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 Review, The Nation, The New American Review, The 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