Tomaž Šalamun is a sphere rushing through the air.*
January 12, 2015 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Late in 2014, master avant garde Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun passed away at his home in Ljubljana. During his life, he published 30 books of poetry, and was honored with the Prešeren Fund Prize, the Jenko Prize (twice), a Pushcart Prize, a visiting Fulbright to Columbia University, and a fellowship to the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

Perhaps Slovenia's greatest poet since France Prešeren , Šalamun was born in Zagreb in 1941.

Many of Šalamun's works can be found translated into English on the internet:

The Loire Delta
poem (“If I don’t know what to do…”)

(from Jacket Magazine, translated by Brian Henry)

Georges de la Tour! Georges de la Tour!
The Cross

(from Plume, translated by Michael Thomas Taren)

(from Blackbird, translated by Brian Henry)

We Lived in a Hug, Shivering with Cold
(from The Paris Review, translated by Brian Henry)

“Lucretius grabbed my arm and led me”
Legs on the Signpost
The Rise of the Zebra
(from The Poetry Foundation website, translated by Michael Thomas Taren)

The North
(from The Poetry Foundation website, translated by Tomaž Šalamun and Anselm Hollo)

Video of Šalamun reading at UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems program in 2009

* - the title of this post is from Šalamun's poem "History."
posted by elmer benson (4 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Mute and Time.

C major in the cup, C major in the cup, the train
started to pant under the sleeve, to soak itself
like a snake and rush toward the elbow.
A flamingo removed the scythe, what to do with
a scythe, the whetted scythe that could harm his eye.
The little end-pieces cut into the clouds. Clouds
packed with clinkers always pull through. If they’re
black, if they’re white, if they’re dark, if they’re
the autodidacts. Now we push snow. I don’t even
see the tendrils. We don’t know how the vine will bear.
Violent with the soft melancholy of the plain,
revered, again I feel besunken. Let’s do it:
The king has no clothes on. The emperor is naked.
His eyes are twisted. I, twisted them for him.
posted by clavdivs at 9:38 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I started reading Salamun's work in the 1980s, and he has been one of my favorites ever since. He allowed himself to be the target of self-parody in ways that are rare among serious poets. He wrote several over-the-top odes to himself which will stand alone as a genre forever his own.

But in Ljubljana people say: look!
This is Tomaz Salamun, he went to the store
with his wife Marushka to buy some milk.
He will drink it and this is history.

posted by zaelic at 2:06 AM on January 13, 2015

Thanks for this!
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:25 AM on January 13, 2015

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Salamun a decade ago. A mutual friend and I were driving across the U.S. and Tomaz was teaching in Alabama. We picked him up and drove around for awhile. We had a debate about specialization vs generalization and he told us that he had been a piano prodigy but at a certain point chose poetry and from that point on never played the piano again. He believed if he was going to make a mark as a poet, he had to have that singular focus. Then again, maybe he made it all up, he liked a good joke too.

This is my favorite of his poems:


Have you ever seen God
running so he'll make it by two-thirty
responsibility responsibility
approaching neither start nor finish
immovable attached
instead of just dangling its legs
responsibility responsibility
world without nature
world without discourse
trees, while still growing, are not responsible
and what is the word supposed to do with it
the sun doesn't need it for setting
nor the sky which is sheer blueness and nothing more
in the beginning there was transparency
a world of things and true language
words were things
things were words
whom did God consult
when he made a butterfly as it is
when he could have made its legs six inches thick
responsibility responsibility
baroque sustenance of the people
posted by gwint at 6:50 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older The Rise and Fall of the US Government - John J....   |   Velvet Batcave Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments