slow literature

Tomaž Šalamun

(July 4, 1941-December 27, 2014)

Andraž and Tomaž Šalamun

Andraž and Tomaž Šalamun,
sitting in green armchairs,
two awesome salesmen from the least.
(I meant to write from the east,
but mistyped.)
He with his madness,
I with my Christ.
Both of us stare at the smoke.

Yeah, I fuck his brain.
He loves my cries.
(I meant to write Christ,
but mistyped,
word of honor in both
cases.)
The same, mum!

 

Tomaž Šalamun died today. Most of us read him only in translation. Was he as sardonic, as bitter, as jocular, as raunchy a poet in Slovenian? Even more, I’d guess. He was called an absurdist, which seems the only possible response in words to much of life, even in New York, where he came to live. He was a friend of some people I knew here; they liked the man very much.

Howard Sidenberg, founder of the estimable English-language press The Twisted Spoon in Prague, brought out A Ballad for Metka Krašovec, translated by Michael Biggins, in 2001, and offered me a selection of the poems for Archipelago. The volume “offers readers a unique opportunity to glimpse the author at a particular stage in his life and creative development, the poems ranging from the incantatory to reflections on his lovers, family, and country, to narrative-style recollections of stays in Mexico and the United States.”

I’ve not found this volume listed in Šalamun’s conventional bibliography. I thought it might be good to recall the book as we remember the poet. The picture, which graced A Ballad for Metka Krašovec, was of his mother.

 

Prologue I

God is made of wood and doused in gasoline.
I take a cigarette to burn a spider’s leg.

The gentle swaying of grasses in the wind.
Heaven’s vault is cruel.

 

Tomaž Šalamun, “From A Ballad for Metka Krašovec,”  tr. Michael Biggins. Archipelago, Vol. 5, No. 1
_________, The Poetry Foundation
_________, The Twisted Spoon