen Elias-Bursać, National Translation Award
“What used to be borders is now you,” writes Marko Pogačar is this beautiful, inimitable collection of poems, giving us a world of post-war Yugoslavia where “TV shows start with familiar scenes.” What is the poet to do in this world? The poet demands the “green skull of an apple.” It is a world where eggs chirp, newspapers rustle, and the dead are near. What is it, this syntax of seeing one’s country with full honesty, without any lyric filters? How does it become so dazzlingly lyrical, nevertheless? “I dislike walking on a person’s left side” the poet admits, “I shove the night into an evil e-mail / and send it to the entire nation.” And, behind him we see the world, “beautiful, like a burning guillotine.” It is blessed, this strangeness of abandon, after all is lost. And, yet, not all is lost. And, yet, “fear is a minor angel.” And yet. And yet. What is happening here? Real poetry is happening. Lyric fire. I know it when instead of writing a comment on the book, I just want to keep quoting. For poetry is a mystery that is communicated before it is understood. Marko Pogačar is a real thing, and I am especially grateful to Andrea Jurjević for these crisp, beautiful translations.
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa
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