Friday, 30 September 2016

From Contemporary Croatian Poetry - JCS 20



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Journal of Croatian Studies, XX, 1979, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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Concerning these translations, the translators would like to point out the following:

Firstly, the poets included here are limited to those born in the twentieth century and living in Croatia. This strict chronological limitation excluded even the distinguished names of Tin Ujević (1891-1955) and Antun Branko Šimić (1898-1925), who flourished in this century and who with Antun Gustav Matoš (1873-1914) are considered the most influential masters, teachers, and progenitors of modern Croatian poetry and of Croatia's contemporary poets. Usually, the names of Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević (1865-1908) and of Antun Gustav Matoš are thought of as the landmarks and starting points of modern Croatian poetry.

Secondly, the renderings here presented do not include the postwar emigré Croatian poetry, a sound and prolific branch rudely torn from the native tree. However, the Journal of Croatian Studies will publish a gathering of emigré Croatian poetry in one of its future issues.

If we accept the theory of Ortega y Gasset that a generation comes forward at intervals of fifteen years, then the Croatian poets translated here belong to at least three different generations or age groups. Yet despite this fact, their poetical work shows the continuous beneficial influence of Western literatures, especially French and American, and the firm tendency of Croatian poetry to remain on its own within the orbit of the national cultural and poetical tradition. As the poet Nikola Milićević (1922) points out, "The poets and not the soldiers have saved this nation in its struggle for existence". And another poet, Antun Šoljan (1932), to whom we are indebted for that well documented and stimulating work "Pretpostavke za komparativno proučavanje poslijeratne hrvatske poezije i njene kritike" [Considerations for a Comparative Study of Postwar Croatian Poetry and Its Critique], in Hrvatska književnost u evropskom kontekstu (Zagreb 1978, p. 713) put it this way:

Emphasizing that Croatian poetry is a poetry of a small language and of a small nation, we are by this emphasizing not only some accidental feature, but also one of its essential characteristics. In this, Croatian poetry does not differ at all from that of other small nations of the Western sphere. In the great literatures nowadays one writes and talks considerably less about the specific traits which result from the nationality of a certain body of poetry in part because the great nations have resolved this problem as far back as the period of Romanticism, and in part because during the last two hundred years the very notion of nationality has assumed an exclusively political meaning; it has constituted itself in states, so that nationality has equivalent to statehood. Those who belong to nation-states do not worry about the less happy and exceptional cases.

Thus Šoljan agrees with the perceptive inferences of his colleague Zlatko Mrkonjić (1938), who indicates the sources of poetry as "the experience of a space" [i.e. of individual destinies in everyday life], and who considers that these sources of poetry are indivisibly interwoven in the conscience of the poet of a small nation. Consequently another Croatian poet Vlado Gotovac (1930), a jailed victim of political persecution, asserts that "the destiny of our poetry is more similar to our own". The poet Nikola Martić (1938) with the title and content of his stimulating poem "Croatia the Land of Tragic Poets", perhaps expresses to the full extent that sentimiento tragico of Croatian poetry and of Croatia, a country of a nation that thirsts for liberty and is abandoned to its destiny.

The second installment of these translations will consist of poems by I. Slamnig, Z. Tomičić, V. Krmpotić, A. Šoljan, D. Dragojević, N. Martić, D. Horvatić, A. Stamać, I. Zidić and Z. Sabol. A third part will offer versions of other twentieth century Croatian poets. Throughout this series, the translators will continue to translate primarily poems which have not previously appeared in English translation.

In regard to the bio-bibliographical data supplied for the translated poets, it should be pointed out that although only the authors' poetical works are listed, many of these poets have also excelled as translators, novelists, dramatists, teachers, journalists, etc.

To be continued ...

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Journal of Croatian Studies, XX, 1979, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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