Tomaž Šalamun with Matthew Zapruder
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Tomaž Šalamun with Matthew Zapruder

Past Event: Saturday, November 14, 2009

At Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

Tomaž Šalamun is poised amongst the most prominent figures in contemporary poetry, both in Europe and the United States. The Slovenian native has composed an astounding 37 books, and though he writes exclusively in the language of his homeland, many of his works have been translated into acclaimed English versions (not to mention more than 20 other languages). These include The Shepherd, The Hunter (1992), winner of the Columbia University Translation Prize; The Four Questions of Melancholy (1997); Feast (2000); Poker (2003; originally published in 1966), a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize; The Book for my Brother (2006); Woods and Chalices (2008); and most recently There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair (2009).

Born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1941 and raised in Koper, Slovenia, Šalamun attests that poetry came to him as a revelation, dropping “like stones from the sky;” Poker, his first book of poems was published in 1966 when he was only 25. Earlier in his career, while serving as editor of the literary magazine Perspektive, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was released after only five days. Having earned an M.A. in Art History and become a practicing artist himself, Šalamun came to the United States in 1970 after being invited to exhibit his work in a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He then attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, graduating in 1972—and was henceforth devoted to art in its written form.

Hailed as “one of Europe’s great philosophical wonders,” Šalamun’s fluid, incisive style has received significant critical praise. Novelist Colm Tóibín asserts “his work is elegant and ironic and often surreal and lined with dark laughter but it can also be sharp and forbidding. Nothing is lost on him.” He seems to inhabit, simultaneously, realms of hyperreality and the unreal; he reveals, by means of a lyricism that sends sparks flying from the page, a strange and wondrous view of the world around us. “Šalamun’s poetry,” writes Kevin Hart of Verse, “is not so much a response to particular experiences…but is experience itself.”

Šalamun’s work has appeared in a variety of international publications, including Paris ReviewThe NationThe New American ReviewThe New Republic, and Poetry Review.  He is the recipient of the Prešeren Prize (Slovenia’s highest artistic honor), the Jenko Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Mladost Prize. In the United States he has earned a Fulbright fellowship at Columbia University, a fellowship to the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and he has served as a Cultural Attaché to the Slovenian Consulate. A former visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Massachusetts, and the Meacham Writers’ Workshop, Šalamun lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

From Gozd in kelihi (Wood and Chalices), translated from Slovenian by Brian Henry

Cats have set themselves on wings.
Buttons have buttercups. Hares are soft meat,
hares are soft meat, they quiver and throng.
They rise the sun, actually hold it
on little poles planted in the sand.
Water fortifies the poles in river sand. A pool
vibrates differently from clay. It spills itself
and does not come back rhythmically. The sea
is a guarantee and the nosy are full of adrenaline.
And now? How are you? Is there also a membrane
in the volcano along which the tongue glides?
That which stirs the cells of memory
and undulates the body and screams
when the sun soaks, soaks, roasting in Iška?

Selected WorkWoods and Chalices (2008)The Book for My Brother (2006)Feast, Harcourt (2000)Four Questions of Melancholy: New & Selected Poems (1996)Links“Tomaž Šalamun: An Introduction” by Robert Haas“Young Cops” by “Tomaž Šalamun

“I need my poetry to be intimately connected with the everyday lives of other human beings,” writes poet, editor, teacher, and translator Matthew Zapruder.  He published his first book of poetry, American Linden, in 2002. The Pajamaist, his second collection, is the winner of the 2007 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and was one of Library Journal’s top ten poetry volumes of 2006.

Critics have described his work as urban and modern, lyrical and hip, and as possessing “zany charm, and…a deeper sensibility.” Come on All You Ghosts, Zapruder’s third book of poems, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2010. He lives in San Francisco and teaches poetry at the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is also a co-founder of Verse Press (now Seattle’s Wave Books), where he continues to work as co-editor. He also teaches at the low-residency M.F.A. program at U.C. Riverside-Palm Desert.

Never to Return

Today a ladybug flew through my window. I was reading
about the snowy plumage of the willow ptarmigan
and the song of the Nashville warbler. I was reading
the history of the weather, how they agreed at last
to disagree on cloud categories. I was reading a chronicle
of the boredom that called itself The Great Loneliness
and caused a war. I was reading mosquitoes rode
to Hawaii on the same ship that brought the eucalyptus
to California to function now as a terrible fire accelerator.
Next to me almost aloud a book said doctors can
already transplant faces. Another said you know January
can never be June so why don’t you sleep little candle?
A third one murmured some days are too good,
they had to have been invented in a lab. I was paging
through a book of unsent postcards. Some blazed
with light, others were a little dim as if someone
had breathed on the lens. In one it forever snowed
on a city known as the Emerald in Embers, the sun had
always just gone behind the mountains, never to return,
and glass buildings over the harbor stayed filled with
a sad green unrelated light. The postcard was called
The Window Washers. In handwriting it said
Someone left an important window open, and Night
the black wasp flew in and lay on the sill and died.
Sometimes I stop reading and find long black hairs
on my keyboard and would like you to know that in 1992
I mixed Clairol dye no. 2 with my damaged bleached hair
to create a blue-green never seen before, my best look
according to the girl at the counter who smiled only once,
I know less than I did before, and I live on a hill where
the wind steals music from everything and brings it to me.

Selected WorkAmerican Linden (2002) The Pajamaist (2007), recipient of the William Carlos Williams AwardLinksZapruder calls for a new kind of poetry criticism and a new kind of critic

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall. The Recital Hall is located on the upper level of Benaroya Hall, up the stairs to the left side of the Box Office. Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. Visit the Benaroya Hall website for event pricing.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth Avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second Avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2021/22 Season.

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video during an online event. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals for both in-person and online events. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at [email protected] or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at [email protected], or Monday-Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.